I'm a 30 year old male. I rip through Mature-rated games like candy, completely unfazed in the least. I watch Unrated movies from France and Europe. Late night TV has nothing on me. And I confess; I became a giant freaky mess of goofiness when I found out that there would be a sequel to Katamari Damacy. I love quirky games. You know, the ones that you can't openly discuss with your buddies (PaRappa, Dance Dance Revolution, etc) for fear of them thinking any less of you, but which everyone is going home to play anyway. Well, I loved Katamari Damacy and I "love" Katamari too.
For those just joining the psychedelic goings on, in Katamari Damacy, The King of All Cosmos (no, not Elvis) "accidentally" destroyed the universe and The Prince (no, not The Prince formerly known as Prince, but the King's (still not Elvis) son) was sent to earth to fix his dad's mess by "rolling" objects on earth into balls and shooting them back up into the Cosmos to recreate the starlit sky. Sounds simply right? Well, Katamari Damacy turned out to still be on the most fun (cool, strange, looney, funny, disturbing, quirky, psychedelic, surreal, outlandish, happy, Doctor Seuss-y, dizzying, addictive, charming) games out there. And while We Love Katamari may not be as "monumental" in scope, the story and goings on haven't diminished it one bit.
This time around, Katamari was so popular that everyone on earth is a fan. And while there is a very interesting (and hilarious) backstory about the King and shooting more balls into the Cosmos, the Prince must try to fulfill requests from fans who "love" Katamari. Sounds simple again right? Well, it's just as fun, but some requests will have a few new quirks to them.
As the Prince (or any of his cousins that you've unlocked - by "rolling" them) you still stand behind your Katamari (giant sticky ball o' fun) and roll it around picking up progressively larger and larger objects until you've met a size quota. Again, you will generally be given a time limit in which to build your ball up to a certain size. As you pick objects up, a small window in the lower left of your screen will inform you of what you've just added (which is always fun). As before, you use both analog controllers to push your ball forward and back, left and right and over obstacles. You can still dash and strafe and spin around your ball for a better view. Pressing both thumbsticks in will make the Prince jump over his giant ball and reposition the camera on the other side. In the original Katamari, this was the best way to control the camera since it often would become obscured by random objects or walls. In We Love Katamari, objects now become "transparent" in part and allow a better view of your surroundings making the game much less frustrating. You can still jump over your giant ball from time to time, if you're into that. There are also extra viewpoints for the camera which allow you better views of the action. These few tweaks literally fix practically all the issues that plagued the original. Yes, the camera and transparency system aren't always perfect, but the will help newcomers greatly.
What really makes all Katamari games so different from anything else on the market however, isn't the simple task of rolling a ball, but the spirit, atmosphere and joy that this simple task generates. Levity, quirkiness and hilarity are the themes here and We Love Katamari has all of these in spades. Yes, the King of All Cosmos goes on far too long about everything. Yes the "fans" have exceptionally odd requests. Yes there is a disturbing nature to everyone's obsession with chins. Yes the rainbows are psychedelic and the songs are catchy and funny and the humans look weird as you roll them up and the crabs still sound scary as they clatter away, but all that and a brilliant sense of discovery (even now in the sequel) make Katamari what it is. I've yet to meet anyone who can stand by and watch this game being played and not beg to try it out. And the beauty is that while simple to pick up and play, Katamari has enough depth to keep even die-hard gamers playing long after the "story" portion of the game has been completed. Katamari is as much for young children as it is for discerning adults. It's the game that everyone thinks is weird but which everyone can't help but play. Yes, we really do love Katamari and the clever title (and it's very tongue-in-cheek story-line) is only the tip of what this title has to offer.
The hub of the game is now a meadow (much easier to navigate and understand then before). Here you will still have access to your photo album (which you can fill with pictures once you've acquired the camera present), your collection (which keeps track of all the objects you've ever rolled up), presents (unlock-able items used to dress up the Prince and his cousins), various options, requests (from fans and the King) and The Cosmos. Here you will be travel into the night sky and be able to view all the star data from completed requests (which have been fired up into the heavens). Failing to complete a request creates stardust while completing a request promptly creates a shooting star. The beauty of this menu is that is also allows you to import and view all your Star Data from the original Katamari Damacy game. Very nice.
While this Katamari game still allows you to play against friends (in 2 player versus mode with full rankings for bragging rights) it also allows you to play cooperatively "with" your friends. In this mode, each player will be assigned a side of the Katamari to push, but much like in single player mode, both sides must be pushed simultaneously for the ball to move anywhere desired. This mode may be a blast to some, but I personally found it frustrating to never have visual cues telling me what my "partner" was doing. Yes, laughter ensues, but deep down inside, I just wanted to go back to playing alone. I've read somewhere that the Japanese version had on-screen thumbsticks to show you what was happening and if so, I can't think of a valid reason why they were removed. Still, it's much more fun to play "against" your friends than with them and the mode is there as novelty for you to try.
Visually the game retains all of its earlier charm, bringing small objects to life with great detail. The cut-scenes are expertly done and retain all the charm and underlying oddness of its predecessor. There are now many more environments to roll in and some are just downright crafty. What's nice is that each environment also has its only personality and feel. The rules of each request (and stage) are also very carefully and brilliantly balanced and crafted. But what many gamers really care about is Katamari's audio. Is it still as cheery and bright and poppy and fun and catchy as Katamari Damacy was? Absolutely. From the opening theme song (which will make you smile with its "dam dam dam" chorus) unto the remixes in the game, We Love Katamari knows how important its songs are. And let me assure you that you will have them in your head (unwittingly sometimes) for a long time after you've turned the game off. The sounds, on the other hand, are often recycled from the previous game, but they fit in so perfectly (especially the dang lobster/crabs) that you'd be hard pressed to find a fault there.
In the end, Katamari is like a joyful infection; it's contagious and it's impossible for anyone to come in contact with it and not be affected. While it may not be the be-all and end-all of games or a "gaming revolution" in any way, it "is" a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family, watching as the smiles spread across their face as they roll their Katamari to bigger and bigger heights. If games are made to entertain, it's truly hard to find one that does it any better than Katamari. Pick up the original, pick up this one too and you'll see, when they announce the third one, you'll be a giant freaky mess too. Don't worry, Your friends will still talk to you even if you love Katamari too.