Review: Katamari Damacy (PS2)

Genre: Action/Puzzle
Platform: PS2
Rating: E (Everyone)
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Release Date: 9/21/2004

I’m a very anti-drug guy. I don’t even drink! But if you’re going to play Katamari Damacy, I think I might actually suggest dropping a few tabs of LSD first. (Or read one of Lucard’s RPG reviews. Whatever melts your butter.) It may help you to make more sense out of this wonky yet highly addictive title. I’ll make this review short and sweet, because that’s what this game is all about. Simplicity! (Just in case you’re wondering how to pronounce the title, according to Nacmo themselves, it’s pronounced “Kat-a-Ma-Ree Da-Ma-She.”)

STORY

Your father, the King of All Cosmos, goes on a drunken bender one night and accidentally breaks all of the stars, moons, etc. in the sky. You play the role of his son, the Prince, and help to replace the missing parts of the night sky by rolling around “katamari” (which basically means “clump”) to replace the stars and such. The bigger the katamari, the bigger the star the King can make. Certainly an original premise, and downright entertaining. (Rating: 8/10)

GRAPHICS

Compared to most other games the PS2 has to offer, KD‘s graphics are pretty weak. There’s a rather low polygon count, and not much texturing at all. There’s some “jaggies,” too. However, this may all be part of the plan. You don’t need super-clean graphics for this game; the framerate is rock solid, and the simple colors and flat shading really add to the game’s charm. Graphics whores may shy away based on this, but it’s their loss. (Rating: 5/10)

SOUND

Holy J-pop, Batman. The soundtrack is some of the oddest music ever to reach US shores, but it fits KD‘s tone to tee. Plenty of Japanese pop artists and other musicians were licensed to provide the tunes for this game. Then there’s the whole matter of Run DMC. No, they don’t appear on the soundtrack. But whenever the King of All Cosmos speaks, it sounds like Jam Master Jay himself is scratching the turntables from beyond the grave. (Rating: 7/10)

GAMEPLAY

This couldn’t get any simpler: you roll your katamari around, and pick up objects along the way that’ll stick to it. You use both analog sticks to do this, much like controlling a tank: press up on both to go forward, press down on both to go in reverse, etc. You roll around various locales, adding more and more random shit to your clump, be it thumbtacks, bottles of glue, old socks, birds, and eventually large objects like cars and people. Yes, people. Innocent beings whose lives will be snuffed out when they become a ball of fusion energy in the night sky. Bwahaha! There’s also a 2-player mode, where you race against the other player to build a bigger katamari. It’s fun, but nowhere near as good as the single player story mode. (Rating: 10/10)

REPLAYABILITY

This game’s like a car accident: you can’t leave it alone, though you may feel ashamed about it. Even after completing the game in a few hours, you’ll keep playing it, either to beat your records, find hidden items, or just to simply enjoy it. Hell, you could complete 110% of KD, and you’ll still keep coming back. It’s that good. I’d definitely place it up there with classic puzzle titles like Tetris and Puyo Puyo. (Rating: 10/10)

BALANCE

Like any good game should, KD starts off simple and gets progressively harder. There’s a tutorial at the beginning to familiarize you with all of the various moves and controls, and each level builds upon the skills (and size!) you earned in the last one. The difficulty incline is nice and smooth, with no jarringly difficult levels that stand out. This makes KD a fantastic title for gamers of all ages and skill levels. (Rating: 9/10)

ORIGINALITY

Didn’t I make this clear already? You’ve never played a game quite like KD. I can’t even think of anything else that comes close. I’ve played many a random game before, like Rez, Wario Ware, or even Toilet Kids, but nothing where you’re rolling around a giant magical clump and sticking things to it to make stars. Have you? Stuff like this is seldom seen in this day and age of countless clones, and such, and it’s a fresh addition to the world’s gaming library. (Rating: 10/10)

ADDICTIVENESS

Be prepared to play this game for hours on end. Don’t think you’ll “get in a quick game of Katamari Damacy” before work, class, or whatever. You’ll play one level, and keep playing more until your eyes bleed. It sucks you in like your mom, and won’t let go. The best part is that you’d never expect a game like this to have such a deep connection with the player; it’s like a mace shot, but without all the rolling around and screaming. (Rating: 10/10)

APPEAL

If the average gamer walks into a game store and sees KD, their reaction will likely be “What the hell is this?!” Then they flip over the case, look it over, and become more interested. For the hardcore gamer, we’re looking at much the same effect. For the gaming newbie…again, the same effect. KD is a game that’ll appeal to people across the various gaming boundaries; it’s not a game that would appeal solely to action fans, or puzzle fans, or potheads, etc. (Rating: 8/10)

MISCELLANEOUS

For the cheapskate in all of us, Namco did right by pricing KD at a mere $19.99. You really can’t complain about a price like that, considering that $49.99 is the MSRP for most other titles. You could buy your own copy, and one for a friend! Further amusement is provided by the King’s many nonsensical ramblings. KD is so random, it’s a wonder I didn’t stick the entire review under this “Miscellaneous” category. Before my brain completely shuts down, I’ll give you this link to the official Katamari Damacy site (now in English!) so you can learn more. You know you want to. (Rating: 8/10)

Final Scores:

Story: 8/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 7/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Replayability: 10/10
Balance: 9/10
Originality: 10/10
Addictiveness: 10/10
Appeal: 8/10

Miscellaneous: 8/10