Format: Playstation 2 Genre: Miscellaneous Released: 2004 Developer: Namco
Katamari Damacy is like some sort of gaming Prozac – every person I showed it to walked away with a smile on their face and a spring in their step, no chemical aids needed. It’s like concentrated happiness pressed onto a disc, ready to explode out through televisions worldwide in a giddy dissemination of the gospel of cheerfulness. And it’s utterly bonkers.
Let’s start with the plot. The King of All Cosmos (the enormous bloke with a crown further down this page) has gone on a bit of an alcohol binge and accidentally knocked the stars and moon out of the sky. As you do. For some reason he decides the best plan of action is to get his son, the diminutive Prince, to roll up loads of junk from planet Earth with a sticky ball called a Katamari in order to replace the missing stars. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make out much more of the plot than that (I played the Japanese version of the game – it was never released in the UK), which is a shame because if the dialogue between the Prince and the King was as joyously insane as the rest of the game, it would have been a real treat to read.
My favourite part about Katamari Damacy is its fantastic sense of scale. You start of the game with a tiny, 5-cm Katamari, and you find yourself picking up things like paper clips and LEGO bricks while dodging rampaging mice. Gradually, as your Katamari gets bigger, you find you can pick up larger and larger objects, and there’s a joyous moment in each level where the things that have been chasing you – be they mice, bears or circus elephants – suddenly turn tail and run as you bear down on them with your enormous sticky ball of doom. Eventually, by the time you reach the final level, your Katamari gets so big that you can actually pick up entire skyscrapers – possibly one of the most satisfying gaming pay-offs of all time. I found myself compulsively replaying the final level again and again in order to make my Katamari as big as possible – to the point where I could pick up the islands themselves.
There’s a wonderful attention to detail throughout the game. As I was living in Japan at the time, it helped that I could recognise some of the more esoteric objects, such as the giant kotatsu early in the game and the maneki neko that seem to crop up everywhere. The items seem to get weirder and weirder as the game progresses, and some of my favourite ones crop up in the later levels, including a delightful Ultraman lookalike and even the Japanese god of thunder, Raijin, who’s hiding out in a cloud on the last level.
The actual physics of the ball are ingenious – if you pick up an awkwardly shaped object, such as a pencil, the ball reacts accordingly, making it difficult to roll in a straight line. The game could never be described as difficult, but moving the Katamari efficiently through a level requires just enough skill to make the game rewarding – and utterly addictive.
However, the highlight of the game has to be its fantastic soundtrack, which features everything from J-rock to jazz. Turn up the sound on your PC and click on the intro video further down the page – you’re in for an aural treat. Not to mention a visual feast of dancing pandas, singing ducks and rainbow eruptions…
And I guarantee that you’ll be humming the theme tune for days afterwards.
“Naaaaaaaaaaaa NaNaNaNa Na Na Na Na Katamari Damashiiiiiiiii”. Damn, that’s in my head now.
Katamari Damacy made my life slightly better simply because it never fails to cheer me up – even just writing about it has made me positively smirk-happy.
Everyone should play this game at least once – its combination of bizarre humour, fantastic music and addictive gameplay make it one of the best games ever released for the PS2. It’s just a shame that Namco never released it in Europe… Come on Namco, don’t we deserve a bit of happiness too?
The bizarre game opening, featuring the signature tune, “Katamari On The Rocks”.
A sample of gameplay from the US version of the game (I finally get to read a bit of the dialogue between the King and the Prince – and it’s just as bizarre as I supposed).