[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/katamaridamacy/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Picking up Katamari Damacy was kind of an accident on my behalf that turned out to be one of the smarter things I have done in recent times. I was talking with some friends on another gaming forum and they were discussing how awesome the game was and how hard it was going to be to find the game once retail stock was depleted. The formula in my head went something like this: awesome game + low stock = go buy it now. So I picked up the last copy at EB to find out that 5 or so people had come looking for the game between the time I called and the time the game was picked up. That made me release a little sigh of relief. Someone almost snagged my copy of this wonderful and obscure Japanese release.
I still haven’t really told you what kind of game Katamari Damacy is, but don’t worry I will get to that in a moment. The official homepage says that Katamari Damacy translates to “Clump of Souls” in English. The explanation of the game on the homepage is hilarious and I encourage you to go check it out if you are interested in this game. (Go [url=http://katamaridamacy.jp/contents_e.html]here[/url] and click on “What is Katamari Damacy?”) Now what exactly do you do in Katamari Damacy? In the game you play the part of the Prince. Your father is the King of all Cosmos and in a drunken stupor and a fit of dancing he knocked down all the stars from the sky. They allude to the fact that you “came from” this event which leads me to believe the King and Queen had a cosmic romp in the stars if you catch my drift. At any rate, the King has asked you to rebuild the stars in the sky. This is the part where you actually get to start playing the game.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/katamaridamacy/ss02_thumb.jpg[/floatright]After the bizarre but entertaining intro and story ends you get to start playing the first level. There are few different types of levels that all have the same basic purpose and that is to create the largest katamari possible. You will create 9 different stars, a handful of constellations, and finally the Moon. To do this you start out with a small ball. The starting size differs in each level and that really helps create a sense of diversity in the game. In each level you are given a time limit and a size that you must reach in order to complete the level. Once the level starts, you use the 2 analog sticks to control the Prince and hopefully things will start sticking to your katamari. The ultimate goal of each level is to run over as many things as possible and have them all stick to your katamari.
As each level goes on and your katamari grows in size you will be able to pick up larger and larger objects. The first level has you picking up buttons and other very tiny objects and as you reach the Moon level you will be picking up skyscrapers and things even larger than that. Namco did a fantastic job of creating a game engine that scaled wonderfully between a 1cm katamari and a 600m one. It really is an amazing thing as you play a level and gradually you notice that things are getting smaller and smaller and finally you can’t even see the items you were initially picking up because you just picked up the house you started inside.
Katamari Damacy also packs a multiplayer mode in there for some good head to head action and it can be quite gratifying to roll up your opponent and laugh as they try and break free. You probably won’t spend a large amount of time playing head to head but it was quite nice that Namco had the foresight to add it in there.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/katamaridamacy/ss07_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]I will admit that the using the 2 analog sticks to move around at first was quite challenging, but once I got the hang of it I wanted to roll over everything in sight. The controls are similar to tank style controls where 1 stick forward and 1 back makes you turn and both forward or both back make you move in the respective direction. You can also strafe and there are various other methods for executing quick turns that you will learn upon starting the game.
One of my favorite things about Katamari Damacy is the sound and that is a rare thing for me. Generally I just pass over the music and sound effects in games because they don’t stand out. Namco released Katamari in the US with the original soundtrack intact. What this means is we have this incredibly quirky game with a very original concept AND it’s equally strange soundtrack. After playing through Katamari Damacy I had this urge to buy the soundtrack that I thankfully warded off due to its high import price, but man did I want it. On occasion Dots and I still break out into some of the tunes from the game. She also loves the noise the punks make in the game when you roll them up.
I know that Katamari Damacy sounds like a very strange game and it is. It is also a very simple game that can be very challenging which makes you want to keep outdoing yourself. On top of all the great things I have already mentioned about the game it is only $19.99. I know that there will be some of you that totally hate this game so I am not going to recommend everyone run out and buy it (because you probably won’t find it in most retail stores anyway), but if you love quirky games then try to find a copy at one of the local game stores. You may even have to order it from one of the online stores. A sequel is already planned for release later this year in Japan which just makes me jump for joy. You can bet that I will get that as soon as it comes stateside. In the meantime, keep on rolling.