Katamari Damacy

This original, unique and fun title is already a contender for game of the year.


The Lowdown

Pros: One of the most original and entertaining titles to date.

Cons: The game can be completed in under five hours.

Purchase at Play-Asia
The brains at Namco have cranked out something truly unique in the video game world. Katamari Damacy is kind of a hard game to explain because on paper it just make that much sense. However, once you have the controller in hand and you're playing the game you'll get hooked to it fast. The star of Katamari Damacy is the Prince of All Cosmos. His father known as the King of All Cosmos knocked all of the stars out of the sky and is too lazy to make new ones. Instead he drafts his tiny son to make new stars. Making stars isn't an easy task. The miniature prince has to roll a sticky ball around to gather objects from the junk planet, also known as Earth.

Collecting stuff is as simple as rolling the two analog sticks. Tilting the left and right sticks straight up rolls your ball forward, tilting the both of the sticks backwards moves the ball back. You can turn the around ball by sliding the sticks back and forth. The prince can also do a quick turn by pressing the L3 and R3 buttons. You can also do a dash attack to cover long distances by rapidly moving the analog sticks back and forth. Even though the control scheme is intuitive, the controls do take a little while to get used to. When the katamari (the clump ball) touches objects around its size it picks them up. A little katamari can only pick up small things like pushpins, dice, pieces of candy and ants. As you continue to pick up small objects the katamari grows and the scale of the world changes. A larger katamari can pick up larger objects that a smaller katamari would just ignore like TVs, chairs, penguins, cows and even people. Eventually you'll be able to make a katamari large enough to snag buildings, oil tankers, "Gigantorman" and even entire islands.

The goal of many of the stages is to make the largest katamari possible in the given time limit. Earlier stages demand that you make a katamari about 20 centimeters, but eventually you'll have to roll a katamari as large as 300 meters. Even if you complete the required size within the time limit you're allowed to make your katamari grow even larger, until the time runs out and you need to return back to deep space. Other levels have you rebuild consolations like Gemini, Virgo and Cancer. These have you collect specific items instead of just making a large katamari. The Gemini level has you collect twins (pairs of items), the Virgo level asks you to stick as many women as you can and the Cancer level asks you to snag crabs. These other levels are a nice change of pace and can be a challenge for players to find all of the required items.

Even though it's awesome to watch your once tiny katamari grow to pick up drawbridges and giant squids, there are only a few levels to play. A player can easily complete all of the levels in four or five hours. Namco does offer some challenges for players to replay the game. For example all of the levels can be replayed so you can try and make a larger katamari or try to collect more hidden items for the constellations. You can even collect different types of items to make different kinds of stars, which has a little more variation. Another challenge is for players to find all of the hidden royal presents that the King just forgot to bring back to give to the Prince. These royal presents can be equipped to change the way the Prince looks. You can equip him with a sumo wrestler belt, a crown or an electric guitar. One last challenge that Namco has for players is for them to collect all of the thousand plus objects found in the game. You can play through the game a couple of times and still not find rare items like the queen ant or the Siamese cat. These challenges help deafen the blow of the low number of levels featured in the game.

Another problem that some gamers may have with Katamari Damacy are the in game graphics. All of the stuff in the game is blocky. You have people who look like they belong in the first Virtua Fighter game, squarish cows and flattened out crocodiles. However, it's meant to be that way. Like it or not, that's the graphical style of the game. The game's main graphical feat is managing to change your perception of the world as the ball grows. When you're rolling around a small katamari dogs look like giants. As the ball of junk grows the dogs that were once big, look tiny and easily attach to your katamari. In later levels where your katamari grows hundreds of meters high the scope accurately changes to represent that.

Complementing Katamari Damacy's excellent gameplay is an equally awesome soundtrack. The wide array of music featured in the game should please everyone. Some of the songs sound like Las Vegas lounge songs, while others sound like jazzy beats. Also in the soundtrack are a number of songs in Japanese, which isn't too common in American releases. The original score is definitely different from games of this genre, even games in general, but its amazingly well done.

Katamari Damacy is something that all gamers should give a try. It is a huge surprise that Namco has decided to release this bizarre but fun game in North America. It's definitely a nice treat and at an attractive $20 price point it's worth the money.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 2

The Japanese game can be played without understanding much Japanese, but you'll miss out on the game's excellent sense of humor.

US Bound?

Namco has decided to release Katamari Damacy in the US at a price much cheaper than the Japanese release.

Overall

It may sound weird, but Katamari Damacy is one of the most fun to play games this year.