Did you ever have an insatiable desire to collect everything you hold dear into a rather large ball and roll it around? Oh good, I’m not the only one! Katamari
Damacy (The Japanese translation being literally ‘clump soul’) is Namco’s action-puzzle title centred around this very bizarre mechanic.
Our basic premise is thus – the King of All Cosmos has committed a blunder of galactic
proportions, and knocked the stars from the sky. In order to fix this presumably quite traumatic situation, starting at tiny proportions, the Prince (you) must roll his ‘katamari’ and collect everyday objects (be it thumbtacks, snails, or even people) in order to increase its size. However, knocking into objects larger than your katamari will break items off and deplete your magnificent sphere. You should also take note of the objects you are about to incorporate – they change the handling of the ball. For example, if you were to pick up a pencil, prepare for some wonky manoeuvres when that side comes down. Level requirements are typically based around picking up certain items to satisfy an objective, or simply build a katamari of a certain size within a given time limit.
Controls are nicely snappy and responsive, although it might take you a few minutes to get used to the double analog stick configuration, which can seem a little alien if you haven’t tried this scheme before. We are provided means of achieving extremely quick turns and other such changes in direction, which become extremely important once the katamari gains some momentum.
You should also take note of the objects you are about to incorporate – they change the handling of the ball.
The general theme with this title appears to be ‘unbridled surrealism’. I perhaps should have mentioned that this game is a Japanese import, and this becomes apparent rather quickly. It really is just another kind of wacky that is totally atypical of a Western studio. In a good way though. The characters, particularly the King, are extremely likeable, and there some gem pieces of hilarious dialogue. This probably stems from the fact that in the original the King was portrayed as a drunkard ruler, but this has not been carried over into the Western releases so he merely comes across as extremely eccentric, which almost seems funnier to me. It would be churlish not to mention the single but incredibly catchy theme song which manifests in a variety of ways within the game. Just play it to understand what I’m talking about here, trust me.
In the pixel department, there’s nothing revolutionary going on here, but I must stress that it’s not a deal-breaker. The pseudo-cubism thing looks absolutely fantastic, and the game scaled perfectly when changing the magnitude of the katamari, cleverly and convincingly changing the depth of field. I imagine this allowed the developers to take some of the workload off the CPU during larger scenes, and I maintained a smooth 60fps during my testing without any hiccups. A tragically overlooked gem - rather hard to find, but
I certainly recommend you try.