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Katamari Damacy

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Monkeycraft
Release Date: Dec. 7, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Katamari Damacy Reroll'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 19, 2018 @ 2:30 a.m. PST

In Katamari Damacy ReRoll, you start off with a small katamari, but with every level he completes, the katamari can quickly grow from playing cards and people to ocean liners and entire stadiums!

Buy Katamari Damacy Reroll

The original Katamari Damacy was released on the PS2 in Western countries in 2004 to great reluctance. The game was successful enough in Japan, but at the time, Namco thought the concept was going to be too weird for Western tastes. Player outcry and goading from critics caused them to do a limited release at a budget price in North America alone, and when the game quickly sold out, the company realized that it had almost lost out on a hit. Sequels appeared on several devices, and 14 years later, the series makes its debut on a Nintendo system with Katamari Damacy Reroll for the Nintendo Switch.

The aforementioned quirkiness of the game begins with a near-psychedelic opening cinematic where you see the King of All Cosmos lording over running bovines followed by dancing pandas, singing ducks, and rainbows and mushrooms filling the screen. From there, you see that the king might have indulged in a little too much as he wanders space in an inebriated state, destroying the stars and several constellations along the way. When he finally awakens, he realizes what he's done, but instead of fixing things up himself, he instructs his son to roll up all of the objects on Earth so they can be formed into celestial beings. As mentioned earlier, the whole thing is weird, and it only gets stranger with a side plot involving two Japanese kids being told about the disappearance of the stars while their father cannot perform his job as an astronaut since the moon is gone.

The gameplay is simple to understand the moment you take hold of the controls. As the prince, you control a ball called a katamari that has the ability to automatically pick up anything in its path. Anything smaller than the katamari can be picked up, and anything the same size or larger will be unaffected. Larger mobile objects, meanwhile, will knock you around or knock loose any objects you've gathered, making your katamari shrink as a result. The more objects you pick up, the larger the katamari becomes, allowing you to pick up even more objects, including ones that were a hindrance only a few moments prior. Each stage gives you a time limit to reach a particular katamari size, and while you can reach the limit before time expires, you can make the katamari even larger with the remaining time.

The appeal of this simple concept comes from the levels you're in and the objects you can pick up. Like your katamari, the stages start off small, such as a kitchen table or a garden. Each place you visit is a complete mess, with things like dice, erasers and thumbtacks strewn all over the place. That mess is actually designed in a way such that keen eyes can spot optimal lines that don't require traveling far to get lots of objects. Those simple objects start to get more varied until you'll eventually pick up ants, batteries, game cards and mosquitos, to name a few items. Levels restrict you to small areas at first, but once you reach certain milestone sizes, you can run over the gates that had previously walled you in, and that's when you can grab more interesting things. Fruit, plants, slippers and watering cans soon become viable things to roll up, and it isn't long before you grab birds, cats, mice and dogs.

There's a maniacal glee when you start to grab larger items and living ones. Nothing is grabbed perfectly, so getting large rectangular bricks and poles caught in the katamari creates an oddly shaped sphere that rolls along at an odd cadence, raising and dipping due to the object sticking out too far until you grab enough objects to smooth it out. Seeing animals and (eventually) people get caught up and rolling around rapidly never ceases to be funny, despite how morose the concept can be once you think about it. Start growing, and the whole thing becomes more absurd as you run over cars and houses, eventually taking up buildings and large fish before capturing clouds as well. In a way, your noble quest turns you into a rolling mass of destruction, but the whole vibe is so whimsical that you really won't care.

The idea of rolling up random stuff is novel, but the concept may seem prone to feeling redundant, even with the environment changes. Luckily, the game has a few safeguards against that. For starters, there are a few stages focused solely on making constellations that require you to pick up certain items. If you wanted to make Pieces, for example, you need to concentrate on getting fish. The game is also quite short, so you can finish it in a dedicated day, but it won't take more than two days to get through the main campaign unless you stretch things out over short play sessions. That seems like faint praise, but the brevity means that you'll enjoy your time with it rather than wishing it were over sooner.

Though Katamari Damacy Reroll's main campaign is short, there are a number of things that lengthen the overall experience. Each level contains a present that unlocks a new accessory for the prince to wear. You can't combine the accessories to create your own outfit, but it's still cool to wear a championship belt or a scarf. Replaying those same levels also gives you a chance to unlock the prince's cousins, all of whom can be played in multiplayer. The multiplayer mode has you competing against a friend, and you both have three minutes to create the largest katamari in a small area. It's fun to knock around your opponent and eventually swallow them in the katamari, but it's not going to dethrone your favorite multiplayer title.

The control scheme remains distinct enough that it can take some time for the uninitiated to get acclimated. You use both analog sticks in tandem to move both the katamari and the prince around the level, so instead of moving forward by tilting only the left stick, you need to do the same thing to the right stick in order to actually go somewhere. Turning requires both sticks to go in opposite directions, but once you get the hang of it, controlling the prince isn't too difficult. Exclusive to the Switch version is the ability to use the Joy-Con's motion controls to mimic the analog sticks. While that may seem fun for a bit, the decreased accuracy of the motions controls means that you'll try it once or twice before returning to the trusty analog sticks.

The presentation remains largely unchanged since the PS2 days. Graphically, the game retains the blocky style, and textures have been upscaled to work well on either 720p or 1080p if you're playing in portable or docked mode, respectively. It seems like minimal effort on the remastering part, but anything more would have actively hurt the game's appearance instead of improving it. The sound, on the other hand, is more or less untouched, and that is perfect. The eclectic soundtrack mixed with record scratches as the king's dialogue enhances the quirkiness, and there are plenty of tracks that will get stuck in your head for a while.

Katamari Damacy Reroll succeeds in replicating the magic of the original title, with only minimal improvement needed to make it appealing to modern audiences. The core concept remains unique among the greater swath of games, and the simple act of using everyday objects to create a whimsical ball of destruction never gets old. The goofiness remains, as does the wonder of seeing what kinds of random things you'll pick up. Katamari Damacy Reroll is a classic and a must-have for just about every Switch owner.

Score: 9.0/10

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