Destined to be a cosmic dung beetle of dazzling proportions …
Not having had the privilege of playing any of the first Katamari games I was unsure in what to expect with Namco Bandai’s latest, Beautiful Katamari.
In a way this could be viewed as an advantage, I’m approaching the game somewhat fresh and without bias, the downside being – if I was a great fan of Japanese adventure/arcade games surely I would have played one of the previous Katamari’s …
So to say I was initially disappointed would be spot on; the graphics bright but flat, the King of all Cosmos rude, demanding and lacking charisma, and my character the Prince (and later the cousins you find) are without personalities. Not to mention the rolling up of objects into balls seemed at first futile, and a tedious task.
Yet as I progressed my way through Beautiful Katamari I warmed to the game and – metaphorically speaking – it felt as if not only the stuff the Prince was collecting up into giant katamari’s but so was I – going for a ride that was not only quirky but enjoyable.
To truly appreciate Beautiful Katamari you need to let it work it’s magic, and that means play and play it some more …
The story line is straightforward and eccentric in nature, but the tasks were not always easy to achieve as I had presumed.
You initially play as the Prince, and are bound throughout the game in pleasing The King of the Cosmos (your father) by rolling up katamari’s into various size’s, and of different objects to re-create the universe. Then ultimately plugging the black hole the King had created – by a most un-royal miss-hap.
To make Saturn for instance, you have to roll around town and countryside collecting up rings, from toilet rolls to truck wheels.
This may seem easy enough to accomplish but then you’re given a tight time span to do it in, and I found that most times I didn’t bother about the objects of focus and rolled up anything in my path. It was either sacrifice the details of the task or keep having to repeat it to make it within the time allocated.
If you fail at your given task the Prince is ridiculed by the King with taunts like loser and party pooper. By doing this the creator(s) of the game may have been trying to give the king some personality. Unfortunately his crankiness soon got dull and old.
Its rainbows, lollipops, sunshine, and dogs with fleas …
Graphically I hoped for beautiful, and although it was bright and psychodelic (where did they hide the yellow submarine!) this does not make for beautiful.
It was crisp and vibrant; with the characters typically Japanese and 2D in appearance, varying slightly in their colour and odd shaped heads – coned, pointed, cubed and so on. There was one (Deko) with an elongated head that my family affectionately nicknamed dickhead.
Anyway moving on …
The control system is basic, yet there were times its very simplicity was frustrating. To move you pushed the two analogue sticks forward and then sideways to alter your direction. There is a “dash” option which allows you to spin rapidly for a few seconds to gather up the objects in the katamari’s path much faster; and to do this you have to work the analogue sticks back and forth rapidly.
I couldn’t help but wonder at the durability of the Xbox 360 controller – not to mention my thumbs!
All the while my trigger finger itched to be used.
I can hear music, sweet, sweet music …
Beautiful Katamari’s sound effects and music is catchy and overall, aurally pleasant. The Japanese songs had me humming along, while the individual and odd sounds the animals made as they’re rolled up into a katamari is amusing.
Although the King of the Cosmos’s scratchy nails on a blackboard voice is irritating, and I found myself pressing A to get past his waffle. Even during a mission his sickly green cut-out mug would pop up on the middle of the screen and lecture the Prince on what needed to be done, and subsequently blocking out some of the surroundings from your view as well.
One big happy family …
I mentioned the Prince’s cousins earlier, and they can be found scattered throughout the environments. You need to roll them into the katamari’s to be able to access later – either to play as, or just to inhabit the Prince’s spacey world. There are over 50 of them so collecting them is an undertaking within itself.
There are also presents to locate which allow you to accessorise your characters, from sparkling hooped skirts to mini-me head ornaments.
Many hands make light work harmonious …
You can share the experience with a friend with the coop mode option, where cooperation is necessary but not paramount; you can pretty well keep rolling together without to many problems. Also an online option where you can compete against players from all over the world – unfortunately the players are slim across the ground and it can take some time to connect to a game, and even when I managed to find some players – it was more of a dance fest among Beautiful Katamari characters then anything competitive.
It’s all in the details …
Overall the game grew on me like a fungal katamari and I found myself returning to the game often, not only to complete the storyline but also to tackle the various other tasks Beautiful Katamari has to offer.
©2008 Erika Dickinson