It's been a while since we saw a proper new Katamari title, but to be perfectly honest, the old titles still hold up remarkably well. So it's only natural then that Bandai Namco has returned to the original title Katamari Damacy, released on PlayStation 2 back in 2004. Fourteen years later and the low-poly nature of things that get stuck onto your well, sticky Katamari thingey, is just a lovely as it once was.
The basic (and utterly absurd) story of Katamari Damacy (and its younger Rerolled cousin) is that the King of All Cosmos has been of a bit of a bender and accidentally destroyed all the stars in heaven. Now the task falls to the little prince to use his sticky Katamari (which roughly translates to clump) to bundle up various items on Earth to make new stars to replace the old ones.
With each item, your Katamari grows and as you do you can pick up bigger items, so there's a nice progression to each level where things that once were obstacles become pick-ups. Early levels are rather small in scale, but some are big enough you'll be rolling around with giant Katamaris bundling up trucks, elephants, houses, and anything else that gets in your way. You've got a set amount of time to do so, and any extra time left over can be used to make it even bigger in an effort to please the always rather ungrateful king. What's great about the concept is that your Katamari isn't perfectly square so you need to compensate for the shapes you pick up and things tend to get a bit wobbly.
There is a tremendous sense of progression and accomplishment in the basic gameplay, and it's very addictive, so much so that's it is hard to put the Switch down once you get rolling. Apart from the standard "make a star" levels, there are also levels in which you need to gather up specific things to please the king. These are a bit more relaxed as there's no size limit, but in order to perfect them, you need not just be skilful but also learn in what order to gather things up so you don't miss out on an item hiding under something larger, for instance. There are a few alterations to this theme, but for the most part, this game is all about growing the Katamari as big as you can as fast as you can.
Reroll is being launched on PC and Nintendo Switch and as you'd expect the later is a great platform for the experience, at least on paper given the short burst of gameplay offered - perfect for handheld sessions. It does present a few issues when it comes to controls as the analog sticks on your Joy-Cons aren't as good as those on a DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller, or perhaps more importantly for comparison not as good as the sticks on your old DualShock 2. The way in which you flip the sticks fully just
But while Katamari Damacy is a game of skill and precision at the top level, it's also quite forgiving for those simply trying to clumsily roll their way through the levels.
The controls is one area where Bandai Namco has tweaked the game a little from its original form (otherwise it is largely untouched apart from a visual overhaul) as a simplified control scheme has been introduced where you control the Katamari using only the left stick (not both sticks in unison) is introduced. This control method does rob the game of some of its uniqueness, though, and for an old player, it felt less intuitive and well, our fingers had to adjust to the various skill moves. We preferred to play it the classic way, the two stick controls which work a little like say Pod Racer, charging the boost by jostling both sticks up and down and pressing on both to make an instant 180 on the position of the prince. In addition to classic and simplified controls, there are motion controls, but the less said about this the better. It's simply not the way to play Katamari Damacy.
Katamari Damacy is not just a fun little arcade title, it's also a fascinating look at Japanese life and everyday objects. The things you pick up include items with a distinctly Japanese flavour like pieces of sushi or plastic capsules for figurines, or certain types of candy, signs, the cars... and the sumo wrestlers. The king may be a globetrotter, or so he tells us, but Katamari Damacy itself is utterly Japanese down to the smallest of details. The music is another area that stands out and you'll be humming along with the various catchy Japanese pop tunes, the sort that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
In terms of content the original Katamari Damacy isn't that rich, if you're just playing to unlock the ending and finish all levels you've got maybe 6-8 hours of gameplay here, but of course, replaying the levels, unlocking the eternal (no time limit) versions, and perfecting the "make a constellation" (specific items) levels is another matter. And this makes it an even more ideal portable companion as there are plenty of additional challenges including finding the gifts the king happened to misplace and unlocking the various cousins.
Overall, Katamari Damacy Reroll is a great remaster of a game that has aged really well and feels as vibrant today as it did back when it first released. The amount of work that has gone into the quirky presentation, the strange and wonderful menus, is something you rarely if ever see in modern titles where these things have been done away with for the sake of streamlining and standardising the experience, often with good reason, but when you're confronted with Katamari Damacy it reminds you of a day when the freedom was there for the developer to design a menu where you rolled onto your chosen save slot (each one third of the Namco logo). Whenever you feel the need for a bit of sunshine (and royal insanity) in your life, that's a good time to boot up Katamari Damacy and for that reason alone it deserves to be part of your gaming library.
Loading next content