Review by Time_Keeper
A miracle in a world of cookie-cutter gaming
These days, when you walk into a game store, youll see a lot of similar titles. Sequels like Halo 2, franchises like Mario, and games that are way too similar to others like football games cover the shelves. Its very rare that youll find a game that is truly original. A good game that barely fits a genre, uses new and clever ideas, and doesnt market itself to that normal group of casual gamers is so rare that when one turns out to not only exist, but also be fun and addictive, its a miracle. Katamari Damacy popping up in this world of cookie-cutter games could be described as just that.
This game can not be described without using words like weird or quirky. You basically select a level, get filled in on the time limit and goal, and then, by rolling around a super sticky ball called a katamari; you try to build the ball up by rolling up other things. The best thing I can compare it to would be rolling around a snowball: the more you roll it around, the bigger it becomes. In Katamari Damacy, you start off with a bare ball, and collect smaller things like dice, cookies, or crayons. Soon, these make your katamari bigger so that you can pick up bigger things like fruit, than after picking up enough of those you can pick up even bigger things. Soon youll get big enough to access other parts of the level. Once you get big enough, youll get told so, but can keep rolling to try to get the biggest katamari you can. At the end of the time limit, hell release it into the sky if you met the requirements. In the first few levels, you cant build it up too big, but as the levels and size requirements increase, youll be able to pick up bigger things like houses, and in the later levels even uproot islands and pluck gods from the sky. Yes, its very weird, and very crazy, but its unbelievably fun. You may think it sounds stupid, but wait until you play it.
Controlling this game can not be compared to any other game Ive ever played. You use only the two analog sticks, each one representing an arm, L1 to look and R1 to get an over head view. Its very simple, and while the two-stick moving may be confusing at first, youll soon get used to it. It also may seem pointless to do the two-stick setup, but imagine how you would roll a ball around and it becomes clear: you have to use both sticks to move the ball effectively just as you would have to use both hands.
The story of this game is nothing overly special, but it works very well for the type of game this is. Your father, The King of all Cosmos, gets drunk one night and accidentally destroys all of the stars in the sky as well as Earths moon. Your father sends you, the Prince, down to the item-filled planet Earth with items called katamaris. You must roll up things on Earth with them to make huge balls which your father sends into the sky as stars. Theres also a subplot that you see a chapter of every time you make a star. It follows a family who gradually realize the effects of the stars going out. Again, nothing ground-breaking, but it works for this kind of game and explains why youre doing what youre doing. An RPG type story with plot twists and conspiracies would not fit this game at all.
The sound is terrific on this game. So good that the soundtrack actually costs more then the game itself (Its worth every penny in my opinion.) Namco wisely decided not to use any licensed music, and instead made original tunes to match this quirky game. They have all types of music, from children singing to humming a tune in nas to a robotic voice repeating You are smart, but amazingly they all match the mood of rolling around a ball picking up everything in sight perfectly and all sound very good. The above being examples of just the weirdest, there are all types of music to occupy you. Also, whenever you pick up an object it makes its own sound. People scream, dogs bark, and trees do just a generic pick-up sound. All of the sounds however, sound believable. And its hilarious to hear some of the peoples cries (such as a principal trying to give you detention for rolling him up.)
On the surface, the graphics are this games worst aspect. The graphics could easily have been done in the earliest days of polygonal sprites: the people and animals are like Lego people and trees are all conveniently made of straight lines. However, you can tell what everything is, and seeing as the game has to use such a huge amount of processing power to factor in how any object you pick up will be shown as added to the ball and will increase its size a set amount depending on the existing size and than allow it to pick up new things and make everything else add a new size as well as factor in the angle of the object in relationship to the katamari into how it sticks and thus how fluid the rolling is, (phew) I would say the graphics are pretty good.
The replay value in this game is terrific. Not only can you constantly play through level to see how big you can get, you can make comets as well as stars by beating levels quickly, and try to get all 1,400 collectible items in the game, there are also constellation levels where you try to get as many of one object as possible. These are optional, but beating them all gets you an extended ending. Three of the levels also have Eternal options. If you get big enough in these levels, youll unlock their eternal: the same level, but with different item placement and no time limit. The replay value will make sure youll never want to sell this game.
However, this game is not without its flaws. For one thing, the game is way too short, as you can easily beat it one sitting if you choose to just do whats required. For another, you cant select what music you listen to; its randomly selected for you and youll probably dislike a few of the songs. Other than those things however, this game is great, and for only 20 dollars (U.S.) there is no reason why you shouldnt buy this. Ive only met three people on these boards who havent adored this game, and while its not perfect, I love it, and whatever your gaming preferences, I would bet that when you walk down the aisles of cookie-cutter sequels and spot this gem and buy it instead of the next Madden or Mario, you will not be disappointed.
Katamari Damacy gets a near perfect nine out of ten.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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