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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Video Game Connoisseur

The Video Game Connoisseur

Katamari DamacyPublisher: NamcoPS2$19.99ESRB: E (Everyone)

Usually I don’t play puzzle games. Not since my days of playing Atari (the original home entertainment system) have I spent hours playing puzzle games. This all changed with Katamari Damacy. I bought this game after receiving an e-mail from a reader suggesting I review it (your input is listened to and appreciated, everyone feel free to recommend more titles or ask me to review a game your not to sure about). Nothing I can say can really do this game’s ingenuity justice, but I’ll stumble ahead blindly anyways.

Most puzzle games have you doing the same boring, repetitive tasks over and over again with little in the way of reward except your name listed on the high scores. Puzzle games that try to give a back story for why you’re doing these tasks are even worse. Katamari Damacy has completely shattered the mold in both of these respects. The story is that the King of all Cosmos, a gargantuan guy who makes liberal use of the “royal we” and wears some pretty snazzy threads, got a little crazy one night and destroyed all the stars in the sky. In the American version they don’t give an exact reason why he was “a little crazy” but apparently in the Japanese version he was a drunk. The king’s only choice is to fix the problem, or better yet get someone else to do it for him.

You play as the Prince of all Cosmos, son of the King who decides that you should fix the problem. Something to keep in mind is that while the King is freaking huge you are only a couple inches tall. The way to put the stars back in the sky is you have to get stuff to make them out of, and you do this by rolling everything up into a ball. I do mean everything; dice, erasers, bottles of glue, books, cans, dogs, small children, buildings, everything. You roll everything up with a Katamari (which translates to “clump”). All you have to do is run over something with your Katamari and it’s added to your ball of stuff. This is where the game can get tricky, you can pick up almost anything if your Katamari (ball of stuff) is big enough, but what you pick up affects how your Katamari moves. Having a chopsticks or a signpost sticking out of your Katamari will make it “skip” when it rolls. This will cause you to stop and think about how something will affect your Katamari if you pick it up, and will make you contemplate coming back for it later. The game also does a very good job of showing the increase in size as you go. Whenever the Katamari gets to a certain size the camera will pull out some. You can go from rolling around on a table top to picking up people with your Katamari, and there’s something very amusing about watching them squirm, crying out or laughing, sometimes you’ll even see legs kicking. Most levels are a race against the clock to build up a ball of a certain size to pass the level. Sometimes you’ll need to roll up certain things to make constellations. For example you need to roll up fish for Pisces and crabs for Cancer. Also hidden in some stages are Royal Presents you can find which give you something you can have your character wear, such as a crown or a scarf, unfortunately you can only wear one thing at a time.

The Controls use the PS2’s dual joysticks only. The controls are set up so that you control the Katamari tank style. Pushing them both forwards to go forwards, back to go back, and in different directions to turn. The controls do take a little time to get use to and even more to master, however the learning curve is rather gentle so you do not need to become an expert in two levels. One of my favorite features in the game has to be the music. The composer created a basic tune and then ran with it for almost every song. The basic melody is rendered in a number of ways from being simply hummed to synthesized J-Pop to Jazz with English singing that reminds me of Frank Sinatra. Katamari Damacy became one of my favorite games for the PS2 overnight. It is one of those rare gems that never gets old. While it may not take very long to beat the one-player mode you will go back and try to find all of the Royal Presents or beat your record by trying to create bigger Katamaris on each stage. The game also features a two player versus mode. The two player mode isn’t as satisfying as the one player because there is only a single arena and it does not convey size the way maps in the single player mode do, so there is no real feeling that you Katamari is getting huge. This game should be on everyone’s to-play list, and at only $20 if you can’t afford it you’re paying too much for something (like your tuition at UMass). Katamari Damacy is worth every dollar you spend on it and then some.

John Kane III is the Photography Editor of The Mass Media. All opinions expressed in this column are his own, he can be reached at [email protected]. Three cats, two dogs, four schoolchildren, and a guy in a business suit were rolled into a ball in the making of this article.