A loving tribute to rolling up junk using a giant ball, Katamari Forever is the series' belated PS3 debut after a quick stint on Xbox 360 with Beautiful Katamari. Split into two sections, Forever features a host of classic stages given the HD treatment to rediscover, alongside an entirely new campaign of eccentric roll 'em up action.
We Love Katamari was one of our favourite guilty pleasures on PS2 and a surprisingly playable oddity, especially given the inherently bizarre concept. For the uninitiated, the sole objective in Katamari involves rolling up various objects to increase the burgeoning size of your ball.
Starting with smaller items, you'll gradually grow in size until you can roll up larger and larger flotsam and jetsam, eventually developing in scale until you reach the size of people, then trees, then structures, then seas, mountains, continents, planets and beyond. In Katamari, the size of your balls really does matter.
For such a simplistic gameplay mechanic, Katamari Forever is every bit as compulsive as any of its predecessors, even though this next-gen update adds little, if anything to the overall formula. Playing as the diminutive Prince in the service of the King of All Cosmos, it's your job to create the largest Katamari possible within the allotted parameters.
Some challenges require rolling up a ball of set minimum size within a certain time limit while others let you off the leash to build a mammoth ball of junk out of whatever happens to lay in your path.
Quirkily esoteric and utterly insane, Katamari Forever maintains the series' predilection for unreserved madness, tasking you early on with rolling through the witch's house from Hansel and Gretel, ploughing through candy canes, biscuits and chocolate before snaring the witch herself. One later level gives you ten minutes to roll up a cow or bear, before stopping the stage dead in its tracks before the timer has even begun to tell you that you've already caught a cow. Confusing.
The music too is an integral part of any Katamari title. Maddeningly catchy, the unrelenting perky rhythms worm their way into your subconscious without you even realising. And each partially animated, frankly incomprehensible sequence between stages can be an annoying distraction, especially when the text-based dialogue makes no sense whatsoever.
But that's all part and parcel of Katamari Forever's weird and wonderful world, comprised of rainbows, stardust and steaming hot ladlefuls of crazy. You'll need to cast your cynicism firmly to one side if you're to enjoy whatever wacky, hallucinogenic vision the game will vomit onto the screen next.
If you're interested, the story involves the King of All Cosmos falling into a deep slumber, encouraging the Prince and his friends to assemble a RoboKing replacement who then goes on a mad rampage, accidentally wiping out all of the stars from the cosmos. The King then awakens with amnesia, which conveniently acts as a thinly veiled reason for replaying old levels from previous Katamari titles within the King's addled mind. These stages are presented in soft, sepia-tinted monochrome, with any salient items collected slowly injecting colour back into the environment.
A perfectly serviceable excuse for pushing around a gigantic adhesive ball and sticking as many things to it as you possibly can then. As ever, your task is to simply roll up as many gargantuan katamari balls as you can, which the King (or RoboKing) will hurl into the stratosphere and transform into newborn heavenly bodies. After a bout of strange and verbose derision, of course.
A new (bafflingly muddled) story and a new (also a bit muddled) menu interface are the only two genuinely fresh elements in Katamari Forever, the gameplay otherwise untouched save the added Sixaxis jump function allowing you to hop with your Katamari when you jerk the pad upwards. Which is fine by us. There's also a 'King Shock' ability that attracts items to you like giant magnet, which is great fun.
Essentially though, this is the same game you may have already played on another console. The visuals look bright and colourful in HD, but they're little better than the PS2 iterations that came out almost five years go.
Irresistibly charming and effortlessly entertaining, Katamari is always a welcome break from blowing heads off shoulders with a high-calibre sniper rifle. Yet, the fact remains that Katamari Forever fails to do anything genuinely new, significant or substantial enough to warrant more than a cursory glance if you've already played previous entries in the series. If however, Forever is your first foray into the mad, mad world of Katamari, then you could do a lot worse.
Some will completely dismiss Katamari Forever as a simplistic, needlessly zany kids title, but in doing so they'll be missing out on what still stands up as a breezily accessible and gloriously offbeat game. While it remains very much an acquired taste, Forever is ideal for newcomers to the series, but perhaps a roll too far for Katamari veterans. As fun now as ever, we still think that only truly dedicated rollers or Katamari newbies need apply.
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