Release Date: September 20, 2005
If you haven’t played Katamari Damacy, you’re the worse for it.
When it dropped last year, word of mouth turned it into a popular import, and then an increasingly-rare budget title. Twenty bucks got you a few hours’ worth of the most idiosyncratic gameplay ever, framed by the Ziggy-Stardust-on-powerful-hallucinogens antics of the King of the Cosmos.
It’s a short but sweet game; the worst you can say for it is that the two-player mode’s a bit limited. It also revolves around an insanely simple but challenging dynamic: given a sticky ball of a certain size, your goal is to roll over objects, people, animals, and whatever else happens along until the ball reaches a certain size. With a little luck and some practice, you can easily turn a ball – or a katamari, in the game’s parlance – from a fifty-centimeter softball to a giant, world-enveloping avalanche of destruction.
I’m going over this because almost everything that applied to Katamari Damacy also applies to its sequel: We Love Katamari.
I’ve been playing the imported version, so I can’t say much about the story. The gameplay, however, puts you on comfortable and familiar ground. Once again, you’re forced into the role of the long-suffering Prince of the Cosmos, who’s forced by his father the King to create larger and larger katamaris and repopulate the sky.
This time, the hub level puts the Prince of the Cosmos on Earth, where he receives his rolling missions from humans and animals. Once you decide to accept their request, both you and him/her/it are taken up to plead your case before the King, who’ll send you on your next quest.
The stages of We Love Katamari have a lot more variety than its predecessor. One level drops the Prince onto the bottom of a fishing pond, complete with scuba-diving wildlife and buried pirate treasure; another has the Prince running through the heavens themselves, scooping up planets and stars to add to his katamari. All the while, you’ll be accompanied by the jazzy, goofy songs of another infinitely listenable J-pop soundtrack, like lounge jazz that’s actually kind of cool.
In each level, you’ll also have to contend with one of the Prince’s cousins, who’s got a katamari of his own and a mission much like yours. Not only do you have to accomplish your goal in each level before the timer runs out, but you have to race your cousin. If you can get big enough, fast enough, you can actually roll up your cousin; if your katamari’s bigger than his or hers when time runs out, you’ll unlock the cousin in question as another “skin” for the Prince.
So far, We Love Katamari is a proud graduate of the “it wasn’t broke, so we didn’t fix it” school of sequels; about the only serious gameplay change is that it’s now much harder to knock things off your katamari. With the addition of one-stick-to-a-customer cooperative play and more levels, We Love Katamari is a must-buy for anyone who loved the original game… and anyone with sense loved the original game.
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