It looks completely wacko, has lots of happy colours and is all about a sticky ball… That has to be a Katamari game. With Beautiful Katamari, the series leaves the Sony platforms for the first time.
First a bit of history for those who have never heard of Katamari. In 2004, Namco released Katamari Damacy for PlayStation 2. The crazy concept knew a lot of success, so a year later the longer and more extensive We Love Katamari hit the market. Afterwards, Me & My Katamari brought the franchise to the PSP. With these facts in mind, you would expect the first next-gen version to be launched on the PS3. However, it turned out to be the Xbox360. As it happens, the PS3 version was announced but cancelled shortly after that. Director Jun Morikawa has stated that PS3 and Wii versions are coming ‘soon’ though.
The story in a Katamari game is always based on a very weird Royal family. The King of All Cosmos, his wife the Queen and their tiny Prince keep messing up the universe. This time, daddy The King hits the tennis ball a little too enthusiastic. It flies into space where it causes a black hole that sucks up all surrounding planets. Fortunately, Earth is still there, so that’s where the Prince has to go to roll up some new planets and moons.
The principle is very simple, the Prince – you – controls a Katamari, a sticky ball. All objects that are a lot smaller than the ball will stick to it. If the layer of objects around the Katamari is big enough, the ball will grow. This way, you are able to roll up objects that are a little bigger too. The Katamari is controlled by pushing both control sticks to the front or the back. Going left or right is done by pushing one up and the other one down. Think of controlling a tank.
Everything might be very simple, you’ll still be cursing a lot in the first few hours. The King gives you a few minutes to get your Katamari to a certain size. Moreover, he wants to add a theme to the planet. For example, it has to contain a lot of playful things, drinks or luxury. Because you’re starting with a very small Katamari, you can only roll up very little objects.
If you try to be selective in what you roll up and what not, you can forget it. No way your Katamari will get as big as requested within the time limit. This makes the game very frustrating, until you realise you just have to forget about what kind of objects you’re taking.
In general, you can say every first attempt of a level is more of a discovery tour. Where are the good objects, which ways can you go? It really becomes fun when you have to make bigger planets and you are able to roll up people, cars, buildings and later on even entire world parts. You experience a weird, sick kind of joy when you see the first human sticking out of your ball.
Although you probably won’t reach the goal the first time you try a level, Beautiful Katamari is finished in about a day. That’s very short, but the game does have a high replayability factor. Every level has some presents and cousins hidden so you are busy searching and collecting for a while. Everything also has leaderboards to keep you going. Besides this, you have the possibility of playing co-op, although this means you have to control one Katamari with two people. A great communication is the only solution if you want to get somewhere. Moreover, you are also able to prove online you’re a good Katamari player.
When you release a game for a next-gen console, then you create certain graphical expectations. It has to be said: Beautiful Katamari is a little disappointing when it comes to this. The game looks a bit better than its PS2 predecessors but that’s it. Sometimes the camera gets stuck behind objects so you can’t see anything and when the Katamari gets really big, or the game can just hang for a fraction of a second. On the other hand, the wacko soundtrack and the sounds are fun.
Beautiful Katamari is especially fun for those who haven’t played a Katamari game before and who aren’t afraid of something completely nuts. It takes a bit getting used to the controls and the concept but it gets really fun when you are able to roll up humans, cars and whole cities. If you do have experience with Katamari, you will find this game to be more of the same and not the least innovative. It is the first next-gen version but you can’t really see that.