Have you ever thought to yourself
how a candy bar would taste if you added anything and everything you wanted into it? My
personal candy bar would be a regular chocolate bar, with many ounces of caramel, nougat, and pop rocks in the center, then
the top of the bar would be drenched in rainbow sprinkles, gummi worms, and the left over sugar from a bag of Skittles. I call it, the Katamari Damacy bar. Why
such a name? Well Namco, has made a game so outrageously weird, that you can only
hope to understand what is going on while tripping out on the biggest sugar rush of your life.
Keep the Sweet N' Low handy because this will be one strange ride.
In this gaming world of the generic
storylines of galaxy saving heroes, badass antagonists, and damsels in distress, it’s long overdue to have a game that
is totally derivate of any cultural puns, stereotypical dialogue, and painfully obvious outcomes. The unique story is what you ask? You are a prince standing
no taller than two inches rolling up assorted “stuff” on earth on to your Katamri (a sticky ball that picks up
anything, and grows in size with everything you pick up) trying to restore all the stars in the sky after you father (The
King of All Cosmos) gets hammered one night and accidentally knocks all the stars out of the sky. No I did not try snorting the Skittle sugar, this is the actual story.
The way the plot unfolds is so out
of the blue and bizarre that it’s almost charming. Cutscenes tell a
story of a family going to see their astronaut father’s rocket launch to the Moon, but the moon is gone due to the King
of All Cosmos binge. The people look like their made of legos, and the cutscenes
barely last three minutes, so not only are you laughing at the dry wit of the news broadcasters as the kids of the family
find out there are no more stars, but your left bewildered on what is truly going on.
By far the weirdest, yet most
satisfying aesthetic of this game is the way you go about restoring the stars. The
King of All Cosmos sends you to earth to either make just a random star, a certain constellation, or later in the game some
of the universes most commanding stars. He gives you a time limit (or as he says,
“I can only believe in you for X number of minutes), and a size goal for your Katamari. You’ll
start off relatively small with goals of 5-10 cm, but as you progress your goal not only inflates but so does the size of
your Katamari at start. As the King points out, the Earth is the planet most abundant
of "stuff". Scattered around the many places of the world you’ll visit are
almost anything you can think of. Towards the beginning of the game when
your size goal is relatively small, you’ll pick up checker pieces, small fruit, flowers, things of that nature, but
as you progress through the game you’ll be picking up a variety of gigantic items. It’s
amazing how much your Katamari can grow in a matter of 10 minutes. Before you know
it you’ll be picking up giant squid, volcanoes, the islands you roll upon, and even the very clouds in the sky. The ever-changing size of your Katamri is made clear by the camera. When you first start the prince will be just about as big as the Katamari, and the camera will be right
along side you, but as you grow the camera pulls back. It’ll grow so big
that you won’t even be able to see the tiny prince pushing it.
Before each rendezvous to a different
part of the world the quite amusing King of All Cosmos will give you a briefing so to speak.
These are some of the best and most unique parts of the game. He goes on
and on about his parties with friends, certain items he found on his morning walk, or just a pep talk managing to point out
every flaw of the small prince, you’ll crack up every time something comes out of his mouth (including rainbows).
Critics all over have cracked
on this game’s simple and primitive look, but I think it fits this game so well that if Namco decided to outfit Damacy
with fancy lighting and beautiful environments, it would ruin the feel of the game. The
whole time I played this game, I was reminded of my childhood when I would create these amazing creatures and shapes out of
legos. The game actually looks lego-ish in a sense. Whenever I finished a Katamari, I felt like I was seven years old again, running up to my parents to
show this item of wonder my mind had concocted.
This whole game looks like it
was created with a coloring book in mind, everything is just so bright and vibrant. The
water is bluer than the sky, the prince is dressed in a bright green outfit that would only be fitting in a Vegas extravaganza,
and the earth itself looks like a blue canvas painted upon by toddlers. It’s
mind-blowing in a way that no one is willing to admit.
This is by far the quirkiest and
most amazing soundtrack I have heard in quite some time. It’s almost all
in Japanese, yet I love it. Songs range from Japanese hip-hop to a song with the
unforgettable line, “I want to wad you up into my life”, sang by a man you’d expect to see in the lounge
of a Hotel 8 trying to make a few bucks singing show tunes. The soundtrack is
so odd at times that it’s in a way majestic. Never does the game stoop to
generic rock or bland rap to try and satisfy the players. It’s never normal,
and it’s never out of place.
The sound effects are equally
amusing. You’ll be greeted with a pleasant popping sound whenever you something
strays in front of your path o' destruction, and the numerous items you roll up all make distinctive sounds. Humans scream their lungs off, cats “meow”, dogs “bark”, and telephones ring. Not one sound feels like it doesn't belong. Even
the King of All Cosmos has a voice that sounds like a DJ scratching and mixing the records on the turntables. Everything feels
so right, that you begin to understand why this game is so weird. And don’t
even get me started on the opening intro, I dare you not to watch this corky intro every time the game starts up
just do to the utter wackiness and catchy tunes it plays.
I like to think of Katamari
Damacy as a great dream, in fact Damacy translates to “dream” in Japanese.
It comes out of nowhere, not looking like anything I’ve ever seen before, and knocking me off my feet.
As we know though, all dreams must come to an end (well not necessarily, but if they don’t end you may want to
see that checked out), and Damacy ends far too quickly then some may like. In
a lot of ways I’m reminded of the fantastic, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, in terms of its length. Sure you would like some more, but you’re perfectly content with what you’ve bit off. It takes me
back to the days up pumping arcade machines full of quarters as you try to complete your journey. And who better to give us a burst of arcade nostalgia than the Kings of arcade, Namco. Thinking back on the game, would an extra three or four hours of game be that beneficial, or is that just
what we’ve come to expect? Like a good dream, you can be sure that there
will be recurring dreams ahead, so keep an eye out for, hopefully, a Katamari Damacy 2.
The Japanese know how to making
gaming magic out of the simplest ideas. If you were to pitch a game, about a small
man with a pump, digging through dirt to blow up small dragons, to any big publisher in this day in age, you would be laughed
all the way out the door, but somehow Namco made it happen. I truly believe that this
game is the Dig Dug of the 21st century. No other game on
the market can make you feel so many emotions at once other than Katamari Damacy, you’ll be laughing uncontrollably,
humming along the tunes to the pleasently weird soundtrack, all the while dumbfounded as everything is playing out. This truly is a videogame form of sugar; it’s sweet, addictive beyond belief, but at the same time
an oddity. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play some more Damacy.