Review by discoinferno84

Reviewed: 11/08/04

Yes, we too are stardust...

Take a step back for a moment and ponder your existence. You are only one of billions of people, living on planet Earth. And as big as our planet seems, it’s really just a tiny speck drifting in an outer region of the Milky Way galaxy, which is floating aimlessly in the infinite cosmos of the universe. Kind of makes you feel small, doesn’t it? While it’s unlikely that mankind will ever discover the mysteries of the universe during our lifetime, we can still take comfort in the fact that we can go out on a clear night and watch the countless stars shine above us. Despite haze, fog, pollution, and other atmospheric barriers, we can still see plenty of the pretty dots decorating the night sky.

But what if those stars weren’t there? What if the sun had set for the day, and none of the stars came out to make up the night sky? There would be no constellations, limited navigation, nothing to look at but the lone moon shining overhead. Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it? Try telling that to the King of All Cosmos, the ruler of the stars and space. This blue behemoth has a tendency to party like there’s no tomorrow for his everlasting life. During one of his more wild escapades, the mighty King got drunk and snuffed every star in existence. Not exactly the best way to handle your royal duties, but at the least the King has enough class to admit that he did something wrong. However, he won’t be the one cleaning up the mess he made. Instead, he’s put you, the Prince of All Cosmos, in charge of restoring all the stars that were lost. It’s a dirty job, but somebody other than the king has to do it.

But what can you do? Compared to your royal father, you’re just a tiny shrimp of a god with little power of your own. How can such high parental expectations be fulfilled? The answer comes in the form of a katamari, a large spherical object. This huge ball has the power to pick up just about anything that isn’t bolted down. You can pick up thumbtacks, batteries, candy bars, cell phones, human beings, food, animals, plants, houses, and everything else in this crazy mixed up world of ours. Once the King has sent you down to Earth, it’s your job to pick up as many foreign objects as you possibly can. As you gather more and more objects, the overall size of your katamari will grow, allowing you to pick up larger and heavier objects. Once your katamari has reached the desired size, the King will call you back and convert the mass of objects into a new star. But with so many stars out there, you’ll be rolling that katamari for quite a while.

While rolling an adhesive ball around may seem simple, the actual gameplay proves a little trickier. Unlike the smooth texture of the katamari, all the other objects maintain their weight and proportions. As soon as you pick up an object, its shape will cause the katamari to be slightly off balance. If you try rolling over some object, the katamari will be subject to a few awkward bumps before it straitens out again. If you grab something big, like a vase or fish, its weight will slow you down, make you strain more and more to move around. Also, if you let the katamari get too big, you’ll be unable to access smaller parts of the level. But on top of the superb application of physics, you’re also being timed for your efforts. You have to amass enough objects under a given set of time, keep on your toes and grab everything you can in a quick and expedient manner, otherwise the King won’t be satisfied.

However, the real challenge doesn’t lie solely with the time limit or the physics. The difficulty of this game can also be attributed to the simple, yet awkward control setup. According to the description on the back of the game case, the controls don’t involve “buttons to press or combos to cause distress.” Considering the tricky controls, that’s probably a good thing. In order to move the katamari, you have to use both of the PS2’s analog control sticks. If you want to roll forward, you’ll have to push both sticks forward. If you want to weave left or right, you’ll have to move the sticks accordingly. And if you want to change directions, you’ll have to hold the sticks in opposite directions until you’ve reached the desired angle. While it may sound simple in writing, actually attempting to move around can be a little trying, especially when you’re rushing to grab everything you can. Despite the brief tutorial at the beginning of the game, it’ll take you a while before you can roll the katamari around with finesse.

Chances are, you’ll be to busy collecting things to truly appreciate the presentation of the game. You’ll miss the upbeat Japanese pop music, and likely the majority of the objects that make up the levels. Everything in this game has a blocky, cartoonish look to it. Sure, everything in the game, from the bowling pins to the geese, is proportionally accurate. However, all of the colors tend to be a little bland, offering little more than pastel polygons. All of the human beings look like Lego characters. The King, however, is a massive being with several shades of beautiful colors. His massive muscles, his golden crown, even his cheesy mustache make his appearance seem so much more comical and a tad over the top. All of the levels are comprised of basic environments that you’d find in a home, like a kitchen, a living room, etc. You’ll also roll through a few plazas and small cities as well. While none of these seem too interesting, you have to take into consideration that you’re playing the game from a bug’s perspective. While collecting food from a dinner table may not sound exciting, things will seem a little more engaging when your katamari is only the size of a dinner plate.

But when everything is said and done, what will become of Katamari Damacy? With popularity running rampant through American mainstream gaming, chances are this game will stay on the radar for quite some time. Its simple concept of rolling around and collecting stuff is a breath of fresh air from the overly complicated aspects of current games. While this game has some daunting controls, underlying difficulty, and a lack of overall story length, Katamari Damacy still offers plenty of fun to gamers both young and old. The kooky presentation style and a fair amount of humor will keep the entertainment going long after the story has been finished. For those of you looking for a quality budget title for your PS2, end your search with this game and get ready to roll.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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