We love Katamari
We love Katamari is weird - good weird. Not bad weird in the way that a 'crazy' frog managed to become a sensation on these shores to the extent that he had made his own appalling racing game. In fact, that kind of travesty is the reason that no one (except Jamster and their financial department, perhaps) would care whether one of the worst games ever was released or not. Of course, it probably sold well despite being awful. In contrast, Katamari Damacy, the predecessor to We love Katamari, an original, quirky and enchanting video game was never released in the UK. Many critics conclude that this is a result of apathy from gamers, that their complacency in accepting generic racing/shooting/sports titles time and again would leave no room for Katamari Damacy; leaving it forgotten, ignored and reaching the bargain bin in record time. It is with great relief then, that Namco having seen the popularity and cult status that it received in other territories and have given us another chance. Whether or not gamers will give We Love Katamari the same generosity is a whole different kettle of fish and a real shame if they don't.
For the uninitiated a Katamari is simply a ball with brilliant sticky properties that allow it to attract anything which it rolls over. First it can only manage small items (stationary, batteries, flowers etc.), but as it grows it is able to cope with bigger and stranger obstacles such as animals, harps and, well, anything nearly anything in its way. Gameplay in We love Katamari is simple. Your task is either to make the biggest Katamari possible in the set time or to reach a target size in the time given. Controlling your Katamari is a novel experience in itself, making use of both of the PS2's analogue sticks in tandem to move forwards, backwards and from side to side. Like all great disciplines, maneuvering your Katamari is simple to learn but difficult to master, and it is only when you have done this that you will be able to fully appreciate the game. On the surface, the game's simplicity seems shallow, but give it a little bit of time and you will be sucked in, you will lose any apprehension within you beforehand that said you shouldn't be enjoying pushing a sticky ball around surreal and confusing environments as much as 'pw3ning' your friends on Call of Duty, or shaving seconds off your lap times in Project Gotham Racing.
We love Katamari's storyline is as bizarre as the game plays. In order to fully understand the plot in this game you need to know the plot of the last. That saw you, Prince of all Cosmos setting out to replace the stars, (which are various sized Katamaris) in the Universe that your father, the King of all Cosmos had somehow mislaid. The people on Earth were in awe of your Katamari-rolling skills and this time around they request that you show them some more, setting you a couple of challenges per level and stroking the king's ego should you succeed. Each successfully rolled Katamari transforms into either a planet or a Satellite of a pretty pattern, a representation of your best size or time. The narrative is a cheeky wink of the eye from Namco to every fan of the original, bringing them into the game and challenging them to answer their own questions about Katamari-rolling supremacy and wonderment.
The visual look of We love Katamari suits the gameplay perfectly - charmingly bizarre. The level selection area looks like something out of a children's story book with cutesy animation, bold colours and a number of frames to explore. The Katamari-rolling levels themselves are blocky affairs with a very Lego-esque appearance. Nevertheless, every location is bright, colourful and just brimming with hundreds of objects waiting to be collected. You'll quickly find that it is nothing less than a pleasure to meander around each level, discovering the quickest, logical path to creating the most fruitful Katamari. Areas range from a child's bedroom, to a meadow of flowers and an underwater world, so there's no complaints here about variation in style even if the gameplay remains constant throughout. The camera work is fine too, with it panning out further from you as your Katamari grows in size, giving you better perspective on the surroundings. In addition, potentially awkward view-blocking moments are removed as larger obstacles turn transparent as you get close to them. Further complimenting the level design and playing experience is We love Katamari's soundtrack, a mix of J-Pop and J-rock oddities that will have you humming along in minutes and for hours thereafter when you aren't.
If the single player experience wasn't enough, there is also a multiplayer option that allows two players to either compete to create the biggest Katamari or another to play co-operatively. The former is an uncomplicated matter of proving who's best whereas the latter, whilst wholly confusing at first is brilliant fun if Player 1 and Player 2 communicate effectively - one player controls moving forward and backward while the other takes care of sideways movement in a mode that is functional on nearly every single player level.
We love Katamari is probably like nothing you have played before, but it is games like it that should, without a doubt, be encouraged. Games used to be a medium of escapism and relaxation and efforts on older formats reflected this. Now, in an era where processing power rules the roost, escapism has been somewhat overshadowed by simulation, the desire and expectation to have games that are as close to real life as possible. Think about that for a moment, is it what you really want from your games?
There's nothing more to say except that We love Katamari is a diamond of a game that you really ought to snap up. Get it now and prove to the gaming big guns that we want games like this, that we won't just be fobbed off with sequel after sequel and lackluster movie tie-ins. Don't let We love Katamari go straight to the bargain bins! Promise you now, you really won't regret it.