Rating

C+

Specific Ratings

GameplayD+
GraphicsB+
Learning CurveB+
Replay ValueC
SoundA

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Best music since the original
  • Graphics look great on 360
  • Tons of missions to complete and items to roll up
Cons
  • Same old gameplay flaws
  • The King is more annoying than ever
  • Weak multiplayer

Beautiful Katamari (Xbox 360)

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Summary

Rolling joy dampened by poor playability

Images


Description

Games in the Katamari series are pretty much love 'em or hate 'em affairs. Still, from a gamer's standpoint, an objective view must be taken, and to put it simply Beautiful Katamari for the Xbox 360 does not live up to the standard set by its predecessors.

Unlike a lot of box-office follow-ups, video games have a tendency to improve when a sequel is offered. Unfortunately, the Katamari series seems to be taking a step in the opposite direction. The first game, "Katamari Damacy" for the PS2, was a whimsical masterpiece. Its interesting music, simple gameplay, and clever writing were like a breath of fresh air to gaming. The second release, "We Love Katamari", was an acceptable sequel, but was more forgettable than the first. And now with Beautiful Katamari we see that the series is just getting more frustrating.

One of the biggest gripes is that nothing has been fixed over the course of three console releases. Since the beginning, there have been frustrating times during the game where the Katamari would get stuck, often for no reason, and was very difficult to get unstuck and continue with gameplay. Also, there would be times where the Katamari slowed down and was extremely difficult to push, again for no reason other than software fault. Inexplicably, this major issue (which has caused every person I've seen play the game to yell at the game) has STILL not been fixed.

The multiplayer is also a bit of a mess. It's never been Katamari's strong point, but if you're going to make multiplayer a focus of your game, either make it right or leave it out. Co-op in particular is essentially useless, basically leaving both players to resort to moving the joysticks every which way, "hoping" the Katamari will go in the right direction. Online multiplayer is not only a yawner, but the levels are pretty uninspired as well. It seems like everyone wants to get their games online but no one wants to make sure that it'll be fun first.

One gameplay issue that has actually gotten WORSE as the series has "evolved" is the King of All Cosmos. In the first game, he would say something to you at the beginning of the level, and rarely during the level. Otherwise he was out of your hair. In Beautiful Katamari, the King is on the screen for over half of the level, blabbing on and on about things the player simply doesn't care about. And the only way to make him shut up is to actually STOP playing the game and fast-forwarding the text. Problem is, this wastes precious seconds that you will probably need to finish the stage.

A final point that has gotten worse: in the first two games, when a new area became available to the player, the camera would actually pan over and show you where the spot was. Now, there is simply a vague description of where to go next (guess who pops up right in the middle of the screen to tell you), which can lead to player frustration.

There are bright spots. The Katamari series has never had stellar graphics because of the game's art style, and though the 360 is clearly capable of displaying better looking objects, the developers chose to keep the same look, just streamlined and smoothed. The result is a beautifully polished looking game. Very nice.

Also, the soundtrack for Beautiful Katamari definitely rivals the original in terms of creativity and range. It's almost worth buying just to hear the new songs.

The problem with reviewing a game like this is it's not going to influence anyone. If you're not a fan of the series, you're not going to bother with it anyway. And if you are, you'll buy it no matter what, because you know the urge to roll new stuff up is too strong to resist. And that's the real Beauty of Katamari.

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