We Love Katamari Reader Review
When asked to define what makes a gamer dedicate a good chunk of their spare time to sitting in front of a TV screen, mashing buttons of an oddly shaped piece of plastic that’s attached to a noisy breezeblock-shaped device, the responses are endless in their variety. With the factors of taste, ability, time etc. to consider, the task of finding a straight answer becomes more and more convoluted. It’s almost like asking why we enjoy listening to music and what kind of music specifically: you’re likely to get the similar, ‘’fucksake, just do, okay?’ when attempting to delve further, and justifiably so. The facets relating to taste are too intuitive to define, too wrapped up in years of conscious and subconscious influences to put down in a neatly formatted list. But occasionally you get an example of something so inherently fun that the awkward difficulty of trying to explain becomes simply a matter of firing up a game and handing over the controller. Tetris, Mario 64, Halo and now Katamari Damacy. The premise: roll around an odd little ball called a ‘katamari’ and stick things to it, which eventually make you bigger and so allowing you to stick larger things to it. Such as the manual relishes in telling you: there’s not much more to it.
The madly surreal but curious fascination with all this net fan activity you’ve been hearing about is not unfounded: Katamari is addictive in its simplicity but unlike many of its ‘simple-but-fun’ counter-parts, Katamari has a personality - a rather extreme and brightly hued one at that. Regardless of game mechanics and technical prowess, the first thing you’ll have no choice in noticing is the visual design of the game. And quite rightly, it’s truly a feat of organised chaos that pulls itself together with a concentrated focus that suggests the work of a developer with masses of talent and the professional ability to do it justice. From the cutely bizarre variations of the playable second cousins to the Python-esque magnificence of the King of All Cosmos’ purple tights, the presentation of We Love Katamari is so profoundly cool and so profoundly Japanese it’s hard to imagine of it any other way.
As you tear around the different environments, each with a specific theme like a town or a school, your Katamari will grow and so the scale of the environment will follow suit. You may start out rolling around the floor of a dinning table, getting grief from spiders and snails that kick you around like the small, ill-looking kid in PE football, but eventually you’ll grow enough to collect their puny arses and everything around them. This base but incredibly addictive and well-realised system of gameplay is the crux of the game, with the added variation of objectives depending on the level – each almost always having a time limit. In many ways these conditions are quite arbitrary; no doubt they provide a challenge and are often quite tricky, but you will find yourself longing for a level where it’s simply a matter of getting As Big As Fuck. Thankfully, the post-completion rewards offer this opportunity and your sordid little desires with be fulfilled.
And then there’s the music. Fearlessly Japanese, almost obnoxiously so, but so uttery appropriate you’ll find yourself constantly humming the basic melody that follows through most of the songs. Embrace it, is the only advice I can give you. Accept that you’ll have your favourites and you’ll pick them with every new level and move on. It’s actually a positive thing that the game allows you to choose your favourite track, assuming you’ve completed the level where it first appeared. At least then you can avoid those that really aggravate you.
The main faults of the game come from the aforementioned conditions of each level, which aren’t massively detracting but ultimately feel like they’re getting in the way rather than improving the experience. You’ll get the occasional level, such as the camp-fire level where you have to maintain your katamari’s flame by collecting things as well as meeting the size conditions, that may just irritate you. They’re few and far between but still disappointing for an otherwise stellar achievement in game design. The difficulties with control are also quite apparent; they never quite feel intuitive, even after prolonged play, and always that touch sluggish. Whether this was a design decision or not, it’s difficult to tell, but they act a barrier between those who don’t usually play computer games and the certain enjoyment they’d gain from We Love Katamari.
We Love Katamari simply offers you something quite different but thoroughly enjoyable; a game you’ll have no end of fun showing off to your mates. It’ll tap into your core instinctual passions for computer games and spoil them silly with its lush and excitable presentation. A fantastic game with a wry, self-depreciating sense of humour that warrants more than a cult following.
8 / 10