|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 18, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
The return of the Katamari Damacy saga to a PlayStation console has been applauded by many. The wacky and super addictive object-rolling series had its first HD release on the Xbox 360, which surprised almost everyone, considering it had been a Sony-only hit up until then. Beautiful Katamari was a great title full of innovation and luscious visuals, but perhaps its worst gripe was the asymmetrical controller and the buggy online gameplay.
This time around, Katamari returns as a tribute to the highly acclaimed series and, for the most part, it does things right; it's more of the same, but as fun as always. My biggest complaint is the camera issues, which seem to be present in every single game, especially in earlier levels that take place in tighter spaces. I guess Katamari will never be perfect, but that's also part of the magic. Rolling up a panda who's riding a bicycle or getting huge so you can fight the chunky sumo wrestler down in the arena simply has no price, so we're willing to overlook the game's imperfections.
A new story explains why we have to keep on rolling things in order to create new stars, planets, and the likes. It turns out The King of All Cosmos bonked his head and now can't remember anything. The prince and his adorable cousins thought that creating a RoboKing would be the best way to replace their Majesty and bring things back to normal, but boy, were they wrong! RoboKing went bonkers and ended up destroying the stars in the Cosmos, so now they have to clean up the mess and roll everything up again to help restore the King's memory and bring order to this chaos.
Katamari Forever offers 34 new levels with plenty of playable cousins and presents to find within. It also brings back familiar stages, but presented in a whole new way. The game's most noticeable difference is the visuals during gameplay. I admit I didn't expect the cel-shaded look, and it took me some time to get used to it, but it grew on me. This seemingly hand-drawn 3D style is very original and makes the game look like a funky and modern work of art - a perfect homage to a five-year-old franchise that's managed to gather millions of fans around the world.
Luckily, in case those visuals are not your cup of tea, it'll only cost you time to attain the other graphic filters. As you progress through the game and unlock new levels, you'll also unlock new gameplay modes and the wooden filter, as well as the comic-book style and the classic one. Though the default cel-shaded graphics are neat and do a nice job playing with colors and even turning objects from gray to their full color scale, it's refreshing to be able to change things around. Moreover, it's one more reason to keep you rolling Katamaris until the end.
Once you finish the game, the Katamari Drive mode will become available, allowing you to go through the existing levels at a really fast pace. Additionally, all 34 levels can be played in Eternal mode, designed for those looking for a nice and relaxing "Sunday drive," away from any conditions and time limits, and Classic mode, where the ability of hopping and other Katamari Forever features simply won't be available - this one is for conservative Katamari fans.
Yes, I said "hopping." This new Katamari game lets you bounce around the stage as you please to reach certain areas and make sure you don't get stuck anywhere. This ability really comes in handy in numerous occasions and even becomes part of the strategy, though it does have a downside: landing after a jump takes some of your valuable time away, which could make a difference in the end. That's why I recommend players to employ it wisely and not overuse it.
Other than jumping (achieved by jerking up on the SIXAXIS controller or by depressing R2), everything else is the same. Rolling and controlling the Katamari is done with the analog sticks, much like you would control a tank (I know because I've driven many tanks well, not really), and quickly turning around is achieved by pressing down both thumbsticks. By moving them rapidly back and forth, you'll launch the Katamari forward with a dash effect that lets you pick up everything on the way in a flash, given the size is right for your Katamari ball. Another tweak to the series lets you zoom in and out and see things from the prince's perspective, which can be useful, if nothing else, when taking pictures to save in your hard drive.