Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Puzzle
Fans of Katamari Damacy on the PS2 and its follow-up titles probably have a pretty good idea what to expect from the upcoming entry in Namco Bandai’s goofy, weird, Japanesey and irresistibly fun series. While it’s headed to next-gen platforms (the Xbox 360 initially, and later the PS3), the gameplay, controls, and goals haven’t changed a bit. Even the graphics don’t seem to have taken the power of next-gen to heart (which is actually probably for the best, considering the series’ signature blocky presentation). Yet, even amidst such a tremendous lack of significant change, players who fell in love with the earlier titles still have a lot to look forward to.
First and foremost, while the graphics seem to be as bland and unimpressive as ever, it’s quite apparent that this was a stylistic choice. The power of the next-gen systems has been put to a more subtle use this time around, allowing for the game’s environments to include far more items to be picked up, as well as a lot of activity. The version we played (being demoed on an Xbox 360) plopped us down on a small island where a family was playing, amusingly enough, the Xbox 360 on their TVs. However, a look all around revealed all sorts of characters running around, fishing, wrestling, biking, and doing all sorts of other things as my Katamari slowly increased in size.
Even with the Xbox 360 controller, the gameplay feels exactly the same as the previous games. The left and right sticks control Katamari like a tank, press the sticks in to jump to the other side, and flick ‘em back and forth to power up a speedy dash. While other ports to the 360 feel at least a little different on the different controller, Katamari’s gameplay made the game immediately familiar, and I have to imagine the same will be true of the PS3 Sixaxis controller.
With all this stuff being so alike to the old games, you might be wondering just what’s new, and the answer is primarily the addition of multiplayer support, which will allow for both a co-op mode comparable to the one seen in We Love Katamari (with each player controlling one side of the Katamari) as well as a versus mode that sounds similar to the one seen in the original game. As is befitting the online environment, players will also be able to outfit their own princes, princesses and second cousins with their own unique look thanks to a new character creator, so when your massive Katamari slams into another player’s online, they have a unique face burned in their memory to curse in the name of the great King of All Cosmos. Err… or something like that.
It also bears mention that the game will feature an entirely new soundtrack. Still, given the series’ track record for wonderfully unique and appropriately Japanesey soundtracks, there’s little doubt that Beautiful Katamari will have a beautiful soundtrack to go with it.
While it remains to be seen how opting not to deviate too far from the original game’s formula will work for the series as it moves to next-gen platforms, series fans are probably unlikely to complain even if this game turns out to be just “more of the same”, because we just can’t get enough Katamari, and even just the ability to share our Katamari experience online is something that’s too tempting to pass up.
It's not like a Katamari game requires incredible graphics, so this one looks as ready to go as it's gonna' be.