This is how I roll

March 12, 2008 at 2:46 pm (Leikr, Smáskitligr) (, , , , )

The time has come to wax lyrical on my pet subject since I got my PS2:

Christ, do I love this game. Irrationally, I suppose, because there’s no gore, no scares, no zombies, no special powers, no big swords, no intricate plot, no crowbar, no secret rooms or passages, no puzzles, none of the things I thought I required in a game.

The thing is, the Katamari series only contain game elements that are found in the Katamari series. There is just no overlap between other games, none at all. Remember that point in your life when you accepted that monsters carried around gigantic swords, grenades, and lots of money in humongous invisible pockets? And that things like “wreath of daisies” plus “pretty stone” plus “iron spear” could be made into “Death Lance of Hades”? Ordinary items were not just ordinary items, they were extremely hard to find and had weird powers. Why, you plead with your character, can’t you just bend down and pick the bloody daisies yourself?

The Katamari series is resplendent with everyday objects. Its charm comes from mixing things (and here I refer to “We Love Katamari”) like flying cowbears with vending machines, tires, pancakes, bushes, ramen bowls: the flotsam and jetsam of modern life.

What’s even better is that objects you never thought you could pick up can be picked up, like islands and streets and buildings – what was just scenery five minutes ago. I guess the concept taps into some primordial hoarding instinct in my case, but I get so much glee from sweeping down a street and leaving nothing behind, and then coming back a few minutes later for the street.

There are no health bars, and no enemies, and there’s never any urgency in the music, so while doing well at each level is actually really difficult, playing the game is never very stressful. Even though Katamari is guaranteed to be a novel experience if you’ve never played it before, the interface and game physics are instinctive, so people looking to casually play don’t have to put up with a learning curve or memorize button combos, but the game is designed to pull you in; just passing the levels isn’t good enough.

These are games you can beat in a day, but as the plotline is not even the icing on the cake but more like the decorative edible flowers on the icing on the cake, beating them isn’t a big deal. I still haven’t finished doing everything in “We Love Katamari” yet, because that requires knowing all the maps pretty much by heart, which would take weeks and weeks of obsessive playing.

9.8/10

The character design is perfect, the music is perfect, the concept is perfect, the challenges are imaginative, and really the only complaint I have is that the games never have enough levels.

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2 Comments

  1. imolta said,

    When I first bought the original Katamari, I played it for all of an hour in my room before my housemates began wandering in to see what was up. They played–and I beg your indulgence here, as I’m *not* exaggerating–for 77 hours straight, rotating in and out as they succumbed to the need to eat, sleep and void. After the first half day or so, I’d noticed they actually hadn’t stopped playing, so I started keeping track. They only stopped because, after 77 hours, they had finished *everything* in the game to the absolute best of their ability. Amazing scores on the cow/bear levels, even.

    I’m honestly pretty burned out on Katamari, but I’ll buy every new release because of the joy it brings to people when they visit. It will keep a room full of people entertained for hours, without drugs or alcohol: a minor miracle.

  2. ataxas said,

    The cowbear level is mean in the same way those soft-spoken, seemingly sweet, female language professors are mean.

    It lulls you into a sense of pleasure with the pretty design and the cheerful music and POW you have an F-minus sitting in your lap and you’re wondering where your mother went wrong.

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