When I describe Katamari Damacy to someone, I tend to get blank stares. It’s understandable, really, considering the premise of the game. You are the Prince of the Cosmos, a little green creature only a few centimeters high, charged by your father the King of All Cosmos with the task of fixing the stars in the night sky. You see, he got a bit drunk and accidentally destroyed them. So you take your katamari, a wad of something apparently very sticky, and begin rolling up things on earth to create new stars.
It’s one of the more original games to come out in a long while, as well as one of the trippiest. It is also extremely fun and addictive. You start out rolling up small objects: coins, dice, etc, and before you know it mice and cats and humans and enormous squid are sticking to your gigantic katamari.
In each level you are given an objective. Usually your father the King tells you how big the katamari needs to be and gives you a time limit to complete your task. Other levels involve recreating the constellations in the sky. These stages are variations on the general theme of rolling everything up into a ball: to recreate Pisces, for example, you need to pick up as many fish as possible. Taurus requires that you pick up one cow: the largest one possible. Some of the stages are difficult, but not maddeningly so.
The controls are about as simple as you can get. The analog sticks are used together to roll the katamari. This controls take a little while to get used to, but not because they they poorly designed. Rather, it just takes some time to understand how the katamari rolls. It is quite nicely done: when you pick up an oddly shaped object, such as a sunflower, it can cause your katamari to roll strangely. Overall, the control scheme is very well laid out, and there is a tutorial level in the beginning of the game that allows you to get used to it before you embark on your quest.
The visuals in Katamari Damacy are somewhat mixed. On one hand, the designs for the objects are very stylized, with blocky animals and people and simple textures. The colors are extremely bright, which fits the mood of the game well. On one level the objects in the world are bland, but the world is absolutely teeming with things to pick up. The best part about the visuals in Katamari Damacy is the way the game continues to scale larger and larger as the katamari grows. People you pick up will struggle rather ineffectually within the confines of your massive wad of junk, and even when your katamari grows to such epic proportions that it can pick up buildings, you can still see the little people struggling to get free. One moment you’re in the town picking up pineapples and fish, and before you know it you can pick up skyscrapers and islands. The scale of the world is quite impressive, even if the objects can be blandly designed.
One of the best parts of this game is the sound. The music is, quite simply, amazing. The opening tune is catchy and upbeat, and the soundtrack is full of strange Japanese rock and pop. With lyrics like “I know you love me, I want to wad you up into my life/Let’s roll up to be a single star in the sky”, you just can’t go wrong. The sound effects themselves are pretty fun. Objects make interesting noises as they are picked up, and humans scream or laugh. The principal of a school threatens you with detention. These sounds can get repetitive, but the music more than makes up for it. And no one can deny that rampaging around a city while thousands of people scream as they and their homes are devoured by the ravenous katamari is a good time.
For all of its fun, Katamari Damacy is a short title. I would have liked to have had more mission-type levels in the game. To simply play through the game does not take long at all. Once you beat it, there are a few extras to unlock to extend the experience, as well as the desire to beat your previous score. There is multiplayer, too, but it is also somewhat lacking. The developers could have done a lot more with this feature. It would have been nice to have different modes of competition, and to have different places to compete. The multiplayer is obviously not the main draw of the game, and it is a nice extra, but nothing special. Still, for twenty dollars you can hardly go wrong with Katamari Damacy. It is the kind of game you can pick up and play for 10 minutes or a half hour at a time and feel satisfied. If you’re a fan of quirky and simple games, this one might be for you.