|System: X360||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: Oct. 16, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2 (4 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
The Katamari series has finally reached the next generation of gaming with this new ball-spinning adventure. If you are unsure of what a Katamari is, you might have to check the old PS2 library and find out what Namco has been up to. Three successful Katamari games were released for Sony consoles between September of 2004 and March of 2006, so it was time to reach the competition! Not only are they now part of Microsoft's console, but it's rumored that you'll find Beautiful Katamari on the Nintendo Wii sometime in the near future. We'll see if there's any truth to that.
For now, we'll have to comfort ourselves with playing Beautiful Katamari on the Xbox 360, which is nothing to be sad about. Thanks to the 360's achievement points system and the nice online capabilities it has to offer, Katamari has come back to life at its best. These features are certainly what make this game worth it all over again, in spite of the fact we played two games on the PS2 that were a bit too similar and one on the PSP that didn't have much more to add.
Beautiful Katamari, just like its predecessors, is a "royal" game. It's royal because it's successful and also because there's a royal family in it. Of course, don't expect to find Prince Charlie or the Queen of England in it. Instead, you'll have the pleasure to meet his Majesty, the King of All Cosmos. He's an almighty individual who thrives for a perfectly ordered universe where peace and harmony abound. Things don't always happen as expected and he often has to put his young lad to work. The Prince is a hard-working character who you'll be handling most of the time, unless you decide to share the tasks with his cousins, whom you'll find hidden throughout the game. This time around, his Majesty the King was playing a game of tennis with the Queen and, all of a sudden, with a forceful hit, he launches the ball up to the skies and creates a black hole that starts sucking things in non-stop. He manages to stop the evil black hole, but now it's time to restore the harmony in the world.
We're talking about all these characters as if they were normal human beings, but when a game has been designed with a pure Japanese gaming audience in mind, we've come to expect zany characters, awkward gameplay, and colors, lots of colors! That's also the case with the Katamari series. The King looks like a wacky, oversized, butt-chinned God with a gray face, colorful ear warmers, and a majestic, purple robe that he wears with pride. The Queen is a sweet lady with a white and pink dress, blonde hair, and a friendly smile. Our Prince wears a green shirt and purple tights; he's a bit like Link in the Katamari kingdom. For some reason, he also wears an antenna on top of his head. Maybe that's what the King uses to annoy the heck out of him! Somehow he's always where you least expect him, telling you hints and other nonsense, and taking over the whole screen while you play.
Your job throughout the whole game is rolling a ball. You'll go all over the stage rolling and rolling, while the objects that are on the floor somehow stick to the ball as if it was a magnet with ultra powers. You'll start off with a small-sized ball and, as you pick up things, it will grow bigger in size and allow you to gather even bigger items. When you start, you'll bump into almost everything, so it's important that you try to strategically roll over those areas with smaller items in place. Later, the gameplay will pick up and you'll be rolling everything along like a mad ball of energy. Usually, the King will request that you roll a ball of a certain size to clear the stage, but in a few of the levels you'll be challenged with other duties like gathering hot objects and avoiding the cold, etc.
The formula is basically the same as always, and so are the controls. As you might know, you'll roll the Katamari by using both control sticks at the same time, pushing both sticks forwards to roll ahead, pushing one towards the front and the other one backwards to turn the ball around, pressing both of them down to do a quick 180-turn, etc. You can also dash by alternating the left and right controls with an up-and-down motion. This will launch you like a rocket, which is helpful sometimes and can be catastrophic in others; bumping into walls can rid you of some objects or even destroy the ball! In fact, that's one of the goals that will grant you achievement points. I have to say that Beautiful Katamari is not a very "generous" game when it comes to achievement points. You'll have to obtain many of them by playing online, so those who don't have access will have an even harder time obtaining more points. Even though the controls are traditional and there wasn't much to add here, the camera angles should have been worked on a little more. I can imagine how difficult it is to get it right, with the crazy amount of objects spread throughout the game and the multiple walls that you'll find all over the place. However, dreadful camera views will often handicap your actions, and that's just not fair.
There are various levels in the game with different stages in each of them. The main screen is the Princedom. It has numerous buildings with different purposes: one for changing the sound and vibration options, another one for loading and saving your game, one where you can check out your collection of items, etc. One of the buildings will also host the accessories and other presents that serve to customize your character, and the rocket takes you to Katamarius (online play). When you beat a level, the Princedom will grow and you'll have access to a new area with more stages in it. Also, when you pick up the camera, the camera building will show up in the Princedom, giving you access to pictures you can take along the way; it's more of a gimmicky feature but at least it's there, which proves that the developers were trying to innovate.