Katamari Damacy could quite possibly be the craziest, most original games I've ever played, and that's in a good...so good way. Here's the premise... Your father, the King of All Cosmos, apparently got drunk one night and, when he woke up, he realized he had destroyed all of the stars. The obvious solution is to send you, the Prince, to Earth to collect enough random junk in order to recreate the stars. How do you do this? Well you roll a ball, a katamari if you will, that has the uncanny ability to stick to anything and everything. Ridiculous enough yet? Well it gets weirder as you go along. Katamari Damacy is a game that you simply must play to appreciate. Looking at pictures, or hearing someone attempt to explain its inexplicable premise does it absolutely no justice. The search for the sleeper hit of the year ends here.
Katamari Damacy is not the epitome of graphical prowess, but what it lacks in stunning graphics it more than makes up for in style, physics, and overall charmingly ridiculous nature. When the story begins, the Prince is only a couple inches tall. You start out collecting tiny stuff like buttons, tacks, ants, etc. The concept is that the bigger the katamari gets, the more likely bigger items will stick to it. The worlds are loaded to the brim with things to collect because, well, EVERYTHING is destructable. The worlds are increasingly large and extremely colorful. Though the character models are a bit outdated and there are some aliasing issues, they do not detract from the game at all.
Addictive is an understatement. Using only the analog sticks for the most part, Katamari Damacy offers a unique style of gameplay not seen since possibly the original Ape Escape. Holding the sticks in any direction in unison causes the Prince to push the katamari in that direction. Holding one up and the other down causing him to rotate around the sides of the katamari, and if you click them both in he jumps to the other side quickly. Rapidly moving the sticks back and forth will cause the katamari to charge up for a dash, but be careful because collisions will knock stuff off of the katamari. Maneuvering a giant cluster of junk has never been easier. The gameplay as a whole is something to write home about as well thanks to changing weather effects and recognizable Japanese and British levels. The only thing you have to worry about is picking up stuff that causes the katamari to roll awkwardly. For example, if you have a good sized ball of tacks going and you snag a pencil, that pencil is going to act like a pole vault to your katamari every time it turns one revolution. This is by no means a negative thing as it simply adds to the overall zaniness of the gameplay.
Honestly I went in expecting annoying J-Pop and cheesey sound effects, but what I got was some of the most memorable sound design of any game in recent memory. Somehow they've nailed the games ridiculous premise with not only the song's theme, but all of the supplementary effects. The music centers around the main theme and constantly evolves and devolves much in the same way music does in games like SSX. Sometimes the theme is simply being hummed by a girl, while during times of heavy action it will explode into a full-on J-pop song. The one thing I truly loved about the sound is how every single item, tiny or massive, makes a distinct sound when it gets stuck to your katamari. I cannot explain in words the joy experienced when you crush a person with your giant ball of trees, livestock, and monster trucks.
The game is quite short in comparison to most games, but it is truly one of the most uniquely fun experiences you may ever have playing a video game. For the most part, your main objective in each level is to get your katamari to a target diameter, at which point the King will stop you and give you the option to continue and see how big you can get the katamari within the time limit or to go back to your homeworld for the next mission. As the levels progress, the scale of the game increases exponentially. By the end of it you're going to be ripping ferris wheels down, tearing down rainbows, and everything else you could possibly imagine. You may beat the game relatively quickly, but going back through is hardly any less fun. The game is only $20, and for that you get one of the most memorable experiences you'll ever find on the PS2 no matter how short the story is.
If you haven't noticed, this game is beyond messed up, but it the most ridiculously fun way. If you own a PS2, do yourself a favor and go buy this game right now...if you can find it that is. It seems that retailers didn't listen to Namco and failed to order many copies. The most any store got was 8. If your local place doesn't have it, say something about it. It's the only way the game will show up in your store. Again, it's only $20 and you certainly won't be disappointed.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***