Katamary Damacy (2004)

After seeing thing game when it came out for the PS2 and being intrigued by it, but not enough to ever buy it, and playing the first area several times over the years, and even playing the 360 demo back when that came out, I’m extremely surprised how a newcomer like me can still enjoy this game so much even when it’s so dated by its graphics and controls.

Katamary Damacy is a game that came out of Japan and doesn’t hold any punches with it’s japanese roots. It is one of the weirdest games that only Japan could make at the time. It’s weird, quirky and has that undefinably “Heart” that makes this game so fun to play.

You play as the Prince and your job is to clean up the mess your dad, The King of All Cosmos, made. He has seemed to destroy all the stars in the sky, and it is your job to take a Katamari, a ball that will get whatever it touches and make it stick to itself. As you keep rolling this ball, it gains diameter and size and will keep allowing you to grab bigger and bigger things, until time runs out.

The game is simple, but the controls are actually quite hard to get used to. The ball has momentum, and building that momentum can be quite difficult when you don’t have the mass to build up speed. The controls make use of the two analog sticks, and you have to use them both in certain directions. Push up with both sticks will make you go forward, both down will make you reverse. One up and one down will make you rotate left or right, but pushing both sticks left or right will make you go in that direction. It doesn’t sound that hard or difficult, but believe me the controls (even on a Xbox One controller) can be hard to wrap your mind around. That is really the only major gripe I have about the game. I found myself wanting to turn left or right and just coming to a full stop instead and then having to spend a solid 10-20 seconds trying to get out of a wedged gap and turn around. Its a small gripe, but a gripe none the less.

Everything else about this game is dripping with originality and care free fun. Starting out in a house and rolling up tacks and then dominos all the way up to the cat and dog makes you really never want to stop. The time limit is a bummer, but I never had to restart a level because I ran out of time. I usually met the size requirement a minute or two early before the timer ended, and then tried to just roll up everything else I could. I see why there is a time limit, but I wish it wasn’t there. The time, plus controls is what makes this a game, vs just being a playground sandbox game, which is why it doesn’t bother me too much.

I had a smile on my face the entire 4 hours that it took me to finish this game. There are a hidden present in each level that gives you a little extra something to find and a new cosmetic change to your prince. Be it a scarf or crown (I only found 4 of them) Other than that, the game is pretty bare bones, but this game isn’t about beating it, it’s about having fun. As the levels progress you see how truly powerful your Katamari can be. Starting out picking up rubber balls, 15 minutes later you are rolling over houses and cars. It’s just a blast.

The music in the game offers that quirky Japanese flavor that the series is known for and it all started here. The “Na na na na na na na” opening track will instantly grab you as a game that does something differently. There are a handful of tracks in the game, and all of them are catchy and memorable, even though two are personally annoying to me, it’s still a soundtrack that any gamer should love.

Katamari Damacy proves that a game doesn’t have to have a huge scope, or a gigantic multi-layered story, or even great visuals, as long as the gameplay is good. It sparked a trend of Japanese games being brought over to the US, at a time, when games from other regions were easy to find or get a hold of. And it also created a franchise that to this day can hold my attention, in a sea of super long and beautifully rendered graphics. If you want a good palate cleanser of a game, look no further than Katamari Damacy (pick up the new “Rerolled” edition for an HD updated version)