I have been a big Katamari fan since it originally released 15 or so years ago. Even though the series has languished for most of this decade, only being pushed forward by very disappointing mobile games, this remaster gives it new life. Rolling up a bunch of random junk in a ball has never felt so rewarding.
Katamari Damacy is a simple game with simple controls and a simple premise. Your goal is to take a ball that has the singular property of being sticky and rolling up as much as you can. You move it around by using both thumbsticks on a controller at the same time in an intuitive way.
It’s possible to use a keyboard, but you’ve got to be some sort of masochist to attempt that. Your main limitation is that the ball can only pick up objects sufficiently smaller than its current size, so you have to constantly make tactical choices in what you go for. The only real limiting factor, outside of the amount of stuff on the map, is how much time you have.
The map does provide some literal and figurative speedbumps though. You’ll always be squeezing through gaps and going under, around, and over walls of all sorts to proceed through the level. The living inhabitants of each area will also be going about their lives knocking you around at every turn as well.
Cats, dogs, people, cars, and all sorts of other strange creatures won’t hesitate to kick you around making you lose some of your recently picked up items and putting you in awkward positions. Generally, though, the only thing that even approaches a failure state is not getting the ball big enough in the allotted amount of time.
Your Dad’s an Ass
So you may be asking, why am I doing this? Well, the story and setting of Katamari Damacy are even stranger than the gameplay. You’re the Prince and your father is the King of All Cosmos. The game starts with him drunkenly flying around the universe destroying all of the stars and then crashing through the moon.
He then tasks you with rebuilding all of these celestial objects using that sticky ball to roll up things on Earth. The King generally rambles on about the locations or what you need to get but also belittles you and your progress until you finally achieve the required size. It’s certainly a strange relationship.
Each level has you building a single star and there’s only nine of them, so I guess he’s probably got other sons (or maybe your cousins used in multiplayer) rolling up the rest. Outside of the nine star levels, several have you rolling up balls that become constellations. These either involve you collecting as many of one type of object as possible, or only one of that specific type of thing – but as large as possible.
The former is much more appealing and plays just as the game was originally designed. Rather than just picking up everything (you generally still do) you shoot for whatever object comprises the constellation (for instance, crabs for Cancer).
The latter changes up the gameplay forcing an awkward balancing act where you’re dodging objects of a specific type you can barely see in the chaos. There are only two of those types of levels, but they are the worst parts of the game. Luckily, it doesn’t really inhibit your progress in any way if you end up with small items.
Wad you up into my life
The greatest thing about this relatively short game is the soundtrack. The music is a bit diverse between levels, but each song somehow still fits the chaos and silliness perfectly. Whether it’s the upbeat dance party vibe of the main theme or the smooth jazz of “Que Sera Sera”, it makes every level a joy to play through. Despite being very well versed in the gameplay and breezing through this playthrough in around four hours, I loved every second just like I did the first time I played it – and the music was the main reason for that.
The zany atmosphere of a world filled with a variety of familiar and unfamiliar Japanese objects makes every map a visual treat. You’ll constantly notice new things even as you revisit some of the same maps between levels. Every time you grow and the camera zooms out, new items appear and smaller items go away. It makes for a very dynamic feel even going back to do a level right after you’ve played it to perhaps find one of the hidden presents or build a bigger ball.
The only problem with this game is the length. While I find myself playing it again and intend to play it more in the future, it doesn’t have much inherent to warrant a replay. You can collect all of the items, find all of the gifts, and unlock the eternal (untimed) levels if you didn’t in the first playthrough, but nothing significant. For the base price of $30, that might be too little for some. However, at a moderate discount, it’s well worth the price and definitely something I’d recommend to anyone with two thumbs and a sunny disposition.