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We Love Katamari (PlayStation 2) artwork

We Love Katamari (PlayStation 2) review


"Initially, some may see Namco's decision to dub their release, "We Love Katamari", as an obvious attempt to fool thoughtless, Walmart shoppers. Part egocentric admission of self-confessed love, part marketing ploy from hell, the title's underhanded strategy is suspicious at best. It's lucky for us however, the revised moniker is anything but nefarious, and its carefully chosen wording has given players a glimpse of what is to come."



Returning to the surreal world of Katamari Damacy after only a year's absence, players shouldn't expect things to have changed all that much. Graphically, We Love Katamari doesn't take any chances, sticking with the same outlandish designs and tongue in cheek humor that made the smash hit original what it was. Likewise, the core gameplay has gone unchanged, players once more expected to roll their sticky balls around a variety of Japanese cities, progressively picking up larger and larger objects.

Got it? Ok then, so what's different?

Ducks and giraffes will sing, the sky is going to fall, and once more a tiny prince will repopulate the heavens... Welcome home my friends!.

Initially, some may see Namco's decision to dub their release, "We Love Katamari", as an obvious attempt to fool thoughtless, Walmart shoppers. Part egocentric admission of self-confessed love, part marketing ploy from hell, the title's underhanded strategy is suspicious at best. It's lucky for us however, the revised moniker is anything but nefarious, and its carefully chosen wording has given players a glimpse of what is to come. For you see, it's having repopulated the heavens that Prince Ouji has found himself on the brink of *ah-hem* stardom, and its because of this our hero starts working for the common Joe.

My campfire isn't large enough. Make it bigger!

I want to be a better sumo wrestler. Help me put on weight!

I like candy. Got get me some!

The poor bastard...

Of course, the hows and whys mean little to players, you're still essentially rolling your balls over the landscape, trying desperately to collect as much junk as possible before the time runs out. Rather then, it's the way these requests influence the action that's made the biggest difference, ultimately adding a much needed dose of variety. Early on for instance, players are instructed to roll up the largest fireball possible, all the while being mindful of the flame's intensity. You've got to keep an eye out for anything made of wood or rubber while still finding time to balance the size of your ball with other, non-combustible materials. The bigger your katamari grows, the more fuel it'll need, the less time you'll have to find the next stash of items. Neat-O! It looks as if we're getting strategic.

That though, is just a sign of things to come, and it won't be long before players are racing their katamari around a motor circuit in pursuit of the other drivers. A break from the action then ensues as a tidy, video presentation details the sad life story of one of our heroes. And just so we're absolutely clear on this, it's utterly hilarious. In fact, the further you slide into WLK's expanded game world, the more clearly evident Namco's hard work becomes. Be it the collect as many of these without picking up any of those style quests, or the way the action eventually culminates with a slice of intergalactic-style mayhem, that highly suspicious moniker suddenly doesn't seem so evil after all.

What impresses the most however, is the way Namco have brought the game's overall challenge into spec, offering a huge range of missions even after the core story has been told. The credits may have run and you might even believe it's game over... wrong! Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups, and just because you've reached the end doesn't mean to say you can put your feet up and relax. Oh no, here they come again...

Oi!

Over here!

Moshi, moshi?

Those bastards... the challenge thusly continues.

With so much love on display, it's disappointing to note how Namco have seemingly failed to address concerns players had with the original's camera system. And though admittedly the game now attempts to compensate by forcing small windows of visibility, the system rarely, if ever, gets it 100% right. Yet as unfortunate as that may sound, the levels themselves have been beautifully rendered, a hodge podge of items and interactive background elements each doing their best to present players with the most interesting game world possible. Dancing elephants, cats in scuba gear, men walking on their hands and knees. It's just so utterly bizarre. The many new locales are equally as exciting, a ski resort, the bottom of a lake, and a crowded school, amongst others, show that it's not what you roll but the size that counts. And poo-ey to anyone that says otherwise.

The question of the moment however is this: what's the soundtrack like? After all, the original had some of the most colorful sounds this side of a fruit salad... if such a thing were in fact possible. And in all honestly, it was definitely one of the most enjoyable compilations in recent years. So how's this new one sound? Rest easy my friends, WLK is every bit as invigorating to listen to as it is to play. An obligatory assortment of remixed tracks have been thoughtfully joined by a range of fresher classics, Arisa's Everlasting Love and Matsuzaki Shigeru's Katamari on the Swing in particular are highlights worthy of a mention. Heck, so good is the combined sum of musical goodness that players will probably want to check out the soundtrack when it's released later this year.

With a title like "We Love Katamari", Namco had to be sure they were delivering something special. Good news then everyone, that's exactly what they've gone and done. We've got a broader variety of items, objectives, mission types, and locales. I could go on, but why spoil the surprise? Remember then, We Love Katamari is the sequel players wanted, more of the same, spiced with a smattering of fresh and tasty ideas. If it gets a budget priced release in the US, returning fans and newbies would do well to check it out. Come to think of it however, even at full price it still represents incredible value for money. Hours of entertainment, a ton of laughs, and some neat, laid back, roll'em up action. Let me recommend this accordingly...

Ladies & Gentlemen, grab your balls. We Love Katamari!

Pros
----

* Bigger, stranger, uncut
* We Love Katamari has a greater variety of locales
* Specific and varied mission objectives provide focus
* Humor, as always, plays a big roll
* Namco have taken the action to dizzying new heights
* There's an incredible amount of things to unlock
* Even when the game is over, We Love Katamari continues to give
* The soundtrack is as infectious as always
* Multiplayer is back
* Playing with your balls is rarely this good

Cons
----

* Camera issues continue to be a problem
* The controls could have been a little more responsive

Rating: 9/10

midwinter's avatar
Staff review by Michael Scott (August 08, 2005)

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