Format: Switch (tested)/ PC
Developer: Bandai Namco
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release: Out now
One of the finest examples of quirky Japanese games developed in the PS2 era, Katamari Damacy’s influence can be found in the most leftfield of indies today, from the philosophical Everything to the comical anti-capitalist Donut County. Certainly, when you think of the world leaders creating chaos then abdicating responsibility, the King of All Cosmos resonates more than ever. Of course, Katamari is quite happy with keeping any subtext wrapped under many cute and ridiculous layers.
Sent to Earth to remake the stars your father – the King – smashed up during an intergalactic bender, your ant-sized prince is tasked with using the ball-like katamari to gather up everyday objects to be turned into replacement stars, transforming trash into treasure. Your katamari begins as small as the prince himself, rolling up household items, and growing bigger in the process, which in turn allows larger objects to stick to you. Eventually, you realise that nothing is off the table, including the proverbial table itself. From rolling up coins, bottles, and biscuits, you’ll later find street signs, post boxes and the world’s blocky humans sticking to you, as the latter scream in protest.
"It's hard to stay mad in this colourful playground"
If there’s any fault, it’s that this rule isn’t always consistent. There’s been times my towering katamari has crashed to an abrupt halt to an over-sized melon but snagged a passer-by without a problem. Loss of momentum isn’t the only frustration as it can also cause some objects to break off, slightly reducing the katamari size.
The peculiar twin stick control scheme for rolling the katamari also takes time getting used to. The remaster does include simplified controls where you can just use the left stick to move, though the right stick still doesn’t behave quite like you’d expect a modern third-person game to, while motion control options for Switch are a nice idea but still unwieldy. Ultimately, both options made me appreciate the default setting even more when it comes to manoeuvring around and controlling your speed.
But once you’re on a roll, it’s essentially one absurd idea drawn out for ten levels, though there are also additional challenges, each with their own theme, tasking you to collect something specific. Despite you apparently travelling all around the world from Russia to the Arabian Peninsula, it’s also apparent that most environments and palettes remain the same with distinctly Japanese objects in view. Nonetheless, the absolute abundance of things that you can roll up is still ridiculously enjoyable to behold. You might occasionally run into hostile cats or aggressive bulls that will happily bounce your katamari around, but it’s hard to stay mad in this colourful playground when you can come back and roll them over later.
Having only previously been released in Japan and the US, this is effectively the first time Keita Takahashi’s cult debut has been rolled out worldwide. Frankly, when the real world is filled with plenty of calamitous nonsense that needs to be shot into space, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Brief, bizarre, and utterly beguiling, Katamari Damacy will put a smile
on your face.