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Katamari Damacy (PS2)
Gaming
Written by Chris C   
Thursday, 09 September 2004 13:11

Once again Chris C heads out into the weird, wonderful and fun world of the Japanese, with a game called Katamari Damacy. Anyone who's read the previews of this latest offering from Namco could well be forgiven for being sceptical. Don't worry, it's a lot better than the previews ever gave it credit for. Those who are fans of import games may well know about Katamari Damacy, but for all those who haven't got a clue what we're on about - just read the review!


Simplicity is key, and never has a statement rung so true as in the magical world of Katamari Damacy.

When I first read previews of Namco’s latest offering, I have to admit to being a little sceptical. The idea of the game, as far as I could work out, was to push a small ball around, collecting items on your way, until you reached such a size as to allow you to rip trees from the ground, houses from their foundations and cows from mountain sides. Slightly bemused, I decided to give the game a go, if just for “experimental” reasons only.

You start off on a table top, with your little green chap rolling his ball around from one end to the other collecting drawing pins, paper clips, sushi soy sauce packets and other random items. It’s not long before you’ve leapt off the table top and are venturing round the kitchen floor, with spoons, matchboxes and pencils making up the main bulk of your diet.

Katamari


The idea for most of the levels in the game is to get your ball of, well, rubbish to a certain, predetermined size. How you do this is completely up to you, and the only restriction you have is a time limit. Everything you see can be lifted and slapped onto the side of your ball, you just have to be big enough to lift it. Obviously, when you’re of a smaller size, certain objects, such as cats and dogs, can harm you, and send items you have already collected flying off into the distance as you tumble out of control and into a plastic carrier bag, carelessly placed by a youth as he strolls about town listening to his walkman. Grow in size however, and it will soon be time to pay a certain pussycat a visit adding him to your ever growing sphere of garbage, as he meows and yelps with every rotation. And don’t for one minute think that litterbug with the walkman is getting away with it either. He’ll soon be fleeing helplessly and sadly in vain, as he becomes yet another addition to the ever growing mass that you accumulate throughout the game. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Revenge is also one of the real motivators in the game. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a bull wide-eyed in disbelief as you career towards him, where only moments ago he was ramming you to the other side of the field.
Katamari


The story explaining why you are doing all this, in short goes something like this. All the stars in the universe have disappeared, and you, as son to the king of the stars, have been sent to Earth to collect rubbish and items of varying sizes, to place in the sky, thus creating a new star. It gets worse. You also have to assemble constellations, such as “the bear” and “the crab”. To do this, you are sent on slightly more specific missions, such as collecting as many crabs as possible in an allotted time limit, or finding the biggest bear you can and making him stick to your ball. Genius.

Katamari


The controls to the game are simple and intuitive, and serve their purpose superbly. To control the ball, you have to use both analogue sticks, simulating what I can only describe as a tank track way of driving. So, to move forward, you push both sticks up. To move to the right, you release the right stick and leave the left stick forwards. Whilst sounding complicated, it soon becomes second nature, and adds to the originality of this wonderful game. There are certain special moves also, such as a manic spin, which can be used to traverse terrain speedily, and a 180 degree flip, allowing you to quickly back away from an approaching hazard.

The gameplay is one of the most rewarding aspects of the title, and the physics of your ball are astounding. Roll over a long, thin item for example, and your ball will teeter and topple along as a football would, with a sword stabbed through the centre of it. The developers have also really worked on the sense of growth and development within your surroundings, and it won’t be long until you are repeating some of the key phrases any player of Katamari Damacy will utter more than once, such as “Wow, to think, about ten minutes ago, I was rolling around on the road outside of that football stadium there, picking up match programmes and coke cans, and now I’ve lifted the stadium itself out of the ground!”

The soundtrack is typically Japanese, but also fits perfectly within the atmosphere created by the joyous world which you are tumbling around in. It is genuinely one of the greatest soundtracks to any game I have had the pleasure of listening to. You’ll be singing three or four of the songs for days after playing.

With a two player mode bundled in, as well as thousands of “secret” items which have to be found in each level before you can call yourself a true Damacy master, this charming little number really has plenty of scope to keep you coming back for months to come.

Whether Namco deem Katamari to be “too Japanese” to release on westerners, remains to be seen, and it would be a real shame if they chose not to. It is one of the few titles I have thoroughly enjoyed playing for quite a few months now, and I would heartily recommend anyone with access to a modified PS2 to give it a whirl.

In the words of David Brent, Katamari Damacy, “You’ve charmed me.”

 
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