Beautiful Katamari

Kat

(Exclusively for XBox 360)
By – ‘Tiger’ Oliver

Pros
First
Katamari game for XBox 360
First game in series to support High-Definition graphics
C’mon, it’s
Katamari Damacy, what’s not to love?!
Cheap price

Cons
DLC only adds level support – at 200 Microsoft Points a pop
Controls are a tad confusing for first-time players
Although challenging to master, single player game in entirely too short
A little too hard to find

When Katamari Damacy first came out on the Playstation 2, hardly anyone outside of the gamer-sphere (that I know of) even heard of it. Heck, I never even heard of it for two years after its release. Despite that, critics praised it as one of the best games of 2004 and one of the most unusual cult-classics of all time.

Now on its fourth game, the Katamari series debuted on the XBox 360 with Beautiful Katamari in 2007.

The storyline (in a nutshell, er, katamari ball?) goes something as such: the King of All Cosmos, his son (the Prince) and the Queen are on vacation playing tennis. The King ends up hitting it into the sky, tearing a hole in the fabric of the universe and sucking up all of the solar system, save Earth. So, the Prince is charged with recreating the solar system the only way he can: by rolling up things with his Katamari ball!

But, is this game really all hype, or does it deliver?

NOTE: I did not test the multiplayer modes, so I will not review them as of yet. Check back within the next few months for a detailed update including multiplayer!

Gameplay – 4/5

If you have never played Katamari before, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. In essence, the only thing you do is roll smaller things up with your katamari. The larger your katamari becomes, the bigger things you can roll up. You start off picking up coins and tacks in the earlier levels, and end up at the end of the game rolling up entire continents and even the stars and planets you created! The whole concept is odd and strange, which is what makes this game so addicting; which is surprising, considering most family-friendly games outside of Super Mario, Kirby and Sonic (sans Shadow the Hedgehog) suck more than contestants in a milkshake-drinking contest.

Ultimately, nothing’s changed in terms of the basic gameplay design. Now, in one level, you roll up hot things to get your katamari above 10,000 degrees Celsius, while in another you’re charged with rolling up certain things for the King, but it’s usually more about getting to a certain size in time. Upon completion of a level, you can play a time attack mode and, upon a perfect scored level, you can play it in “eternal” mode, where you roll up as much as you want with no time limit.

During each level, you can roll up presents containing special costume accessories and other characters, or cousins of the Prince. Veterans of Katamari should recognize a great number of these cousins, as I do not think there are any new additions to the family.

Honestly, I wish this game was a whole lot longer, considering I could beat this game in one night. Also, I wish you didn’t have to get a perfect score to achieve the “eternal” mode for each individual level.

That aside, the gameplay still has it years later. The feel of the game is extremely happy-clappy. This is pretty much the game you should play when you’re depressed, you’ll cheer up almost instantly.

Graphics – 5/5

If you’re looking for Halo-quality graphics, play Halo. If you’re looking for an acid trip without the acid, pick up Beautiful Katamari.

The worlds are brightly colored with the rollable items (is rollable even a word?) being rather blocky in nature, kind of like Grand Theft Auto III on a massive scale. However, with the concept of the game, I can forgive the blocky items. In fact, if you put a young child in front of your television while playing this game, it’s pretty much like “Dora the Explorer” on steroids.

Besides that, Katamari was always beautiful in its own right, but when playing in 720p HD, it’s practically a visual orgasm. It does slow down at times (especially when there’s a whole lot going on on the screen), but that can be excused due to the intense colors. Definitely one of the most aesthetically-pleasing games I’ve played in awhile.

Sound – 4/5

If you’re not a fan of J-Pop, you’re pretty much out of luck with this game. That’s all that plays in this game (for the most part, save a techno song and a classical piece, both based on Katamari), so either mute it or get used to it.

That aside, the sounds are crisp, clear, and a trip in themselves, especially at the end of receiving your level scores and completing the level. A perfect partner with the trippy graphics.

Controls – 3/5

The controls are simple, you use both analog sticks to control the katamari. By alternating each stick back and forth, you can cause it to build up speed and release, zipping across the stage. By licking down on both sticks, you do an about-face. That’s it.

Besides the simplicity, the controls are horribly confusing for all but the seasoned vet. It takes a bout three hours to get used to, then they tend to be confusing even into the second half of the game. Save the mind-numbingly simple controls, it works for this game. Maybe not enough for a four, but enough that it doesn’t suck.

Replay Value – 3/5

Despite its short gameplay length (it can be beat in 10-15 hours no problem), the replay value is decently high. You can go back and unlock all the cousins and presents, try to get a better score, or try to do better at your favorite levels. However, it doesn’t save the fact that, after awhile, you have to put this game away for a week or so to keep it fresh. Even with the DLC, there ain’t much more besides rolling. Of course, for the price, you really can’t beat it.

Overall Score – 4/5

It’s a very great game for such a cheap price, even for being over two years old. Maybe not as good as the bigger-name games such as Halo, F.E.A.R., Batman: Arkham Asylum, or Soul Calibur IV, but it’s different than ANY other game you’ve ever played (unless those other games are Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari or any of the portable Katamari games). The novelty, in and of itself, makes up for the graphical and control issues; however, it doesn’t come close to saving it from the lack of gameplay length.

Buy – Why not?

Seriously, why not? I bought my copy back in January from Wal-Mart for a little more than $25. If you can find it in stores, it should be around that price, if not less. So, if you can find it, get it.

Rent – If you can find it

I’d 100% endorse this for a rent… if you could find it anywhere. I’ve checked Hastings and Blockbuster here in town, and no place has the game available for rent. So, unless you have it at your local video store or you have a Gamefly account, renting it’s out of the question. Besides, for such a cheap price, go ahead and buy it right-out.

Again, if you can find it.

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