In doing so though, the game is consumed by its duality - wanting to emphasise the way the world scales up and up, but also wanting you to do more than just build big balls. You are driven to collect flowers, for instance, to rebuild Jupiter, but the level in question is rather devoid of obvious flora and, initially as we played it, set to the music that accompanied a far more measured PS2 level, where you had to collect lions, bears and their furry friends in a zoo while a mixture of animal noises played out the original Katamari theme over the top. As you return to the King for judgement, you worry that you haven't collected enough flowers, only to be told you have.
This inability to focus, match music to tasks, and dream up particularly new, engaging or distinctive scenarios comes to a head as the game ends, far sooner than either of its predecessors, in a level where the King does nothing but talk, in circles, about nothing in particular, while you jab the A button to get rid of his speech boxes so you can see what's going on, only to repeat the same task you faced on the previous level, in the same setting, making tokenistic concessions to the King's occasional whim - like having to collect things rich in "energy", but without any real understanding of what he means - until you can't be bothered to continue and you're invited to pull the plug on the exercise with the X button. As the King says when you do so: "Very important knowing when and how to quit. Perhaps you can teach us."
Both PS2 Katamari titles were quick to mock themselves - in their need for loading screens, in the King's far-better scripting, and elsewhere - and there are shades of this in Beautiful Katamari (surely a level where you have to collect cold objects was deliberately packed with Xbox 360 consoles), but they are overwhelmed by the writers' increasingly self-conscious wackiness and the occasional pop-culture reference, and certainly aren't helped by obvious technical shortcomings, including nose-diving frame-rates, belched transition screens, and music that loops painfully when levels start to ask more of you for longer. You are no longer laughing along with them, but grumbling instead.
Among its better features are Xbox Live leaderboards for comparing the number of recovered princes (hidden around each level) and presents, and the "Everyone's Katamari" screen, which measures the combined size of everybody in the world's katamaris, is a rare moment of inspiration. Elsewhere Live functionality gives us a retread of the PS2 sequel's co-op mode (slightly awkward, again, as two players struggle to coordinate their control of one katamari), and some head-to-head modes that don't really live up to the potential of the idea. Likewise, the decision to release premium levels so quickly after the (very short) main game's release seems at odds with the series' previous respect for the player, and indeed itself.
There are perhaps two welcome, genuinely inventive elements - one of which happens alongside the end-credits, and which I won't spoil - and the other an amusing interactive punishment when you fail a level's objectives. Compare that to how the We Love Katamari built on Katamari Damacy, or rather don't, because you can't.
It would be easy to look back on Beautiful Katamari and claim that it simply suffers at the hands of the law of diminishing returns, and assume that it makes more sense for new players, but an objective evaluation rather rejects this: this is simply a fairly poor Katamari game; sort of addictive, but nowhere near as much fun. Newcomers will enjoy themselves, but not to the same extent as they would should they choose instead to track down Katamari Damacy or We Love Katamari - something that I would urge just about anyone to take up as a matter of urgency.
Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was in the news this week defending his wholesale rejection of modern games as "trash" by pining after games that left you struggling for context and means of comparison. Katamari Damacy was and remains among those games. Beautiful Katamari inherently cannot be, but what it does offer pales for other reasons, namely its lack of coherency, imagination and self-awareness.
Beautiful Katamari is out now exclusively on Xbox 360 in the USA, and doesn't work on PAL consoles. A proper European release has yet to be confirmed. (Update: Ah, the folly of promoting features to the frontpage again - the European release date has now been confirmed, and the game is out to buy right now. Enjoy! Or nearly do.)