Review by Unbridled9
A game that cannot be properly described, only experienced.
How does one describe Katamari Damacy? It's a game that simply defies all rational attempts to present it and, instead, can only be experienced. After all, how does one take such a simple core concept of 'roll things up like a rabid dung beetle' and somehow turn it into the outright gleeful insanity of Katamari Damacy? Even watching clips of the game online fail to capture the experience of just what this game is. That is to say, a crazy, utterly insane, game that is simply so unique in design that comparisons to others cannot be made.
The premise and plot are amazingly simple. One night the King of all Cosmos got drunk and destroyed the stars. Now with the stars gone the King is trying to restore them before people notice. The only problem is that he has about 0 responsibility so, instead of doing it himself, he sends his tiny son to Earth to do his job for him. How does the little Prince achieve such a thing? By rolling things up of course!
Seriously. That's the entire premise of the game. Rebuild the heavens by rolling up everything you can. That is basically all you do. Yet it still manages to be one of the most delightful games around. After all, how do you describe starting off as a little prince rolling a tiny ball barely big enough to pick up thumbtacks and berries and that even the RATS consider too weak to be little more than attacked to becoming some giant monstrosity capable of creating an ever-growing sphere of destruction comprised of entirety of the town including those same annoying rats and, all at the center, having that little berry you first rolled up as the core of this ever-expanding destruction sphere?
The gameplay is ungodly straightforwards. At the start of the levels you are given a single goal. Take your little sphere and roll things up until they reach the accepted size. That's it. It doesn't matter if you're in a small house struggling to roll up a young girls candy scraps or rampaging around the town, it's always the same goal. There are some side-missions to spice up variety though, such as a mission where the player must find the single, largest, bear possible and roll him up but can only roll up ONE bear! So figuring out which one to roll up will be a challenge, especially when it comes to avoiding the other bears. But... That's it. A few story missions involving making the sphere as big as possible, a few side-missions with unique goals such as making a sphere entirely out of crabs, and that's it. That's the entire game.
So why is it so great? Well, it's utterly INSANE! How else can it be described when you go down rolling up your sphere filled with cake pieces to roll through the center of town in the middle of a chinese parade? To disrupt an ongoing ballgame that features normal-size students yet balls the size of rooms? To find stacks of people up to eight high just walking around, all to be rolled up? To take your sphere that couldn't even fill a sandbox up and keep rolling and rolling until eventually, the sphere is so big as to outright rip entire islands and airports out of the ocean? Something so big that even RAINBOWS can't help but come under the sway of its size? It cannot be properly described, only experienced.
That isn't to say the game doesn't have its share of flaws, though, because it has a LOT! Firstly the games controls are just... clunky. No buttons are really used in the game beyond the thumbsticks and clicking them to jump behind. What this means is that trying to do things as simple as turning while still can become very difficult and needlessly tedious because the game couldn't take use of the multiple buttons to provide a dedicated system to have the prince rotate around his ball with the R1/L1 buttons. While it IS possible to get used too control on anything more than a basic level is a delusion.
Secondly the graphics. I'm not one to normally obsess over such things. After all, is not a game worth more than the sum of its bit processor? However... Yea... Katamacy has some truely horrible graphics that look... well... They don't even look 'prior gen' (PS1/N64) but rather more akin to something that came out when 3D was first being created with characters being very blocky, stiff, and generally unpleasant to look at. After all, when you see a child with a hairdue that is little more than some poorly rendered spike that could not even be compared to Pinocchio's nose in terms of disproportion it looks less like something of interest and more like simple poor design.
But the two biggest problems come from the rolling itself. Firstly it can be VERY hard to judge just when an item can be rolled up and can be even outright nonsensical. While generally it's possible to roll up items of smaller or somewhat similar size, sometimes those rules just don't work. It's entirely possible to roll up people, vending machines, and even entire sections of not-small fencing and lamp-posts yet NOT be able to roll up a hastily build bakery stand. This can be VERY frustrating because you'll be rolling along with your giant ball expecting everything to go smoothly only to suddenly smash into something that shouldn't have even been capable of stopping you, like a sumo wrestler, just because. This causes things to be frustrating for stupid reasons.
The biggest problem, however, is also a sign of the games strength. THERE JUST ISN'T ENOUGH STUFF TO ROLL! Starting off all nice and tiny is good and all, but there is so much out there. From the small house where the player first starts they can make a decently sized ball, but it's a ball that still basically fits in a house and, once maxed out, there is just nothing more to roll up. When rolling up a town it is possible to turn it into one big giant sphere, but then have to stop because there is nothing more. When rolling up entire islands there will come a point where it will all just be... rolled up... and there isn't anything more to do. You can't slip out to find a new area with new crazy things, can't continue your rampage to encompass the whole world, but instead must just... stop. Rolling up entire cities doesn't matter so much when, eventually, there are no more cities to roll up and you've already stripped the Earth of their very foundation to grow bigger.
And that is, ultimately, the greatest strength and weakness of the game and a testament to just how good it is. When the greatest flaw with a game is not that it came up short, but that you wish there was more simply because you want to play more. It has its faults, it has its problems, but what makes it shine is also something impossible to describe.
Final Score: 7/10. This is a crazy and unique game and, with better graphics and just more to roll up its score would skyrocket. It's certainly a nice breather from the dead-serious games of the current days and is just FUN! However that doesn't justify its shortcomings, just prove that it overcame them.
Recommended price: $5.00. Sadly there just isn't much here. The main game can be beaten in less than 10 hours and, even with the side missions, can be conquered in an afternoon. It won't be long before you'll be confined to just wishing there was more stuff to roll up. It's most certainly worth its price, just... not long enough to truly excel.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Katamari Damacy (US, 04/30/13)
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