It’s so rare for a game to just sneak out anymore. The internet made sure that was all but impossible. That’s part of the reason Katamari Damacy is such a joy. It may not be perfect, but it’s so simple, enjoyable, and strange, you can’t help yourself. It’s title you would never expect to see here in the US, let alone be succesful.
It’s hard to explain the appeal here. The gameplay is wrapped around an oddball storyline that never seems to make sense, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. What’s important is that you know what you need to do, and the excellent tutorial makes sure of that.
It’s a simple premise. You control a small alien like creature that pushes a ball. This ball has the ability to pick up just about anything, assuming it’s big enough. Objects are liberally strewn about the levels. There are no limits as to what you can pick up other then the ground you’re rolling on.
Each stage offers up its own challenge, which is mostly how big the ball needs to be within a set time limit. Some require specific objects to be collected. Whatever it comes down to, it’s always the same: roll around and pick things up.
It’s such a ridiculous sounding mechanic, yet this is a game that cannot be put down. There are frustrations, especially with the controls. Both analog sticks are required for movement. Only two of the shoulder buttons are used; the face buttons go unused. Turning and fighting with the camera are the worst aspects of the game. If you need to make a quick 180-degree spin, you’re fine. If you need to tweak your direction, you’re required to make a complete stop, inch slowly around, and then begin pushing again. The same goes for moving the camera.
From a technical stand point, this is far more impressive then you would think. It’s so random depending on the player’s actions and it holds together with few glitches. There are those sporadic moments where items are not picked up even though you clearly ran over it. Other then that, this is an absolute joy to play.
Obviously, this is more fun as the game moves on. You start small, picking up random objects like thumbtacks. You’ll move on too much, much bigger things before it’s over. Part of the addiction comes from simply seeing how big you can make the ball and what huge items you can pick up with it. That aspect will keep you playing.
Even with hundreds of objects smashed together, there is rarely a graphical glitch of any kind. Most of those are simple detection problems, and are in no way detrimental to the game. The style is appropriate, simplistic with small detail. It sets a tone both with character design and simple models. It doesn’t need anything more then that. It’s a unique fantasy world.
The soundtrack really grabs people’s attention. It’s a mix of Japanese pop and all together strange sounds that come together to make oddball music you can’t get out of your head. The longer stages do make this repetitive, especially if you lose a few rounds. There are only so many times you can hear them before they lose their freshness. Still, when the next level rolls around (pun intended), you’ll forget and become hooked on that stages offering.
Katamari should be a game for everybody. If you don’t enjoy this, you should step back and think why it is you own a game console in the first place. It has everything a truly great game needs, and tosses on a strange style to make it unforgettable. If the sequel can fix the camera and control issues while keeping everything that made this game great, it’s going to go down as a classic of this generation.