Buy 'KATAMARI DAMACY': PlayStation 2
Most gamers probably know that Japan has some of the wackiest games out there, with titles featuring random activities like driving a train or other equally haphazard endeavors that have yet to be conceived stateside. Katamari Damacy fits into this category and is, in my opinion, one of the zaniest games available at this time.
What exactly is Katamari Damacy? The kanji translation is “Clustered Soul,” but the full extent of the insanity won't be apparent until you have played the game. Just watching the intro shocked me beyond words can describe, and all I can wonder is what was going through the developers' minds at that time. The story goes something like this: your father, the king of the entire cosmos, made a mistake and accidentally destroyed all of the stars in the sky. As his son, his problem is also your problem, and you are sent to roll everything on earth into clumps, so that he can replace what’s missing in space. When I say everything, I mean everything, like humans, cats, Legos, make-up, food, and stationary supplies. Once you hit the requirement, the king takes this katamari and makes it into a star, which you can see in your constellations at the home planet.
There are a total of three different planets: home planet, where you deal with all of the rudimentary work, like saving and loading options, Earth, where you roll up your katamari and are given the missions which you must achieve, and lastly, the mushroom planet, where you can meet up with your cousins and battle it out to see who can produce the larger katamari.
The heart of the game resides within single player mode, where you learn the basics via a hands-on tutorial that teaches you how to roll, speed boost, jump, and much more. The packaging claims that the play is controlled with the analog sticks, which is "mesmerizingly simple" and does not cause "distress," but the first time you play this, you will definitely realize that the gameplay isn’t as simple as it's been made out to be. The controls are managed by both analog sticks simultaenously, but once you get the hang of the controls, the game truly shines.
I wouldn't say that the graphics exactly "shine," but they do start to improve as you watch the katamari grow. The shape of the katamari will evolve based on the objects it attaches, and depending on its contents, the cluster will either roll smoothly or unevenly. In regards to character design, don't expect to see standard anime characters that are featured in most Square-Enix games. Nosirree Bob, these are some oddly shaped characters, which, considering the game's premise, is quite appropriate. Since the game uses is Japanese, the measuring system is metric so at the top left, you will see measurements in meters, centimeters and millimeters rather than the accustomed inches and feet, but this helps maintain the foreign "essence" of the game.
Thankfully, Namco also kept the original soundtrack in the game, which also helps to maintain the game's atmosphere. The songs are in their original language, which makes it that much more enjoyable. The soundtrack is slightly odd and different and gets repeated throughout a stage, which will either be a considered a nuisance or fuel your search for the game's original soundtrack. It's all a matter of personal preference.
The game is great value, and many will love to see how the game progresses, starting with this small katamari rolling up simple everyday accessories to rolling over cats, buildings and much larger objects. Although you can roll up all of the objects on the map, you must time it correctly because the katamari can only roll up objects and items that are smaller and lighter. It can build up to roll up larger items as it grows in weight and size, eventually working up to the point where it is capable of annexing skyscrapers. The game is rather short and can probably be completed within a weekend, but due to its abstract nature, gamers will want to play it repeatedly, just to beat their set records and unlock extra items. With its simple gameplay, it might seem that the game get repetitive, but with the different layouts and the size differences you must achieve, it actually seems to get more fun as time goes on, especially when rolling up objects in open space. It might be also due to the fact that each level has its own unique look; one level might look like a golfing arena while another looks like a kitchen. What will really seal the deal for you are the wacky cut scenes that are played after completing each level. They are dubbed over in English, but the comments are so out of this world that it’s funny.
This game is either hit or miss and will very rarely elicit moderate opinions; some will love it while others will hate it, but I strongly suggest trying it out at least once. I’m not saying this because I like sleeper games like Cookies and Cream and Mister Mosquito, but because this title is different from what other companies keep producing. This is really a good change of pace and something that I can really see pre-teens enjoying.
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