Review by Bach_741

Reviewed: 01/09/06

Has Katamari withstood the test of time? (2006 review)

I’d heard and learned enough about this game over the last couple of years, that I knew my curiosity would inevitably culminate with my purchasing the title for myself. Not that I’m a true connoisseur of ‘quirky’ games, but I have been known to enjoy them more than others. Nitrous Oxide rocked, the Wario Wares rule, and I still hail Intelligent Qube as one of the best PS1 titles to have ever been released (which wasn’t entirely quirky, but a stand-alone game nonetheless).

Quirkiness breeds ingenuity, and ingenuity eventually results in a product nobody can refuse. 20 years ago, some Russian dude said, “I’ve got an idea for a game. You drop blocks down a shaft, and line them up horizontally to make them disappear.” A few people laughed, a few people scoffed, but eventually . . . Tetris was born. Is Katamari Damacy the next, huge quirky hit? No, it’s not . . . but it sure came close.

My rating of Katamari Damacy is based on two factors, the first of which is this ingenuity I speak of. That’s a simple score to give; a 10. It’s quite stunning how the concept of “rolling a ball of crap around in order to pick up other crap and make it bigger” can be funny, entertaining, challenging, frustrating and amusing all at the same time. Folks, this is some of the finest dual-stick action since Robotron, Smash TV, or that one video tape my Aunt has stuffed under her mattress. Fun, fun, fun.

The other factor my rating is based on is the one that disappointed the most. I was SORELY bummed out – nay, disgusted - to buy the title one day, and have beaten it the next. I’m not talking about pulling an all-nighter, or grabbing every free minute I could muster to do so – I’m talking casual gaming here. An hour or two to welcome it home the first night, a couple hours the second night, and **p-p-p-p-b-b-b-t** . . . no more Katamari for you!

Suck. Game length gets a 2.

And I’ll tell you why . . . because I’m just not a person who replays the same levels and stages over and over again, just to achieve the unlocking of some elusive ‘hidden secrets’, or ‘prizes’, or ‘accessories’, or whatever else. I’m a game play hound, and the game play is fantastic, but I’m also not an ‘unlockables whore’. I’ve got a friend who plays GTA, and busts his rump trying to unlock EVERY single goodie the game has to offer. He can rack up 100 hours on a title lickety-split. Me? I beat the game, play any mini-games or do any extra missions that might be fun or benefit me, and that’s it. Going around and making sure I’ve robbed every shop owner of every store in Vice City just to achieve 100% game completion status? *LOL* No-o-o-o-o-o-o, no thanks.

So, this is where your opinion will differ greatly from mine. If you’re like me, and the thought of replaying the same 10 ‘make a star’ stages, and the handful of ‘constellation’ stages over and over just to achieve higher scores doesn’t seem appealing, then buyer beware. Regardless of the fact that I’ll play this several more times before I completely tire of it, it will be with the hesitation of knowing that nothing stunningly new is coming my way.

If a brilliant new game play mechanic can outweigh a general disapproval of replaying stages, then you’d likely rate this higher than I did . . . but enough semantics. I’ll move on now.

Graphics = meh. Decent for its time, I suppose. The spatial engine seems to work wonderfully – the size comparison between objects appears to remain consistent despite the ratios involved. I suppose excessive levels of detail aren’t appropriate for such a wide conglomeration of items, after all. I’d give them a 7.

Sound = great! The music is almost as quirky as the game play – wholly original, and catchy as heck. The sounds of pretty much any organic item being collected is funny (people screaming as they get squashed will never get old), and the menu music almost reminded me of the legato theme from Donnie Darko, which is beautiful. A good, solid 8 for the sound, let’s say.

Control = I’d say closer to a 7, and here’s why. While being rather intuitive and responsive in nature, I noticed that using the right analog stick so much actually made the tendons in that forearm ache. Think about it – my left hand is quite used to the circular motions, but I rarely play anything that requires the right stick be used. The setup earns high scores for its design and simplicity, but decreases a bit given the discomfort factor.

Story = okay, if you’ve read my reviews, you know that a games’ story, outside of an RPG element, usually means zilch to me. (I said it before – game play hound!) Anyone even remotely interested in plot would likely score this very low, from what I can tell, but I will deviate from the masses yet again, and not take this rating into consideration.

All in all? I was REALLY going to give this game a 6, but I don’t think I should let the replay factor bear such a heavy weight. Besides, there is the “bang for your buck” factor, and being only $20, Katamari Damacy is less of a dent in the wallet than most other games are. Also, I see the sequel is getting much better reviews, so I’m actually eager to pick that one up and continue the rolling mayhem.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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