Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's All About Rolling Things Up

We [Heart] Katamari

I never played the original Katamari Damacy game. It's rave reviews made me very interested in doing so, but alas as far as I could tell not a single copy ever made it to the South Island. Fortunately more recently I finally got my hands on a copy of the sequel, and as it was the only PS2 game I had with me for several weeks I gave it a serious amount of play time.

The first thing that grabs the player about this game is the goofy Japanese style. The art is incredibly brightly coloured and cartoony, the music is infectiously upbeat and the story is goofy and fun, belied only slightly by a few macabre overtones. In the first game the story was that the King of the Universe accidentally removed all the stars from the sky and you had to replace them by collecting items from Earth and rolling them up into a big ball; the titular Katamari. In the sequel the King (a vain and obnoxious monarch) is enjoying all the attention he's been getting since the first game came out (it's all very meta) and sends you out on various Katamari related missions in order to please his fans.

The game is very charming and is made more so by the twisted nature of Katamari creation. To start with you pick up small objects (household waste and insects) and you gradually get bigger and bigger, uprooting animals, people and buildings, until you get so huge that you can pick up entire cities in one go. The seeming disinterest of the King and the fans in the fact that creating a Katamari usually involves the wholesale destruction of entire civilisations is part of the game's perverse charm.

The gameplay itself is incredibly addictive in that way that only very simple games are. The Katamari is controlled entirely by the two analog sticks on the gamepad and this makes for a very fluid, intuitive game. The combination of relaxing, simple gameplay and the sheer glee you get from driving an almighty vehicle of destruction through city streets absorbing everything in your path means that it's easy to spend a lot of time on this game. Still everything wears out it's welcome after a while and I've more or less stopped playing it by now as once you've gotten as big as you can a few times there isn't much more to see. However it's a good 'pick up and play' game so I expect I'll pull it out every now and again in the future.

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