"Fortunately, the gameplay takes itself about as seriously, featuring diverse wackiness ranging from haddocks that flop about inside of your doom sphere to innocent bystanders that run away screaming as if they'd just seen Godzilla. Who knows, maybe they did... you just never know what's inside your katamari!"
Katamari Damacy rules. There's just no dancing around that point; it's an astonishing piece of software, not to mention a unique one. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to take a large sticky ball thing and roll it around all sorts of environs with no particular goal in mind but to make the most tremendous stuff-sphere possible... and somehow, awful as it may sound, the whole thing actually works thanks to the awe-inspiring sense of scale. While your runs will all begin by picking up crap like thumbtacks and dice, the world around you will gradually shrink as your orb of junk enlarges, to the point where previous skyscrapers such as dogs and cats become but an indistinguishable blip to your behemoth--the sense of scale is awe-inspiring!
Yet it isn't just the oddball concept alone that makes KD the fine, fine game that it is; its physics engine is stunning. Tech-demo stunning. As you steamroll around, you'll quite probably end up with some less-than-tiny objects that mess up the whole perfect sphere thing you had going. Well, until you're so huge that it's a dust mite by comparison, you're gonna be pole-vaulting around on that pencil! It won't be the pick-ups alone that cause your journey to get a bit bumpy, either. The levels themselves are packed with hills and slopes galore no matter what size you're at, and you can rest assured that a good load of your time will be spent wildly careening about.
You won't be doing your movin' and shakin' without some hint of challenge, though; obstacles within the stages are expertly placed, always a nuisance while never insurmountable. That wind-up bear standing guard over the toy slide may seem impassable at a glance, but there's a vantage point a few feet up which you can drop in behind him; that stapler may be too fat to charge past, yet there's a solution at hand that may or may not involve golf balls! Even the time limits can be rough, to the point where you may have to lay down your plans ahead of time in order to pull off a truly sweet run.
Speaking of which, the game's style is sweet. Like candy. Special candy. AKA crack. The story centers around an alien prince who has to collect anything and everything he can in order to fill up the starless sky--the king was drunk, you see, and accidentally erased the entire cosmos. And he picks you up at the end of levels by vomiting a rainbow at you. Fortunately, the gameplay takes itself about as seriously, featuring diverse wackiness ranging from haddocks that flop about inside of your doom sphere to innocent bystanders that run away screaming as if they'd just seen Godzilla. Who knows, maybe they did... you just never know what's inside your katamari! The Japanese pop and hip-hop music complimenting the whole affair just seals the deal, as it's odd but catchy in that Jet Grind Radio way.
Sure, the game is anything but flawless. Its double-analog controls are both illogical and unituitive, and if you're just playing to top off the story mode, expect no more than a mere five hours of gameplay. But does it really matter? Katamari Damacy is the most fun I've had with a game in a long time, and while it may not be perfect, its simple but engaging gameplay and quirky sense of style makes it a terrific choice for when you just want to sit back, relax, and watch some TV. The rainbow vomiting is only icing on the cake.
Staff review by John L (October 14, 2005)
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