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Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. The prince is working at the behest of his father, the splendidly-chinned King of all Cosmos, who, infatuated with the fame he achieved during the first Katamari Damacy (though not over here) is now unable to resist the wishes of his ardent fans. As a result, you spend much of your time visiting the different areas of an oddly flat, storybook Earth, meeting fans, and trying to complete their strange requests.
If this sounds weird, rest assured that it is weird. The graphics are excessively bright, determinedly polygonal and utterly, cheerfully charming. The music is a bizarre concoction of Vegas showtunes and Japanese pop, belted out by what sounds like Tony Christie fronting The Avalanches. If you’re a gloomy sort with a predilection for doomy industrial metal and a hatred of all things bright and breezy, you’re either going to have an allergic reaction to We Love Katamari, or you’re going to have to make damn sure that nobody catches you playing it. Being seen grinning stupidly at the chorus lines of dancing pandas and high-kicking robots in the intro movie could destroy your image in one foul stroke.
Now, the levels and the game start small, with children’s bedrooms, houses, playgrounds, gardens and – memorably – the bottom of a pond. But as the katamari grows, so does the scale of the game. Before long, it’s out on the town with your katamari, a roll in the snow with your katamari, a trip to the zoo, and so on. For the most part, your job is to make a katamari so big within such a time limit from the stuff you had available. Each environment is packed with animate and inanimate objects to pick up, but each also has its share of obstacles, from walls blocking your way to grumpy schoolboys who kick you out the way. Luckily, growth will help you overcome these annoyances. Once your katamari gets big enough, you can just roll them up like anything else.
The skill of playing We Love Katamari is in a) controlling the katamari and b) working out how to build it up quickly. The first is easy because this is one of the few games where the Dual Shock’s twin-stick layout actually makes perfect sense. Once you learn how the sticks interact, you can manoeuvre and make rapid changes in direction with a fluidity and grace that at first seems impossible. And while this isn’t a game we can talk of in terms of realism, the physics involved are brilliantly handled, with a real sense of weight and balance to your katamari’s handling.
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