Malik (10/4/04)

Katamari Damacy (PS2)


I never heard of this game, in any real capacity, until last week. That's when I started to hear about this unknown game that was incredibly addictive and incredibly insane. That perked my interest, since an addictive game would ensure that I would get my money's worth out of it, and being insane...well, I always love a game with little basis in reality. Then, when I found the price of Katamari Damacy was only $20, I knew I had to take the chance...was it worth it? Let's see... 


Ok, bear with me, because this is about as crazy as a plot can be. Your father, the King of the Cosmos had some wild night out last night and he can't seem to remember too much of what happened. However, he does see some of the lingering signs of having too much fun the previous night when all of the stars and the moon have vanished from the sky. This is definitely not a good thing, as it will worry the people of Earth, so he sends for you, the Prince, his son. While the King is a massive giant that stands thousands of feet high, you are a tiny and insignificant speck next to him (you're about a centimeter tall). 

What he wants from you, is to get a Katamari (which is a sort of ultra sticky ball that picks up anything small enough, in comparison to itself, that it touches). Then, you are to go to Earth and try to stick things to your Katamari until it grows large enough to become a star. Thus, you can be the good son he wants and fix the obvious problem your father has created. 

It's a pretty simple story, but for a puzzle game of this magnitude of insanity, that's more than enough. There is also, as you play, some cut scenes involving a family that is going to watch the father figure of the family go up in a rocket to the moon...if this also seems random, just remember that the stars and the moon are missing, so it will somehow tie in to the story of the Prince...? Insanity ensues... 

Game Play 

This is the single most ingenious game play engine I have ever seen. It is also about the most insane of an engine that could ever be devised. The concept is for you to run over objects with your Katamari, and thus cause your Katamari to grow. When it grows enough off of small items, it will be able to pick up larger objects. Since all of this is on Earth, you will start with picking up thumb-tacks, matches, stamps, soy sauce packets (this is a very Japanese game), etc. Eventually you'll move up to being able to pick up muffin-like food items, apples, strawberries, etc. Then, you'll move up to picking up melons, boxes, small plants, etc. In the end, if you progress long enough, you will start to pick up massive sky-scrappers, bridges, stadiums, etc. However, in each stage, you will be given a certain size that you must reach within a set time limit (the King has a short attention span and will want to do something other than supervise you after only 5-25 minutes). 

The challenge, however, comes in a form more destructive than a time limit. The real challenge comes from large objects. If you smash you Katamari into a large object, and at a high speed, some of your picked up items can fall lose and you'll lose some of your Katamari's overall mass. This is especially bad when it comes to life forms. When you start, you'll be assaulted by snails and mice, which will tower over you at the beginning. These creatures will usually like to attack the strange and insane looking Katamari since it is smaller than them. However, you will turn the tables with you grow, you'll soon out-size the mice, and thus (this is where the game becomes more insane) be able to attach them to your Katamari. This will, after you gain some mass, apply also to cats, birds, dogs, bears, people, elephants, giraffes, sumo wrestlers, and even cars and trucks and boats. You can even find a few giants that will only add to the an Ultraman looking guy who towers over the sky-scrappers, a Godzilla looking monster, and even Nessy (Loch Ness Monster, that is). 

This game will also require you to use some good logic in solving the issue of making the Katamari grow. You will have to consider where to look for items, how to avoid obstacles, how to move from one area to another, and when you should revisit an old area to pick up the large items you missed previously (when you were smaller). 

What makes this game even better, is that the controls are simple, and at the same time, as insane as the rest of the game. The controls basically come down to just the analogue sticks. For those who've driven a construction vehicle, the same principles apply. If you move both sticks forward, you move forward. Move them both back, and you'll go in reverse. If you move one forward and the other backwards, then you can pivot your direction. Also, if you move both sticks at the same diagonal, you will slowly rotate that direction as you move forward (or backward if the diagonal was back and a side). Also, you can even strafe if both sticks are pressed in one side direction. You also get a couple of bonus abilities that don't play out too much in 1-player but can help in 2-player (I'll get to that in a minute). The most important one is the ability to charge up your ball and then shoot it forward quickly by alternating up and down with one stick while doing the opposite direction on the other stick until your ball is charged. 

