Japanese video game developers can be counted on to come up with some really strange game ideas many of which are as fun as they are strange. Alas the vast majority of these titles never see the light of day here in the states. One such title that is available here and which has had just tons of critical acclaim is Namco’s Katamari Damacy. The folks at IGN.com gave it a 9.0, over at Gamespot it got an 8.7, the guys at Gamespy gave it 4.5 stars, and the various gaming geeks on G4TechTV bring it up every chance they get. Reader reviews at each of these sites rank it even higher—the 268 people to rate it on Gamespot gave it a solid 9.0.
If you were to judge it just based on the screen shot you might not understand what the fuss is all about. First, it’s hard to tell just what the hell is going on, but it’s quite apparent that this game doesn’t feature the latest cutting-edge rendering engine. There’s no mip-mapping, shader rendered specular bump-mapping, or even real-time lighting in the game. In fact it looks like it belongs on the PSOne and not the PSTwo. A summary of the game play won’t help clarify things any. Basically your character has this ball—called a Katamari—that he rolls around and everything the ball touches ends up sticking to it. As you continue to roll the ball around collecting random objects it grows bigger, naturally, and is able to pick up even bigger objects until eventually you’re sucking up things such as tanks and high rise apartments. That’s pretty much it. You don’t shoot anyone. There’s no psychic powers. No vast array of weapons. No high speed cars. Not a single slobbering alien in sight. None of the usual stuff and yet reviewers are saying it’s one of the best games they’ve ever played. Why? Well, let’s start with the story:
- Cookies and kebabs, lawn mowers and lamp posts, synchronized swimmers and sumo wrestlers, bulldozers and windmills, giraffes and brontosauruses, Ferris wheels and cruise ships beware! The stop-at-nothing pushing prince is coming.
When the King of All Cosmos accidentally destroys all the stars in the sky, he orders you, his pint-sized princely son, to put the twinkle back in the heavens above. How, you ask? By rolling everything and anything on earth into clumps, so he can replace what’s missing in space.
You gotta admit, that’s pretty original right there. The consensus seems to be that this game is one of those rare occasions where a highly creative idea, simple game play, funky design aesthetic, addictive music, and good old fashion weirdness all coalesced into something unique and special. To grasp how the game plays you have to see it in motion and this clip from Namco will give you a hint of what the game is like. The Japanese TV commercial for the game is worth checking out as well, but to really appreciate just has weird it is you have to watch the intro movie. You can see more videos of the game in action over at Game Informer. About the only complaint most reviewers had was that it was too short and left you wanting more, but the game does have some replay value and it only costs a mere $20 so that’s not as bad as it sounds. Pretty much everyone agrees that they’d like to see it do well so that more off-beat titles like this will make the trip across the big pond to the states. After reading so much good stuff about it I’m definitely planning on picking it up myself.