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

Godzilla Vs. A Giant Ball of Crap

  • Feb 12, 2005
Rating:
+5
Pros: Taking on Godzilla head-to-head..... And winning!

Cons: Will someone PLEASE turn that damn beeper off?!

The Bottom Line: Round and round I go! Where I stop, no one knows!

God bless those designers from the Land of the Rising Sun. Somehow, only a Japanese designer could come up with a concept so simple, so stupid, and so foolishly and outrageously absurd that it becomes the latest sleeper - and one of the most addictive video games this side of Tetris. Katamari Damacy is one of the epitomes of minute-to-learn-lifetime-to-master games. It is also very, unmistakeably Japanese, right down to the title. (The term “katamari damacy” is Japanese for “clump of souls.”) And to the point, it’s different, incredibly weird, but also a whole lot of fun. After all, what other video game gives you the opportunity to roll the Loch Ness Monster into a giant ball of assorted other crap?

In a way, calling the game Katamari Damacy was misleading. There are indeed souls in the clump you’ll be rolling, but the clump - henceforth referred to by its Japanese word, katamari, to lessen confusion - will contain much more than just souls. The majority of your katamaris be composed of things like bottles, fruits, buckets, fences... Literally anything and everything in your direct path, as long as it’s not bigger than your katamari at the moment you attempt to pick it up. The object is to make the katamari as big as you possibly can.

There is a method to the madness of Katamari Damacy. The uber-cool King of All Cosmos accidentally destroys all the stars in the universe. (No, not the Hollywood elite. The ones solar systems are comprised of.) Instead of taking responsibility for his own mistakes, he tells his pint-size princely son to put the stars back in place. Unfortunately, the Prince of All Cosmos is not your average creationist. If he was, there would be no problem. Since ordering the stars to make themselves is out, the Prince has to travel to Earth to roll up the contents of the planet into his katamari. When enough contents are rolled into the katamari, the King releases them into space, where they explode and turn into a star. In between levels, you get to watch cutscenes of a family which tell some sort of story. It’s not a Final Fantasy-caliber type story, though. It’s actually a bit of a waste because it makes absolutely no sense. And yet, the nonsensical story fits neatly in place because it makes just about as much sense as the actual game.

This is a bit more difficult than it sounds. Your average katamari starts out as small as the pint-sized Prince. So you can’t just roll off in the direction of the Tokyo Tower, stick your katamari to it, and triumphantly exclaim “done!” The katamari is only capable of picking up things that are smaller than it is at the time you try to pick it up. When you start certain levels, the katamari is too small to even pack up the mice which will be hounding you as you start your routine. So it will only be after you pick up a few batteries, pieces of chalk, and other ground goodies that you’ll be able to roll up mice and your katamari will become a true katamari damacy. Your goal in every level is to roll up the katamari until it reaches a certain size, and you have to do it in a certain amount of time. In the constellation-making levels, your object is to roll up as many of the featured object as you can find; you have to roll up lots of crabs to make Cancer, or sets of twins to come up with Gemini. You also want to avoid crashing your katamari into too many objects which are its senior in size. Whatever holds the objects onto the katamari isn’t quite krazy glue, so certain things tend to break off as a result of high-speed collisions. This, of course, results in the katamari losing some of its mass. Not a LOT, mind you, but sometimes just enough to become the difference between hitting the goal of the level and falling just short.

The King of All Cosmos is fond enough of his son to buy lots of presents for him. Trouble is, he’s clumsy and keeps dropping them to Earth. You know what that means - you want dad’s gifts, you have to roll them up yourself. To keep them, you have to keep them in your katamari until the end of the level AND meet the level objective.

