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Lunch » Tags » Video Games » Reviews » Katamari Damacy » User review

This lonely rolling star is a winner!

  • Feb 9, 2005
Rating:
+5
Pros: Addictive, great soundtrack, easy to pick up and play, inexpensive

Cons: Multiplayer was disappointing

The Bottom Line: I liked it so much that I've given it as a gift, and I'm sure you will too!

I should be almost embarassed to say this, but I work at a video game store and I own less than 20 games total, something made more embarassing by the fact that I own five systems. I drool over everything but rarely buy. A lack of money is the largest contributing factor to this problem, and rarely does a game release for under thirty dollars that is worth buying. And then came Katamari Damacy.

The games I do own are quirky and different from standard video game fare, so Katamari Damacy fits right in. The point of the game is simple although slightly odd: you are a prince, and your goal is to roll up stuff laying around into a ball, which will be made into a star. “What does rolling things into a ball have to do with stars?” you may ask. Well, stars are made of mass, that’s why, and you need to create a big enough ball of matter to be able to form increasingly larger stars. “And WHY am I creating stars?” is likely your next question. Well, that is because your father, the King of all Cosmos, got drunk, and knocked the stars out of the sky. And the story looks just as silly as it sounds. When you first start up the game, you are greeted to singing ducks, dancing pandas, and cows just to name a few things in the opening sequence alone, and at first there is no obvious reason why they are in there and the whole thing just seems absurd.

Characters
There are really only two main characters in the game: the Prince and the King of all Cosmos. The Prince never speaks, and is only seen as the person rolling the ball of stuff. The King pops up occasionally, giving general directions at the start of each level and making strange comments during the game, such as “Royal Rainbow!” It is hard to tell if the game was poorly translated from the Japanese version accidentally or intentionally, as the broken English makes the comments more amusing on many occasions.

Controls
The controls are simple, requiring only the analog sticks to move. All you need to do is push the sticks in the direction you want to go, pushing both at the same time. The easy steering system makes it a great game for anyone to pick up and play, young or old, veteran gamer or newcomer, since there is little to explain. The most advanced move I used was the ability to push down on both sticks, causing you to leap to the reverse side of the ball thereby immediately allowing you to head back in the direction you came from, which is most useful for removing yourself from a tight corner.

Graphics/Camera
The graphics are basic but clear and reminded me much of a dollhouse at times - everything seemed just slightly too round or too blocky, but you could clearly tell what it was. The camera, thankfully, is almost always in the right place, behind you just enough to see what is around you and where you are headed, and the larger your ball becomes, the more the camera moves back to compensate. I did occasionally find myself trapped against a bridge or in a corner and unable to see my way out, which was especially frustrating on the timed levels the first time around, but this is a rare occurrence.
Sound
Katamari Damacy has a (forgive the pun) stellar soundtrack. Although mostly in Japanese, the all-original melodies are catchy and stick in your head. There are 2 J-pop style songe in there, one reminiscent of Frank Sinatra, a jazz track, a swing track, and a classical track, as well as several just catchy melodies for the cut scenes. The songs get stuck with you long after you’ve turned off the game. The sound effects in the game are equally as good. Frogs croak, cats meow, and dogs bark as you roll them up, police in town shoot your katamari as you scoop up the city, along with dozens of other ambient sounds that are just perfect for the game, not irritating.

Single-Player Mode
The game has three types of levels: Make a Star, Create a Constellation, and Eternal, and three level styles: inside the house, outside in the town, and around the world. There are nine Make a Star boards and a final level of similar design called Make the Moon. In these boards you have a time limit in which you must collect as many items as possible to make your katamari reach a specific size. A size meter in the left corner shows your size vs. your goal and a timer ticks down in the right. For example, in Make A Star 1, you must create a 3 meter katamari in 3 minutes. In Make A Moon, you must create a 500 meter katamari in approximately half an hour. As your size goal increases, so does your time limit. You begin picking up items relative to your size, which means starting out with dice, push pins, and candy, and as you grow you can pick up everything from people, to houses, apartment buildings to Godzilla. Anything and everything you see can be collected into your ball as soon as you are big enough.

