Rating

A

Specific Ratings

GameplayA-
GraphicsB
Learning CurveA+
Replay ValueB+
SoundA+

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Absolutely phenomenal presentation
  • Level design is superb
  • Innovative concept and near perfect execution
  • Incredible soundtrack and sound design
  • $20 price tag
  • Coolest credits sequence ever
  • High replay value
Cons
  • Occasional camera issue
  • Short
  • Tank controls may frustrate

Katamari Damacy (PlayStation 2)

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Summary

Royal Rainbow!

Description

Before I explain the story of Katamari Damacy, I must tell you that I am on no type of drug or reality altering substance; this really is the premise behind the game. Seriously.

The story of Katamari Damacy revolves around a giant, purple-faced man who is known as The King of Cosmos. As any responsible ruler of the universe knows, it is important to go on frequent benders or drunken escapades across the solar system. Unforunately, the King of the Cosmos went "Andrew W.K." on the night sky and partied hard. In the wake of his journey, the King accidentally stumbled around our local galaxy knocking around, and then eventually breaking all the stars (and moon!) in the sky. Because this is indeed a bad thing, the King then called on his comparatively miniscule son (The Prince) to rescue the sky. In order to do so he must utilize a "Katamari" to attain enough stuff to refill the gaps caused by the King's mishap. A Katamari is a magical sticky ball that grows and encompasses anything it touches. So basically, your job is to roll anything and everything you can on earth to refill the gaps in the sky.

Now as weird as the story sounds, the gameplay accompanying it can be described as just as weird. It can also be described as one of the most refreshing experiences I've had in gaming in a long, long time. First off, it must be said, I have smiled more playing Katamari Damacy then any game, ever. There is a strange, maybe even perverse pleasure that is attained while playing KD. A Zen like feeling that can only be continuously fulfilled by picking up more and more objects along your path of consumption.

This would all be a wash if the game didn't control well, feature exceptional level design, or have a sensational sense of scale. Beginning with the controls, they might be the weakest initial element of the game. When first starting out they can be almost frustrating and confusing in their tank-like nature (like driving a forklift even). Utilizing both analog sticks to control the movement of the ball is slightly unusual at first, but after two levels you become accustomed and sense how intuitive they really are. As well, the options to jump (giving you a bird's eye view of areas), 180 turn and speed burst allow for subtle implementation at your own leisure. One other unfortunate part is that once you do get used to the controls, the camera can occasionally block your view of the Katamari and cause additional frustration. Luckily this is not a common occurrence and happens only once or twice, if it all during any of the intricate levels. Speaking of which, the level design in this game is second to none. Allowing you to begin as a 10CM Katamari, picking up thumb tacks, matches and ants, and then grow to an 850+ METER Katamari picking up skyscrapers, landscapes and even rainbows in the course of a single, continuous level! There are over 1400 different items placed in levels as small as a kitchen or as large as the entire world, featuring tons of hidden items, secrets presents, characters and rarities to scoop up. If you can see it, you can make it part of your Katamari.

Upon realizing that anything and everything present in the game can be picked up, it must said that the most amazing design element of Katamari Damacy is the scale of objects. Each item has been specifically weighed and sized as to add to your size of Katamari. Often times, you'll run into things too big to pick up, such as a human tower, elephant herd or hot air balloon. Yet with a little patience, five minutes later in your havoc and consumption run, you may find those things to be part of your Katamari. It is simply gratifying.

Now the gameplay of KD is simply charming, but it almost takes a backseat to the absolutely wonderful presentation and sound of the game. While the graphics have a low poly count and feature plain textures, they have a consistency (60 FPS as well) about them that is very appropriate. They are charming, stylized and give the world a very realized and immersive feel. Next to this is the absolutely incredible soundtrack. Imagine, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Synth-pop, J-Pop and Japanese choirs being thrusted together to create some insane soundscape and you might have a hint at KD's soundtrack. It fits the game perfectly and will have you humming for months. As well, the sound design of the game is superb with every creature, item and structure reacting humorously to your Katamari. These strong elements tie into a wonderfully funny translation, a charming presentation to create aesthetic perfection.

Katamari Damacy can best be described as a short, but extremely satisfying product. The charm, design, innovation and execution of this title are years beyond most AAA $50 titles on the market today. Compound the quality of the game with the staggering $20 price tag and we have a modern classic on our hands. This game deserves an audience and any person who enjoys the purest fun they can get from a game, absolutely must play Katamari Damacy. It is fantastic in every sense of the word.

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