The physics in Katamari Damacy are really something to behold. This is another thing that makes the gameplay so tricky and yet so fun. When you crash into something - and believe me, you will - anything that flies off the katamari is reletive to whatever you crashed into and how fast you slammed into it. When you really get rolling along, stopping is like slamming on your car brakes instead of merely turning around. The real star (no pun intended) of the physics is the things you gather up with the katamari. Since things get stuck to the katamari as opposed be merely being sucked into it, the shape of the objects you pick up will have an effect of the way the katamari rolls down the street. If you pick up a light pole, you’ll be rolling with the tip of the pole hitting the ground at regular intervals and slowing you down when it does. When you add something really big to the katamari, you have to deal with certain parts of it lifting it off the ground more than other parts. Since the katamari accumulates a lot of mass, it will become slower and harder to control with the bigger it gets.

The look of Katamari Damacy is just as absurd as everything else about the game. The graphics have a serious case of lego-mania, especially when your katamaris reach city-grabbing, Godzilla sized proportions. Everything looks and moves like it was built with legos. While the lego graphics are in tune with the feel of the game, they have very few animations. Things that move barely do so, with the exception of the Prince and his katamari. However, they’re also very colorful. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the look of the katamari. It starts out as a truly alien-looking space baseball, but as it gathers what it sweeps up, nothing loses shape as it gets gathered. Everything you picked up is perfectly visible on the katamari (well, the top layer of it) with no slowdown.

Katamari Damacy has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. The music is, of course, Japanese-sounding, but that’s not a bad thing. It just gives you something different to listen to. Many of the levels have lyrices with the music, and the lyrics are all loud and clear, and sometimes even funny. They alternate between Japanese and English. The sounds are unique for the most part; every object has a different sound when you pick it up. Dogs bark, elephants trumpet, and humans say funny things or sometimes stick with the standard scream. However, the game makes a noise when you get approached by something really big to warn you. The person responsible for the annoying beep really should be put on the pitcher’s mound at the Tokyo Dome and shot.

The controls of Katamari Damacy are nine-tenths of the game. Except for using the shoulder buttons sometimes to look around, you’ll only be using the analog sticks. The game has a very simple layout for the sticks which finds a way to really use the one on the right. Just one thing bothers me: The katamari charge. You can charge up the katamari to make it zoom across the screen by alternating the up and down positions on the analogs. Unfortunately, this is difficult because the game takes a couple of seconds to figure out that you want to perform the katamari charge instead of merely rotate.

It’s Japanese. It’s creative and original, and it’s in the highest echlon of addictive games: The ranks of games like Tetris, Jet Grind Radio, Bubble Bobble, and Space Invaders. A lifetime of fun for a bargain bin price.

gameplay - 9
graphics - 6
audio - 10
replay - 10
overall - 9.6





Recommended:
Yes

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More Katamari Damacy reviews
review by . August 18, 2008
I'd long heard the praises of this game from various sources (like BoingBoing) and when I finally got a PS2 (yes, I live in the dark ages), this was the first game I had to try on it. The concept is wacky, which I'm not sure is because the game is wacky or if there's some kind of cultural disconnect between Japan and the U.S., but I have to give the game points for uniqueness. Seems that the King of the Universe did a little too much partying and has scattered things to multiple corners of the universe …
review by . February 28, 2007
I've never done acid, or any other drugs. In fact, I get annoyed when people look at something beyond the standard range of creative and their first thought is "I wonder what drugs they were on?" However, after playing this game I think I think I may have to revise my opinions on the matter. Describing this game as "weird" is to do an injustice to the word. When a game contains scenes with a Japanese schoolgirl saying things like, "I feel it! I feel the cosmos!" you know has to be inspired by far …
review by . November 16, 2005
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When out shopping, I kept seeing a game called "We Love Katamari". I looked on the back of the package and I'm thinking "Rolling up stuff with a ball? Now how is THIS fun?"    So I was in a gaming store last week and saw the original version of the Katamari series, Katamari Damacy. It was priced affordably and I asked the clerks what they knew about it. I also read Lisa Shea's review here on Amazon for the We Love Katamari game and I thought "Heck, I'm going to give it a try."   & …
review by . February 09, 2005
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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 …
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Ranked #19
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … 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
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