A game that (in its own way) made PS2 history is back in better shape than ever on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Here’s what we think.
Two years after its release on Nintendo Switch and PC, Katamari Damacy Reroll also lands on PS4 and Xbox One (here our review of Katamari Reroll for Nintendo Switch). The title consists of an HD remaster of the peculiar experiment by Keita Takahashi released in 2004 on PS2 and never officially landed in Europe. Despite the past years, Katamari Damacy is still a small pearl of eccentricity and madness capable of capturing and entertaining the player.
But perhaps defining Katamari Damacy eccentric is an understatement because it is actually a unique game, difficult to categorize even within a single genre. Characterized by an unmistakable aesthetic and an out-of-the-line gameplay, the title immediately gained enormous success in North America, bringing the general public closer to an extremely authorial game design and thus laying the foundations for the proliferation of the Indie scene. Rediscovering Katamari Damacy more than 15 years after her debut is still an unusual and rewarding experience, despite some evident structural limitations that have not been remedied in this new version.
A mistake worthy of a king
The story, told through half-animated interludes between an educational book for children and an anime with a lysergic flavor, it begins with the accidental destruction of all the stars in the sky by the King of the Cosmos. To remedy his mistake, the odd divinity decides to send his son, the Prince, a humanoid creature just over a few centimeters high, to earth. His task will be to collect as many objects as possible by incorporating them inside his katamari, a rolling sphere capable of assimilating anything. By agglomerating spheres with an ever larger diameter, the player will be required to create substitutes for celestial bodies that respect the requests of the king of the Cosmos. But for no apparent reason, Katamari Damacy’s eccentricity also manifests itself through a second narrative line only loosely connected to the first, which follows the events of the members of the Hoshino family as the Prince carries out his assignments. The narrative is clearly a secondary aspect of Katamari Damacy, but despite this the surreal dialogues and the weird characters that populate the world are inserted in a coherent way within the game structure.
The goal then is to roll and increase the size of the sphere. The controls are simple but not very intuitive and require some practice to easily maneuver the direction of the katamari. The whole movement system is entrusted to the use of the two analog sticks and the directional combinations that can be obtained with them. There is no camera management, which always remains anchored behind the prince, creating a bit of confusion during the opening bars of the adventure. Fortunately, some advanced movements have also been implemented, such as sudden changes of direction and the possibility of changing the view through an aerial perspective, but the feeling of the controls remains far from fluid.
Definitely a unique experience
The principle behind the katamari, which guarantees a progression that is anything but random within the levels, is that the sphere can only assimilate objects smaller than it, while bumps against larger elements cause the loss of accumulated “pieces” . The genius of Katamari Damacy therefore lies in a continuous play with the protagonist’s perspective, whose tiny dimensions initially make him perceive even a domino tile as an insurmountable obstacle, and then arrive at such diameters as to be able to incorporate people, cars and buildings in an endless escalation. The level design presents an obsessive attention to detail, and each scenario is littered with an infinite amount of unique items that can become part of the katamari. The irregularity of the collected objects then causes a real chaos on the screen that is reflected in a rolling completely dependent on the shape assumed by the sphere, indicating that a sort of planning is required in order to progress within the level. Indeed it is almost necessary to have a spatial awareness of the rooms first, and then of the streets, to be sure not to turn randomly in an attempt to grow in size.
The structure of each single mission often imposes objectives of magnitude to be achieved within a certain time limit, as well as the secondary missions “create a constellation” will require the player to be more careful in collecting objects, often requesting themed spheres. In short, although the gameplay is reduced to the bone and the playful possibilities are already exhausted during the first level, the intelligent structure of the missions, as well as the excellent level design guarantee a continuous sense of discovery and fun for the duration of the adventure.
While each main level features optional collectibles and there is also a local multiplayer mode, Katamari Damacy remains a very short adventure that can be completed in less than 10 hours. But judging Keita Takahashi’s work in a mechanical and rational way, examining its elements individually and extrapolating them from the context, absolutely does not do justice to one of the most atypical experiences that the world of video games has offered in recent years. The final result it goes far beyond the sum of the individual parts, for a product that escapes any categorization and comparison. A striking example is the soundtrack, composed of songs that range seamlessly from jazz to samba, with forays into the world of j-pop and electronic music. The eclectic sounds come together in the magnetic rolling of Katamary Damacy thus composing an imagery made of vivid colors, funny creatures and contagious melodies.
Just as seen on Switch and PC, the Reroll is a faithful edition to the original that doesn’t add nothing significant in terms of content. In addition to the 16: 9 images and an increased resolution, along with some small adjustments in the design of the protagonists and in the balance of the difficulty, Bandai Namco has left the experience seen on PS2 intact with all its pros and cons (here you will find the comparison with the PS2 version of Katamari Damacy).
Fortunately, the stylized art style, characterized by simple polygonal patterns and textures that focus on the brilliance of colors, has kept its charm unaltered: a value that is anything but obvious. Despite this, there is a lack of some full-bodied additions capable of revitalizing the experience, perhaps integrating some features seen within the sequels proposed over the years.
Katamari Damacy RerollVersion Analyzed PlayStation 4Katamari Damacy Reroll is therefore a dignified remaster of an experiment out of time that deserves to be tried firsthand. After all, there are few titles that, despite being characterized by a strong authorial identity, manage to be innovative, immediate and fun at the same time. Of the principles that according to the author have permeated the development of the project since its inception. Three features that make Katamari Damacy one of the greatest expressions of Japanese-style game design eccentricity.