The Katamari series began on Playstation 2 and has seen numerous sequels and updates across many platforms. Katamari Damacy, the first entry into the series released on Playstation 2 in 2004, captivated gamers around the world with its quirky style, and an unseen gameplay conceit—to roll a ball of increasing size, picking up larger and larger objects. Gamers took a break from guns and swords, and saw the beautiful simplicity and contagious joy that Katamari evokes.
2010’s Katamari Forever brought PS3 gamers ball-rolling bliss in high definition. Although Katamari Forever borrows some of the same levels and assets from previous titles, it looks superb and vibrant on PS3. Alongside graphical changes, the PS3 iteration of Katamari introduces a much needed jump ability, which can be indispensable in some levels. The simple-to-learn, difficult to master gameplay remains intact, and the high-novelty concept and bonkers humor remain compelling reasons to make Katamari Forever part of your gaming library. The high-novelty concept and bonkers humor remain compelling reasons to make Katamari Forever part of your gaming library.
Katamari can be an extremely gratifying game, even if the challenge level is minimal. Going from an insignificant ball no smaller than a thimble, to a mountain-eating, city devouring ball—all in the span of a single, 10 minute level—is one of the greatest experiences in gaming. Where once you were as though a tiny bug, chased and pestered by dogs, eventually you grow to such magnitude that you roll up entire continents and beyond. To go from rolling up Mahjong tiles, to overwhelming entire villages and land masses demonstrates Katamari’s impressive sense of scale.
The whimsical tone that permeates Katamari is evident in its art direction, narrative, and even the controls. The unorthodox dual-thumbstick method of controlling your Katamari ball mimics your character’s outstretched arms pushing and straining against a massive rolled-up ball. Outside of menus, there are, miraculously, no buttons. Brilliantly, Katamari controls with just the dual sticks, and relies on the player to constantly compensate for the size and increasing difficulty apparent in rolling around a cumbersome, snowballing spheroid. There is a terrific sense of weight as your Katamari ball gets heavier and more unwieldy as it gets densely packed with objects. There is a terrific sense of weight as your Katamari ball gets heavier and more unwieldy.
The world of Katamari is arguable the most zany, light-hearted universe you’ll ever experience in gaming. Katamari imagines an off-kilter world populated by towers of pizza, giant monsters, cats pulling rickshaws, dancing Power Rangers, and other wacky animals and objects that beg to be experienced (and rolled up into oblivion). There are hundreds of items and objects to roll up and collect. You’ll get on-screen prompts when you pick up special items, or messages that remind you that you are the size of 39 child-sized shoes, or that you are as large as 20 buses.
Each level is preceded by a goading/motivational speech from the King of the Cosmos (or his Robo-King counterpart), who needs various Katamari balls in order to form stars and other celestial bodies. These asides are purely comical and are mostly gibberish, and serve to lighten the tone even more. Another cool flourish in Katamari Forever is the range of graphic rendering styles. Some levels feature a cel-shaded look, while some look etched with colored pencils. The most original graphic style, though, is a unique wood-grain look. After completing a level in story mode, you can go back and replay levels rendered in the graphic style of your choice.
Levels and objectives are surprisingly varied. You might be tasked with restoring life to a dry desert, and must use your Katamari ball to transport water from spring to spring. There are the few odd levels where you have to guess when your Katamari has reached a certain size—say 2 meters—and any size below or above that is penalized. Some missions limit you to certain types of items to roll; a particularly memorable mission has you targeting food items, and puts you in control of an underfed sumo wrestler who needs to bulk up in order to take on the awaiting yokozuna master.Some levels can be more challenging than others, and actually require a fair bit of strategy.Some levels and objectives can be more challenging than others, and actually require a fair bit of strategy. Becoming familiar with the level layouts is essential for some of the harder missions, though the difficulty curve from start to finish is gentle and organic. One level tasks you with rolling up “hot” items (hot foods, combustibles, etc.) while avoiding cold ones (ice cream, water, and the like) in an attempt to create a new star.
There are gads of wearable toys and presents, as well as collectable (and selectable) members of the King of the Cosmos’ royal family. These “Cousins” are bizarre avatars like robots, aliens, and celestial beings. Cousins don’t have any new abilities, but are fun to find and collect, as well as offer an even deeper look into the kooky, imaginative world of Katamari.
The soundtrack is suitably charming and goofy. There’s a “beatbox” version of the Katamari theme song that is as odd as it is catchy. Amid the 36 songs and remixes, you’re bound to find one that infectiously sticks in your head. Like the different rendering modes, after completing a level, you are free to pick and choose your favorite audio tracks on that stage.
The Katamari series saw another iteration on Sony’s Playstation Vita in 2012, as well as an oddball offshoot called Noby Noby Boy in 2009. (Noby Noby Boy distills the whimsical nature of Katamari to such a high concept, that there are no objectives at all—just wacky levels and zany objects to play with without timers or goals.) The structure and gameplay of Katamari Forever, and all the Katamari games, is ideal for gamers looking for bite-sized action beyond the mold of action shooters and first person deathmatches.