Ok, I did mention it, so let get into it. 2-Player mode. In this mode, you and an opponent, on a split screen, are both control Katamaris and need collect the small objects that lie around. You are given a 3-minute time limit to collect as much junk as possible. The one catch is that you must get more stuff than your opponent. This starts off pretty simple, as a scavenger hunt to find the best areas with the right sized objects. However, near the last minute, most items will have been picked up and you will have to go on the offensive (or the defensive if you're the bigger player at this point)...namely, you will use that ball charge ability I mentioned. If you hit your opponent with this move, you will cause some of their items to fall off and you can pick them up. However, if you are winning by a decent amount and you want to be defensive, you can have a special ability for that too; you can pick up the other player into your Katamari. While they will not permanently become part of your mass of junk, they will be stuck until they manage to break free (using the same movement as a charge attack), thus letting you gather more junk while they are immobilized. 

So, to put it simple and clear; Katamari Damacy not only has a brilliantly insane game play mechanism, but the controls (while they take a little time to become used to) are simple and easy, and the overall concept is nothing short of ingenious (and insane). 


The visuals are both simple and simply perfect for this game. Most objects have a Japanese style of animation to them that is on the simple side. However, while many would feel that this is not the right style of "eye-candy", it is the perfect style for this type of game. Objects tend to have limited details, along the lines of how an anime would be drawn. However, while the objects may be limited in visuals, they are clear enough to be recognizable as what they are meant to be. Many animals and plants look like they are a cross between wooden carvings and manga drawings. 

Considering how the concept of this game is to gather a bunch of things, including living objects, and then shoot them into space to become new stars, I think the simplified visuals are nothing short of perfect for this title. If the visuals were photo-realistic, that would have made this game far too disturbing as you run down an old lady or a little kid riding her bike. Realism in visuals are only a good thing when it wont turn a light-hearted and fun game into a disturbing and violent episode. 


I'll start with the sounds. The sounds are simply amazing and insane. As you run over an object, it will typically have it's own sound effect. For example, if you run over a child, it may start to laugh, if you hit a bird it may squawk, a mouse will squeak, a car will honk, a sky-scrapper will be filled with the screams of the people in it, a cow will moo, etc. The sounds only help to add to the fact that you are sucking up a city into a giant ball. You'll even hear the sounds of an egg hatch in the Katamari, from time to time, and you'll tell from the chirping if it was a general bird egg, a swan egg, a chicken egg, or what. Simply insane and simply amazing. 

The music, on the other hand, adds to the insanity in a different way altogether. There is no way for someone like me to describe this music besides saying that it's very silly and very Japanese. The only explanation I can give is for people to check out the Japanese web site for Katamari Damacy. This should explain far better than I ever could. All I can say is that the music is insane enough to always keep the player in the mood for the insanity of the visuals and the game play and the plot. I can also say that the music is genius. 


There is little to say about this game beyond saying that the creator of this concept is either completely insane and needs to be institutionalized, or that the creator of KD is nothing short of a true genius...or both.  This game, from the standpoint of the average overly critical critic, could be seen as shallow in game play, short, confusing, with too simple of visuals, way to silly of music, and therefore complete and total crap.  However, if you open yourself to the possibilities that simplistic qualities, when used correctly, can be used to make a purely unique and 100% enjoyable experience.  So, I opened my mind to the possibilities, and all I can do is give Katamari Damacy a 10/10.  This is an example of perfection.  The designers knew enough to keep things at the right level of simplicity and yet to make things complex enough to allow a lot of depth for return players.  I can't add anything more...this game can truly leave one speechless.