(KATAMARI DAMACY REROLL is out now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows. Distributor provided review copy.)
Oh you pretty things
In a fit of euphoric madness, the King of All Cosmos accidentally destroys all the stars in the sky. It’s up to you, the pint-sized prince and heir to the Cosmos, to pick up the slack and fix things. But how does one fix something on such a galactic scale? They grab their Katamari and get rolling, of course.
Arriving on the current generation consoles after 16 years in oblivion, KATAMARI is just as wild and nutty as you remember it. Not a lot of it makes any sense, and the zaniness does start seeing diminishing returns before long, but when KATAMARI works, it’s a hoot unlike anything else out there.
Everything in its place
KATAMARI comes from a golden age of gaming when quirky Japanese titles began to flood the west. REROLL isn’t a remake or a full remaster, but a nostalgia-filled throwback to a simpler time. One where a seven-hour campaign was more than sufficient, just as long it was charming. And charm is abundant in KATAMARI, from the loungey jazz and muzak filled score to the wacky animations and absurd plotting.
For example, watch how level transitions are through King Cosmos, sucking you into his gob through a rainbow bridge. Or how the menu screen is your very own small planet, in the style of THE LITTLE PRINCE. KATAMARI DAMACY REROLL is complete with such dedication to absurdity and love for things punny that it oozes charm from every pore.
The levels are still wildly inventive, starting small in kitchens and living rooms before expanding to cover cities and entire planets. Your Katamari can only pick up things smaller than itself, but the more you collect, the bigger it builds. So while at first, even little raisins might prove an obstacle, it’s not long before an entire kitchen table is easy to collect. There’s logic to the absurdity, which gives Katamari much of its power. You understand the mechanics, even if they don’t make a whole lot of sense.
Same as it ever was
That’s really the basic point of the game. You collect items to grow the Katamari into a specific size so that the King of the Cosmos can turn it into a star. Every once in a while, he’ll pipe in to encourage you or comment on how the things you’re collecting are the very same he once, as a young man, also rolled into his embrace. It’s ludicrous and bizarre and makes the whole thing that much funnier every single time.
As you progress through the game, your objective size for the Katamari grows as well. A bigger Katamari is more unwieldy to control, leaving the giant ball-of-stuff spinning fast from your grasp when rolling downhill. A sudden stop from a larger obstacle will knock items off the collection, making the Katamari smaller again. It’s a balancing act of being fast and efficient but also careful enough in your roaring rampage of silliness.
Sadly the controls are from the past and lead to numerous cases of accidental collisions far too quickly. Both sticks control the Katamari, with the left going backward and forwards, while the right handles turning. Depending on your age, this is reminiscent of KULA WORLD or SUPER MONKEY BALL, or a relic of the dark ages you’ve read about in history books.
More of a good thing is a good thing
Either way, it’s not a comfortable control scheme in the least, even if you at one point were used to it. Throw in additional mechanics like jumping over the Katamari for quick 180-reversals and a clumsy “look” mechanic, and KATAMARI DAMACY reveals its age fairly quickly. They’re not inherently bad things; it’s just we moved past them in game development some time ago.
But once you get over the finicky controls, KATAMARI DAMACY reveals itself to have aged exceptionally well. The simplistic but smart design works beautifully still, and the charming animation style is just as endearing today as it was before. There’s a reason this is a fondly remembered cult classic, and if REROLL is a testing ground to see whether or not there’s an audience for a sequel, it’s a raging success.
If you’re a fan of the beloved series, there’s no reason not to get REROLL for another playthrough. If you’ve never played it before, this is the perfect entry point. Either way, KATAMARI DAMACY REROLL is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. A trip down the rainbow-colored memory lane that everyone can enjoy.