Beautiful Katamari Review

Let’s flashback to late 2004 for a moment. There’s a dank, foul smell in the air created by unimaginative RPGs and carbon-copied first-person shooters starting to rot. It’s almost like developers decided to throw awful games into a cloning machine in the hopes of making some quick milk money. But wait! What’s that? Ka-ta-ma-ri? It looks like a 20 dollar budget title with Namco’s logo slapped on it. I guess I’ll give it a shot. And like using a huge can of Oust (filled with minor hallucinogens), the funk of 2004 was lifted by an innovative title called Katamari Damacy. Now if we zip back to present time, you’ll find that Namco is at it again, filling the world with a hefty combination of both weird and happy, using the latest edition in their sticky-spherical family, Beautiful Katmari.

If you’re new to the Katamari games, I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to describe what they’re like; they’re best understood after actually playing them. However, the gameplay concept is remarkably simple. You’re placed in a vast world full of random knickknacks and doodads and instructed to roll them all up using a big, sticky ball. As you collect more crap, the size of your Katamari dramatically increases, allowing you to roll up even bigger objects.

If you think the gameplay premise of Katamari is strange, wait until you hear the plot line. So naturally, you’re a prince. Prince of the cosmos, to be exact. One day, your dad’s playing an epic game of tennis, but accidentally hits the ball too hard, obviously shattering a gigantic hole in the universe. (Think of it like he divided by zero. You just can’t do that.) And now this black hole is starting to destroy space as we know it, so you’re instructed to fix it by rolling around on Earth. I wish I had more to tell you, but that’s it. Seriously.

When you first begin the game, your Katamari is tiny, and you’re placed in a small room, scattered with junk to roll up. If I had to draw a visual comparison, cover a bouncy ball with super glue and place it in any random college dorm room. Each session of rolling is timed to cap off how large you can get, but every time you’re introduced to a new level, you start off just a tad bigger, so the game provides a good level of accomplishment each time you play. I mean, collecting small things like paper clips and packs of gum is fun, but when you start snagging buildings and elephants, that’s when the game takes a step into the realm of awesome.

Rolling around couldn’t be easier, either. In fact, you don’t even use buttons in this game! Your entire movement is spread across the two analog sticks in a fun and innovative fashion. By pushing your thumbs forward, you roll in that direction. If one stick is pointing up while the other is pointing back, your little Prince will start turning that Katamari in the opposite direction. Click both sticks in to execute a slick 180 and keep on rolling. After a few minutes in the tutorial, everything feels incredibly natural and fluid, even though bigger Katamaris are tough to control.

One of the few aspects the original Katamari was knocked for were its simplistic graphics. The objects are clearly lackluster polygons covered in every color imaginable. In fact, most people compared the first Katamari’s graphics to that of something you’d find on the Dreamcast. Oddly enough, the 360’s graphics have not changed whatsoever from previous versions. But what the game lacks in its polygon count, it makes up for in the overall visual style. The worlds are beautiful and imaginative, and there’s just no way the Katamari artists weren’t on some heavy drugs in the making of this game. Vibrant mushrooms grow off of houses while sea creatures float from multicolored balloons. (It’s like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain!) It’s no Bioshock, but then again, we wouldn’t want it to be. However, it is worth mentioning that certain areas of the game suffer from a bit of slowdown, and that’s purely unacceptable considering the simplistic visuals.

The one other major drawback of the original was the unanimous complaint of how short the single-player mode is. Unfortunately, this is another aspect of Beautiful Katamari that keeps true to the original. It took me only a few hours to plow through every level, and just a couple more to collect and perfect. That being said, there’s something about this game that makes me never want to put down my controller. On top of that, this is probably the coolest game to show your friends, because they’ll first think the concept and graphics are ridiculous, but later find themselves strangely wanting to make their balls huge. (Eh… Sorry about that.)

Up to this point, nothing has really changed from the older titles in the series, but if there’s one aspect that’s drastically different, it’s the inclusion of an online mode. Thanks to our beloved Xbox Live, you can now battle with up to three other players in a competition to roll up the most junk. Inherently, this mode isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. But like the game as a whole, even the online mode is different from anything I’ve ever experienced. This may have been me getting lucky over and over, but the gamers satisfying their online Katamari needs seemed to be extremely chill and laid back, even over Live. When I jump onto Halo 3, it’s almost like out-swearing your opponent is a competition. I suppose that’s just the type of game Katamari is, though.

There are five different worlds to play online, each with a different time limit and overall feel. Though, after a while, these levels get stale, I still managed to throw away a good four hours the first time I tried out the online multiplayer. But if Live isn’t your style yet you don’t want to play alone, you’ll be glad to know Namco tossed in a co-op mode. Unfortunately, this mode is about as useless as foreskin. Instead of split-screening the game and throwing in an extra ball, each player simply takes control of one analog stick. No matter how you try playing this mode, it’s not fun and should certainly be left out of the next Katamari incarnation.

But if there’s one aspect that Beautiful Katamari truly shines in, it’s audio. The Katamari games have always been praised for their fantastic soundtracks, and the new one provided to us is just as wonderful. Again, though, this is music that cannot be described; it simply must be heard. Along with the catchy tunes (all of which I currently have on my iPod), the sound effects are all filled with quirkiness. (That’s a word I just don’t get to use enough.) Your speakers will be overcome by blips and beeps as you roll up different objects, and it’s great to hear certain items make their own unique sound. I’d say the soundtrack of Beautiful Katamari is easily worth 20 bucks.

When you boil down this latest edition of Katamari, there’s really not a great deal of new content compared to the older games. The online mode gives the game a bit more length, but Namco cursed its series, once again, with an ultra-short single-player campaign. I definitely appreciate the jump into high-definition, and the soundtrack keeps everything nice and fresh. If you own a 360 and have never tried a Katamari game before, go out and snag this one right away. It’s a budget title, set at 40 dollars, and it’s completely worth it for new gamers. But if you’ve already experienced the joy of Katamari on another system, it wouldn’t hurt to pass this one up.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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