Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

August 10, 2005

Review: We Love Katamari - Oi! Oi! Moshi! Moshi!

VGP Score


9.5



We Love Katamari, we really do. Who knew that the rolly polly antics of Katamari Damacy would catch on, and set fire to the industry and redefine what can be called innovation. It turns out, we do love Katamari, and we loves them a lot! Katamari Damacy makes it's return in an almost unchanged form. The concept is still the same: collect stuff to collect bigger stuff. The world is full of stuff, so whose to say there isn't extra stuff for the Prince and King of the Cosmos to abuse by rolling into gigantic balls of crap, which will later be hurled into the heavens to become...planets. Not stars, planets. From what I can tell, the game is operating on exactly the same graphics engine as the last outing, so there is no grand change there, but whose to say thats much of a bad thing?

We Love Katamari comes brimmimg with extra things to do, and improvements over the original Katamary Damacy. For starters, the sense of scale has swollen to ungodly proportions. In the last KD outing, the largest possible size for a Katamary was about 1000m, give or take, and the largest objects you could collect were mountain sized land masses. This time around, the largest possible Katamari size is around 3500 metres, and you're even granted the opportunity to roll up the King of the Cosmos if you're skillful enough with a bounding Katamari. Mountains eventually become the smallest of objects to pick up, and the sheer number of items for rolling over has increased by a generously appreciable amount.

We Love Katamari would almost seem like an all too appropriate name for the game. After all, not even Namco could have guessed that the highly addictive gameplay of WHK's sister title would have caught on like some viral outbreak. Everyone everywhere had heard of Katamari Damacy, and despite the fact that there were many naysayers among the testy gamers, most loved it and couldn't put it down. It turned out, We the gamers actually do love Katamari. Call it self-absorbed, but the title's toungue and cheek inference, permeates right into the game. After the end of the first game, people of earth became amazed by the katamari rolled in the previous title, and thus ask the Prince and King of the Cosmos to roll up special katamari just for them. Sort of like a gift. Whether or not the katamari is impressive enough, the chinsey humans regift the Katamari to the King for planetary formation. Who wouldn't want to take a few steps on Yokozuna Planet?

So the fans of the previous game, ie: Us, send the Prince and King on missions to do whatever it is katamaris do. In the last game, missions were semi-varied, but there were generally only 4 types of missions. This time around however, strategic, colourfully varied missions take place in diverse locations. Where as in the last game, there were only about 3 "Complete" stages in the game, this time there are well over 12. The game also throws some humourous missions at the gamer, when a wannabe sumo wrestler asks you to roll him over food to fatten him up, so that you can complete the ultimate goal of rolling over the opposing wrestler. It's indeed side splitting to see in action.

Another example of the new mission types is a campground locale, where your job is to roll an enflamed ball of junk over other junk, as to keep the fire burning with disposable objects as fuel. Wait too long to collect more things, or fall into a pool of water, and you'll extinguish the ball and fail the mission. Not only has the game become challenging, it's formulated it's own type of quirky strategy. And while I make it seem like these new type levels make it a different game, rest assured that in the end all we really want to do is roll a katamari, and that is exactly what we're still doing. Instead of just rolling this time though, you roll with style...Before long the player finds himself in a NASCAR mode katamari race where the Prince rolls about ten times as fast as normal, and later engaging in a celestial raid of the planets, moons and constellations with the goal of rolling up the Sun. Even the credits have a cute little mini-game with the gargantuan King using the appropriately sized Sun as a Katamari. It's an all around fun-fest.

The game also offers a somewhat free form style of play this time, so at any given moment, you could have anywhere from 3 to 5 different missions ready to go, and you get to pick which order you do them in. Another place where We Love Katamari trumps KD, is in it's replay value. In the first Katamari, when you watched the credits roll, you were done. There weren't any hidden or unlockable missions, and there certainly weren't many things to do since most of the missions were restricted to the standard types. However, in WHK, we're treated to secondary and even tertiary missions for each stage. For example, a "Get as big as possible within this amount of time", may ask as a secondary mission to "Get this big as fast as possible". Not an astronomical change, but still engaging enough to keep the player coming back for more.

It should go without saying that the plot behind We Love Katamari is about as absurd as it's dialogue and inert obsession with hallucinogens. Chronicling the childhood of the King and just how he became the King, the games plot is told through ten chapters, which are all depicted with semi-animated flash sequences which will make you laugh, cry and scratch your head; filled with obscene stragetude like the King's broken hair piece creating a heart shape when connected to a half loaf of bread, belonging to his future wife: true love is born!

As expected, the crazy and catchy soundtrack of the previous game makes a strong comeback with a jived up version of the main Katamary Damacy theme song, with an even more extravagant opening sequence to go along with it. The game even allows the player to chose which song they'd like to hear when playing any given level. A personalized katamari simulator, so to speak (I kid, I kid). The only real problems I had with Katamari is that the camera can sometimes sneak into tight corners and show an obscured view of the level which does nothing good for a level where you're racing against the clock. That, and short but still existent load times have peaked their head into this game. Blame it on the huge numbers of items in each stage and the expanded sense of scale. Other then that, controls are tight, graphical glitches are absent, and the game itself is still as fun as it was last year. We Love Katamari doesn't get bragging rights to being chalk full of innovation this time around, and Namco anticipated that. Instead compensated with a wholely refined gameplay, greater mission types, greater level variety, and even mutating physics for Snow, Speed, and underwater stages. We're even gifted with secondary missions for almost every level, and a bushel of unlockable content, including a full listing of the games soundtrack to be listened to at the gamer's whim. Good on you Namco. I love Katamari, my neighbours love Katamari, and even my dog loves Katamari. We all Love Katamari.

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