J. Michael Neal
|# Of Players:
If you are a fan of import
games, or keep an eye to the East, then you are probably already
familiar with Katamari Damacy, even if you only know it as
ďthat crazy Japanese game where you roll all kinds of stuff up into
a giant ballĒ. Well, That Crazy Japanese Game Where You Roll All
Kinds of Stuff Up Into a Giant Ball has made it stateside,
miraculously untainted by localization, and is sure to fly off store
shelves like hotcakes as soon as Japanophiles get a whiff of its
sweet, sweet quirkiness.
In Katamari you play as a
tinyÖ tube-headed Prince who must roll around this giantÖ
squeeze-toy lookingÖ thing (your ďkatamariĒ, or ďclumpĒ), collecting
random objects in its spheroid mass until itís big enough to replace
the stars your carpet-headed, b-boy father, the King of All Cosmos
has knocked out the sky in an act ofÖ I-donít-know, but it sounded a
heck of a lot like he was trying to get jiggy with space. Anyway, as
you can gather, the story is probably the best example of Japanese
a dog tried to woo a flower by learning karate from an onion.
Trust me, this is one of those games you want to own simply to pull
out and show to your bewildered friends and family. The utterly
bizarre opening cinematic alone is worth the price of admission.
Once the game begins, youíll be
rolling this ball over objects that then stick to it. You start out
small, only a few inches high and capable of collecting tiny bits of
pieces like thumbtacks, paperclips, and game pieces, but as your
katamari grows, so will itís capacity to hold larger and larger
items. After a few minutes, youíll be a foot high and picking up
books, shoes, and dinner plates. Give yourself enough time, and
youíll be rolling over dogs, people, cars, buildings, telephone
poles, you name it. Your only limit is the amount of time you have
per level to reach a specific diameter, but eventually it becomes
all about swallowing up whole cities like some rejected Godzilla
If youíre wondering how an
entire game built around rolling a ball over objects can be in the
least bit interesting, let me assure you, it is. Katamari Damacy
does a few things to make a game this simplistic entertaining. First
of all, Katamari Damacy really runs with the idea of a giant,
sticky ball of chaos. It may be the simplest concept since Tetris,
but itís explored to itís fullest. The levels are absolutely huge
and numerous and littered with such an endless, random assortment of
objects that you could never collect everything there is to collect.
Also, levels evolve as you grow, but itís very subtle. The same
location can have a dozen different ďversionsĒ depending on how
large or small you are, each with itís own set of size-appropriate
objects. And if those werenít enough, the game features some fairly
accurate physics, and every object you collect effects the katamari
in subtle and not so subtle ways.
It gets better from there,
though. The controls arenít easy. They take a while to learn and,
since you must move both analog sticks in tandem to direct the
katamari, require dexterity in both hemispheres of your brain. You
never really feel like you have a total grip on movement, but thatís
ok, because considering the game is essentially just moving
forwards, backwards, left, right, and rotating, it gives the
controls some character. Think what Robot Alchemic Drive
would have been like if the controls werenít so weird and you get my
Namco also threw in some stuff
for the completists out there. Some levels contain secret items
worth searching for, including a camera that can be used to take
pictures in game and save on your memory card. Thereís an object
collection screen that keeps track of every item you managed to
finish a level with still in your katamari, which is an incentive to
find them all, little by little. Some levels even hold special
rewards for attain extra high scores, like levels with no time
And the cherry on top? A
two-player mode! It wonít take the crown for multiplayer experience
of the year, but itís a great way to show the game to friends in a
more exciting way than just having them watch you play.
If youíre into a game like
Katamari Damacy, Iím sure visuals mean very little to you, but
be not afraid, for this is not an ugly game. Thereís no textured
bump mapping or anything like that, itís all very simple and
stylized with lots of pastels, but its quirky style matches its
quirky gameplay. The music, on the other hand, is surprisingly good.
Itís the kind of soundtrack I wouldnít mind owning. Itís very
diverse; pop, jazz, folk, rock, hip-hop, but itís all in Japanese.
Novel idea, yeah, but more importantly, itís actually really good
music! Itís catchy as all hell and, really, some of the best stuff
Iíve heard in ages. If youíre the kind of person whoíd dig a game
like this, youíre definitely the kind of person who will go bananas
for this soundtrack.
Ok, I know what youíre thinking,
ďWhatíre the gameís faults?Ē Well, there arenít really many. All I
can really find is that motion sickness is a huge issue. It may just
be me, maybe I have a weak stomach, but I can only play this game 5,
10 minutes at a time before getting woozy. Itís very annoying,
particularly since this is the kind of game you just want to play
and play. Aside from that, only other thing I can think of is that
this game has become pretty difficult to find. Impossible? No, not
impossible, but in limited numbers, and with a price tag of $19.99,
this game sold out most places pretty fast.
Fun and funny in
that way only Japan can manage.
Far amount of
Two player modes
are always a nice feature.
Give it up for
originality in gaming!
May be hard to
Come on, itís $20 and itís one of the best games
released all year! Even if it sounds like the kind of game you
know youíd hate, you should still pick it up, because man cannot
live on first person shooters and sports games alone. Every now
and then, you need to escape from the car crashes and
decapitations and roll a giant dog toy around Japan, collecting
cars and candy and screaming babies and ringing phones and frogs
and birds and motor homes and statues and baseball stadiums and
sushi rolls to make your father happy.