We <3 Katamari
Review By: Joe


Ooops! Not yet! But just about as good, the sequel to Katamari Damacy is out, We ? Katamari!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOG!! A brief (lie) discussion of said product (for the PS2) follows.

So, the first game was about rolling a magical ball thingy around (a katamari, n'est pas?) to which EVERYTHING stuck. Everything in this case being whatever sorts of crazy objects the Japanese people who made the game could come up with. The idea of it was to build up your katamari to grotesque proportions so as to be able to roll up bigger and bigger (and better?) things, including animals, people, buildings, islands, and more stuff that is bigger than those things. The basic structure of nearly every level was to get the katamari to a certain size within a certain time limit. AND IT WAS GOOD.

The last game sold for only $20 and did surprisingly well here in the U.S. (no doubt almost entirely in response to the glowing review from this website) so we were lucky enough to get the sequel here as well. WHAT IS IT LIKE? WELL! The developers decided to go in a really wacky direction and make the gameplay entirely centered around rolling a ball (a katamari, n'est pas?) to which things stick, in an effort to make it bigger and bigger. MIND-BLOWING? YOU BET!

So this game is, in effect, quite alike to its predecessor. The graphics have been made slightly prettier (you'll probably only really notice if you're the type that doesn't fit in with the big boys in your class) and an effort to improve upon issues of view obstruction has been made (it's not always effective but it's a nice sentiment nonetheless). So the gameplay is largely unchanged so which game is better?! UHHH!!!

If I were to examine it by gameplay and other things, this sequel is probably the better one. There's more of it and, very often, you aren't just being told to make the thing bigger. Although it really is the same stuff if you were to think HARD about it, the level objectives are different enough to trick me into feeling like I am doing something new. Also, the levels are quite a bit cooler and there are more of them. There were really only about three areas in the last game and you just played over different sections of them. Here, the levels tend to be themed, including a zoo, an underwater level, the sky, and a race track amongst others. On the race track level your katamari moves forward of its own accord and it is FUN. Also, the final level of the game allows you to roll up all the wonders of the world and then some, which is pretty damn nifty.

So, yes, this is a more entertaining game overall. However, for us Katamari veterans (you can get stabbed in Jersey City for using that phrase) we will probably, overall, not be as happy as we were with the original. It IS a better game but this is the sad thing:

The first Katamari was so much fun and such a new thing to me that (and, yes, my life is quite pathetic) it genuinely MADE ME HAPPIER while I played it. Katamari 2 does it too but not quite as much and I believe that, had I never played the original game, I'd be just as happy as I was the first time I rolled a katamari. I'm just a lot more used to the gameplay and, also, I'm just plain better at controlling the thing, making it much easier to breeze through levels (not that it's a very hard game anyway, unless you are going for Supreme Master records).

I am also far too familiar with the crazy Japaneseness already, not that it isn't still good. It's fairly brilliant how the game is hardly shy about discussing its own popularity and the movies about the king's past are hilarious as well as pretty messed up, tackling issues of child abuse and parental death. HAHA! YOU <3 IT!

The other issue is that the music is just not quite as good. This is sort of unfair for Katamari because in other games if the music isn't great but the gameplay is still good, it just goes ignored. Unfortunately for this series, the first game had such an awesome soundtrack that just about everyone noticed. It was crazycool music in its own right, with or without the game. The music in this one is not BAD by any means. Some of it is as good as tracks in the other game (and the song that plays when you talk to the king at the end of each levels kicks the crap out of the one from the other game) but overall it's just not as great and some of it is quite cacophonic. Every song is growing on me to some degree but there's clearly no contest between the two soundtracks and part of the whole experience of the first Katamari was playing along with the sweet-ass music so I would say, yes, it does affect the game somewhat. OOP!

What is very nice about this new game is that there is a lot more to do. Almost every level has more than one objective and the game also puts more of an emphasis on collecting everything and getting high records so the incentive to play more is a little more present rather than in the first game where you pretty much did all the extra stuff just because you needed to feed the addiction.

Also, there's two player stuff but, let's be honest here (FOR ONCE), it's pretty limited. There's a vs. mode that is a good deal better than the one from the first game but I still can't imagine spending a whole lot of time with it although you do earn cookies for doing well in it and the manual states that "Cookies aren't just a cool way to show the rankings - they also happen to be the tastiest things in the world!"

There's also the co-op mode where two people roll a Katamari together. It's a nice idea but, in the end, you'll probably get tired of trying to move one way while your partner moves another and just go back to playing one player. I could imagine a perfect world in which Katamari doubles as relationship therapy and me and my open-minded girlfriend would use co-op mode to strengthen our communication and roll bigger and better katamaris than I could ever amass on my own and THE SIZE OF OUR KATAMARIS WOULD GROW ALONG WITH OUR LOVE (<3). But, don't worry, the world is functioning as it should be and women don't talk to me.

So do I <3 the hell out of Katamari?! Yes, yes I do. It only costs 10 bucks more than the first one (that's $30, by the way, DeVry students) and the gameplay is varied enough to trick me into feeling like I'm not just rolling the same damn thing around sometimes. I do <3 it and I am addicted to it. I'd just probably <3 it even more if I hadn't been spoiled by the first one.

Damn it, I was trying to write a short review. FAILURE AGAIN!!!

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