Katamari Damacy – PlayStation 2
Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Namco, Now Production
Release Date: September 21, 2004 (NA)
Nerd Rating: 9/10
Reviewed by: InfiniteKnife
Have you ever found yourself thinking that there aren’t enough super fun, quirky Japanese games that involve rolling up objects into a ball? Well, if you haven’t played Katamari Damacy, your weird prayers have been answered! I happened upon this nugget of awesomeness at a friend’s house the year it was released and was immediately hooked! Want to know more? Just roll with me. (see what I did there?)
The King of All Cosmos has gone on some crazy galactic bender and literally broken all the stars in the sky, leaving his son, the Prince to help fix it. Don’t mind that the king is frickin’ huge and the prince is but 5cm tall. He’s got just the way to help restore the cosmos to its former glory. You get a ball, called a katamari, with which you are tasked with rolling through the world, picking up anything and everything you can to make it big enough for the king to re-create a star.
Katamari Damacy is rife with charm. To me, everything in this game was adorable and awesome from the super colorful and flashy intro to the king’s voice being a record scratch sound, to the funny dialogue he spews out all through the experience. For being a game with such a simple concept, it’s just flat out fun.
Gameplay is simple. You use the 2 analog sticks to move the katamari, easing on or off one to steer, clicking them both to do a 360 turn, and rapidly moving them up and down rapidly to do a speed boost. That’s pretty much it. Sorry, button mashers! It won’t do you a bit of good here. While not overly complex, the controls work for what the game is and they’re never an issue.
The object of each level is to collect things to increase the size of the katamari, but there’s a bit more to it. You’re given a time limit to make it as big as possible with level failure coming if you can’t get it done and an increased score if you can exceed the minimum. As the levels go on, they do a good job of incrementally increasing the difficulty so you need to have a plan before you just go rolling around all willy nilly. Rolling to re-create the universe isn’t a game! Well, it is…….but still.
When you start, the prince is picking up things like thumbtacks, candies, and buttons on a table, and as the levels go on, you can pick up larger objects like pots, boxes, dishes, food, and pretty much any other household item you can think of. Later still, getting the katamari to bigger size thresholds allows access to new areas where even BIGGER stuff can be picked up, eventually getting to people, cars, houses, mountains, you get the idea. Before you can pick them up, living things like household pets and people get in your way and will actually knock precious volume from your katamari. This can seriously impede your level progress, so avoiding them until the right time is crucial to maximizing scores. It should also be noted that there are some fun goodies for you to find hidden throughout the levels that include accessories the prince can wear and his cousins that can be used as playable characters in the multiplayer mode.
Graphically, Katamari Damacy keeps it pretty simple. The objects you pick up are mostly polygonal and not incredibly detailed, but it completely fits into the style and feel of the game. I was amazed to discover how many different objects there were to pick up. It takes place in Japan, so there are a lot of really neat things from Japanese culture to find. In the pause menu, the game picks an item you’ve picked up and tells you how many of their real-life counterpart would fit in your katamari at its current size. It was a neat little thing to add and it’s fun to think about how many cats would fit into a 50ft diameter ball.
Where this game really shines to me is the music. It’s all Japanese jazz and pop and it sounds incredible while rolling things up. You can’t understand a word in the lyrics, but that doesn’t matter. It just works and genuinely makes me feel good. I went so far as to download the game soundtrack because it’s incredibly enjoyable to listen to. I can’t imagine playing this game and having anything different for sound. Do yourself a favor and at least search for the soundtrack and give it a listen, even if you’re not a big fan of Japanese music.
There is a head to head multiplayer mode, but I didn’t find it nearly as enjoyable as the single player. You play split screen and have to make a bigger katamari than your opponent in the time limit. It’s worth trying if you have a big enough TV, but when I first played it in 2004, there weren’t that many big screens so it kind of took away from the experience.
Katamari Damacy was a big time sleeper when it came out in 2004. There wasn’t a ton of advertising about it at the time but it picked up a solid cult following in the US. I feel like I’m not doing it the best justice in reviewing it and the whole time sitting here writing, I just want to go play it. The experience will undoubtedly be different for everyone and some may not enjoy the experience as a whole as I do, but I feel like those who do will find it rewarding. I highly recommend finding this and giving it a playthrough.
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