There's an old saying that a rolling stone gathers no moss. If that stone were a katamari, however, it would gather up not only the moss, but the rocks, the soda bottles, the trash can, the park bench, and eventually the park.
Beautiful Katamari is the fourth game in the Katamari series. Once again the klutzy King of All Cosmos has accidentally destroyed the galaxy by creating a black hole that hoovered everything around it. Fortunately he was able to stop it before the Earth fell victim as well. To replace the missing celestial objects, the titanic King instructs his microscopic son the Prince to go to Earth and use katamaris to roll up items.
The basic premise in Beautiful Katamari is unchanged from its predecessors. As the Prince (or one of his unlockable cousins), you roll a colorful, very sticky ball called a katamari to collect items smaller than it. The bigger it gets, the bigger the items it can pick up. For example, you may start with coins and thumbtacks and end with bicycles and phone booths. Later stages have you rolling up countries and even planets. To unlock the next level, you must meet certain objectives set by the King — mainly to create a specific-sized katamari in a given time. However, as an addition in Beautiful Katamari, the King also asks for specific items to make a celestial body; for example, to collect as many energy-related items as possible to create the Sun.
There are other features in Beautiful Katamari that set it apart from the previous games. One is that it supports high-definition television resolutions, which means that the game's searingly colorful characters and environment can be experienced in full HD glory. Another is that through Xbox LIVE, players can play with or against each other, and download extra levels.
Although the game appeals to people of all ages, Beautiful Katamari is very challenging, even for adults. Don't let the adorable graphics and simple rules fool you — expect to fail and replay levels often. I experienced pains in my hands that gave me Nintendo Thumb flashbacks. Your poor digits don't get a break even after completing a level, because that unlocks Time Attack mode. Furthermore, achieving a perfect score on a level unlocks Eternal Mode. These options are guaranteed to entice you to replay a level constantly and inflict more punishment on your thumbs. Since there are so few levels in the game however, high replayability is important.
Katamari fans will be pleased to find that this game retains the quirky attributes they know and love. The characters are still colorful, oddly-shaped, and exist in an abstractly offbeat environment. The J-Pop infused soundtrack is once again catchy and addictive; in fact, I have the import CD. And yes, the King of All Cosmos is comically narcissistic and condescending as ever, criticizing you if a katamari isn't up to snuff (and it rarely is, even if you meet his objectives!).
Whether you're a die-hard Katamari addict or a newcomer to the series, I suggest checking out Beautiful Katamari. But don't blame me if you find yourself humming upbeat J-Pop as you bandage your blistered thumbs.
Beautiful Katamari is rated E (Everyone) for Alcohol Reference, Comic Mischief, and Mild Fantasy Violence.