IGN Review of Katamari Forever
So the Katamari franchise returns once again in Katamari Forever for the PlayStation 3. To no big surprise, the game is essentially the same thing that we've been playing for years now without any major new features, but rather an overall refinement and slight improvement to the already-existing formula. However, it still has the same old Katamari issues that have plagued the series since the original release, and while its quirkiness made it much easier to overlook these problems in the original game, it's getting harder and harder to do so as time goes on.
The "story" of Katamari Forever is that the Prince is practicing his jumping one day, and never to be outdone, the King of the Cosmos shows off with a mega jump that propels him into space. He's hit with a flying meteor of some sort and knocked unconscious, unable to perform his regular, err, tasks. The Prince then immediately decides that rather than seek medical attention, he'll build a RoboKing to take over (which is exactly what it sounds like). The RoboKing of course goes crazy and knocks everything out of the sky.
With this setup, you'll find that the game is essentially broken into two parts that you jump between -- missions for the King, and missions for RoboKing. The RoboKing's missions are usually of the more "classic" Katamari sort where you're tasked with simply building up a Katamari to a certain size requirement in order to fill the sky again. Generally speaking, you can do whatever you want in these levels. The King, on the other hand, is not only unconscious but has lost his memory as well, so his missions are more goal-oriented in that they're there to help him recover his memory. As a nice touch, when you start a mission for the King, anything that he doesn't remember is black and white, and after collecting an object, all other copies become colored to let you know that the King now remembers them.
This setup is generally pretty good in that it keeps you going between more open-natured and goal-oriented levels. Some of the game's missions can be fairly inventive. For example, there are a few where you're told to make a Katamari of a certain size, but you aren't ever told how you're doing. So, you just roll until you think it's right, press Square to end the rolling and hope you're close.
For the most part, the missions work well enough, though there are a couple that can be a little annoying. One mission for the King in particular later in the game has you try to collect hot things in order to create Mars. If you pick up something hot, your temperature goes up. Collect something cold, and it goes down. The problem is that since the level starts out black and white, it's hard to tell what's what and I found that it turned into a big trial-and-error problem. Couple that with other issues that I'll get into in just a second, and it only gets worse. There are also a couple levels where you need to collect a certain number of items and then return to a main goal object to collect it (like a sumo wrestler or a person trying to read in the dark), but depending upon the level it can be easy to get lost and have a hard time finding your way back when time is short.
As I mentioned, Katamari Forever still has a lot of the issues that have been in the franchise since the start. The camera can be very problematic, often obscured by objects in the environment. It's particularly bad if you're in a level with lots of tables (which is the case in the Mars level I mentioned above). You'll sometimes find it difficult to creep up over ledges that you should be able to pass. One new control mechanic in Katamari Forever is that you're able to jump up to get to higher ground. This would be nice were it not for the fact that you have to yank the controller upwards to make the Prince jump, and it's often unresponsive. It is, in fact, incredibly infuriating many times, and it's so unresponsive that you cannot count on it when you need it most. It's very nice that you can jump, but it really sucks that you have to rely on SixAxis input to do so.
Surprisingly, there's a fair amount of pop-in throughout the course of the game. The environment is fine and always in view, but smaller objects sometimes won't appear until you get close to them, which is a problem when you're starting out small and need to hunt around for stuff to pick up. Confusingly to an extent, there's also slow-down in some sections, which given the largely unimpressive visuals (though the art style is cool), we shouldn't be seeing this.
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