Creativity. Everyone talks about it. But how can you define it? Easy, say Katamari Damacy
. That's it. You're done. Katamari
is all you need. No verbose explanation, no descriptive imagery, no pronunciation guide, no synonym list, and no sentences using it in practical conversation. Just rip the dictionary in half, whip out the fattest Sharpie you can find, clutch the closest person to you by the collar and scream Katamari Damacy
at the top of your lungs while etching its happy name into the poor soul's forehead. It's creativity in two words and happens to be some of the most fun the universe can offer for just $20.
Instead of sitting where you are staring through the saturating glow of your monitor to reach this text with your mind, imagine yourself uncomfortably perched at the head of an oblong conference table King Arthur would be proud of. The room was born from mahogany and stuffiness. Around you sit twelve executive level clones, neatly kempt and grim -- expressionless suits carved from years of dedicated earnings watching and revenue tallying and franchise bolstering and credibility saving. Bam! Some dude falls through the ceiling, looks around blearily, shakes the dust off his knees, and says, "Hey chumps. I got this idea, see."
Turns out he had one of the best ideas a game developer has had in years. More importantly, he had it in mind to make his idea into a real game. It's not an easily classifiable shooter with a new kind of bump-mapping. It's not an adventure with more elaborate sword swinging. And, it's not a simulation with the most detailed missile trails imaginable. It's a game, real and genuine.
What is a game? Like creativity, a game is Katamari Damacy. It's simple.
"You're this little star guy, see." He fell through the ceiling and now he's speaking to no one in particular. The clones haven't blinked. "And your pops...Well, he's a comically abusive alcoholic. Anyway, he's the King of the Cosmos, right? He goes on this wicked bender and manages to break a lot of stars. Now that's not any kind of good, so he tosses you a Katamari, or little-sticky-ball-thing for the layman. Then he Rainbow Roads you to Earth..." Now there is much blinking.
"No, you heard okay. Rainbow Road, I says." He still seems to be speaking to the air between the pressed suits. "So, you're star guy with a little Katamari. Now you need to collect some junk so dad can make up some new stars to replace the ones he busted." Hopefully, his audience begins to blink, blink, blink.
"Nah, nah, nah. There's no magic or psychic powers or laser beams or mutant scorpions that can only be killed with the gem of power," he continues. The air seems to be paying him more attention at this point. "I'm talking about collecting cats and thumbtacks, and some people, and then an octopus and maybe Godzilla or something." The blinking continues, now angrily.
"Oh, it'll definitely work. I know, see. Each time you grab something with the Katamari, its size increases. This way the more junk you get by pushing it around, the bigger it gets. Eventually it'll get so big that you can pick up buildings and islands and clouds and thunderstorms and everything..."
And then it became a reality. Katamari Damacy is that idea on a disc. It's an astonishing, simple, outrageous embodiment of creativity and style. It controls like a nimble tank, requires the use of exactly no buttons (but keeping your finger over a couple helps from time to time), and is all about one little star guy pushing an ever expanding -- er, sphere-thing around the world. He rolls on and picks up whatever happens to be there. It's a box of hilarious, clever joy, and at the same time it happens to be so enchanting it's nearly impossible to look past, even if you're just idly walking by. Everyone giggles when you praise it until they see it. Everyone scoffs and gawks when they read about it until they play it. Amazingly, all this game offers is the Katamari, a time limit, and a complete lack of restraint. Roll on! It's great because of the scale. Levels begin with a tiny Katamari rolling through bed and living rooms, picking up buttons, spiders, erasers, and pieces of fruit. 25 minutes later the bloody thing is ripping rainbows out of the ground. Insanity!
Though the missions are all similar in terms of design, they change in terms of layout. The bigger the Katamari gets, the less possible it will be to roll back to unexplored areas to accumulate smaller items, but the more likely it will be to roll on to new areas where heftier items can be grabbed. There's a strategy to it that even extends beyond this.
Everything in the world is bound by weight and size, lighter objects increase diameter and can be picked up, but may be too large and awkward to handle easily, causing the Katamari to roll at odd angles. And then you just keep rolling, swiveling the analog sticks to tightly round corners, racing to reach new areas or to cross fields with wayward cows or circus balancing acts on their far ends. It's great because of scale. It's great because of diversity. Yet, if only there were more.
Katamari, for as unique and stylish and enjoyable as it may be, will only realistically last a weekend. It's $20 for a few hours of immediate gratification and a few more hours of beating times and records and unlocking goodies and partaking in objective-based missions. Short to a fault, but so sweet it'll be picked up again, and again, and again.
And the specifics? In terms of graphics, our good friend Dan who runs the PC channel managed to sum it up best when he said, "It's a two and a 10" This is true, it's painfully bland at a glance, but marvelously scales to become ridiculously detailed. It's cluttered, animated wonderfully, and broken up by mind-blowing cutscenes that make little sense. It features towering, but blocky humans that wander about constricting environments; then, it suddenly features tiny people who humorously flail around after they've been caught on the Katamari that continually rolls, devouring trees, cars, and anything else in sight.
And the audio? The audio's more of a 10 and a 10. It's not the most technically brilliant collection of scores ever devised, but not since Mario created its everlasting tune have we heard tracks so catchy and so genuine. Add to them the ultra satisfying shouts surprised pigeons, cats, mice, cows, people, and giant monsters make when they're rolled up into the recesses of the Katamari and you have something that's just incredible. Then there are the cutscenes again, so confusing and so perfect with their monotone deliveries.
Not sold? Give it to a kid. We can all sit around playing DOOM by ourselves after they're put to bed. Or, we can let the little ones venture through Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon as we quietly stew in unending agony. But, give Katamari to a child and you'll immediately find a new way to bond. It's so easy to come to grips with, anyone can play after two minutes practice, but so much fun hardly anyone can stop after an hour passes. Purchase a second controller and you'll even find a limited, but remarkably enjoyable arena match that forces Katamari rolling combatants to make the biggest ball they can in the allotted time, which even means rolling over the opposition, if necessary.
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