Create a Constellation requires you to collect specific items to recreate the constellations. For Pisces, for example, you have to collect as many fish as possible from small herrings to dolphins (yes, I know a dolphin is not a fish, but whatever). Two constellations, Taurus and Ursa Major, have a slightly different twist in which the goal is to pick up ONLY the largest of an item (a cow and a bear, respectively). This is difficult considering you must make you ball larger in order to be able to pick up a large animal, and the boards are teeming with everything from teddy bears, men in bear suits, and even glasses of chocolate milk, all of which you must avoid. Cows and bears walk right towards you and it takes some quick moves to get a good score on these boards. The Polaris board adds a final twist as you are required to create a 10 meter katamari without the help of the size meter. This is actually incredibly difficult and it took me quite some time to get it right - I always fell just too short. This board adds a nice change of pace to the game and keeps things interesting.

Eternal mode is a special bonus only obtained by acheiving a certain record size on Make a Star 4, Make a Star 8, and Make the Moon. Eternal mode allows you to roll up everything untimed, allowing you to hunt down rare items if you’re looking to finish off the collection. One level of each style is unlocked: Star 4 unlocks the inside the house, Star 8 unlocks the out on the town, and Make the Moon unlocks the world. You can also still play the board the standard way if you like - each time you enter the levels you are given a choice between Eternal or Standard, but I constantly find myself playing the Eternal mode until there is just nothing left to collect.

Two-Player Mode
Two-player mode is simple enough: two people go head-to-head, split screen to see who can collect more items in a given time limit. If you exceed your competitor’s size, you can collect them into your katamari as well. The only downfall is that the levels here are small and repetitive, unlike the larger single-player worlds. However it’s still a good laugh.

Replayability
I have to say, I’ve been playing this game endlessly for months and still can’t put it down for several reasons. First, the game tracks which items you have collected, and there are close to 1500 in all. Playing the game through once only got me about 60,% completed, so I often pick it up just to try and get “just a few more” items. If you are the type who loves collecting things, this game is for you. Also, there are many areas to each level, so many that you’ll almost always find something that you are sure you’ve never seen before. In all my time playing it, I’m still coming across new sections that I don’t recall. Finally, your stars aren’t just created, they are sent up to the sky, which you can view in it’s entirety, like a planetarium. I keep playing just to see what a sky packed full of stars will look like, and I constantly try to make a bigger, brighter star.

Price and Availability
Price is killer here, as the $20 tag was what kept me from resisting initially and this price is the same everywhere. Now, with that said, availability is the big issue, as even months after its release it is still continuously selling out everywhere, but your local game store should be carrying it.

My Final Thoughts
This is the best twenty dollars I’ve ever spent. Seriously. I’ve never owned a game that I’ve been so hooked on and I loved it so much I bought it as a Christmas gift for someone else. It is appropriate for all ages, and even the most hardcore gamer will enjoy it’s simple but addictive gameplay. And it’s become so popular that a sequel is in the works already, which says a lot on it’s own. Don’t resist, pick this one up!

Other game reviews:
Pokemon Fire Red

Recommended:
Yes

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About the reviewer
Tina Duncan ()
Ranked #1132
   Always super busy mom to a very energetic kid and a very devilish cat. Forever starting new hobbies and working on old ones. In my spare time I enjoy reading, video games, World Of Warcraft … more
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About this video game

Wiki

When the King of All Cosmos accidentally destroys all the stars in the sky, he orders you, his pint-sized princely son, to put the twinkle back in the heavens above. The only way you can do that is by rolling everything on Earth into clumps so that he can replace what's missing in space. "Everything" includes cookies, lawn mowers, lamp posts, sumo wrestlers, bulldozers, brontosauruses , cruise ships, and more. Katamari Damacy also includes a two-player battle mode where you and a friend can see who can grow the biggest ball of stuff. For one to two players.

Features:

  • Play is controlled with the analog sticks only. No buttons to press. No combos to cause distress. Featuring ball-rolling and object-collecting gameplay mechanics of mesmerizing fluidity, reduced to Pac-Man simplicity, through pure absurdity.
  • Dimensions change drastically as your clump grows from a fraction of an inch to a monstrous freak of nature. Go from rolling along a tabletop to ravaging through city streets, picking up momentum, and skyscrapers along the way.
  • Two-player battle mode lets you compete in a race to grow the biggest ball of stuff. Even the competition can be picked up, if your opponent is unfortunate enough to get in your way.
Enjoy quirky, infectious humor throughout--from the insanely cosmic animations, to the wacky and wonderful musical stylings, to the royally contagious storyline that's undoubtedly like no other.
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Details

ESRB: E - (Everyone)
Number of Players: 2
Publisher: Namco
Console: PlayStation 2
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 18 March, 2004
First to Review
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