06
Oct
09

Mini Crit: Katamari Forever

It turns out that when you’ve not been able to play the games you wanted to write blog posts about because you’ve spent the week playing a different game, you should write a blog post about that instead. Logic! With that startling revelation comes a new featurette, Mini Crits: shorter posts about games that, while good, don’t need huge walls of text devoted to them.

Reviews of Katamari Forever*, the next game in the series that sets you in the role of the son of the King of All Cosmos and tasks you with using a magical ball to roll up items in order to create ‘stars’, seem to have focused on a couple of issues:

You see, for all the silliness, Katamari Damacy was at heart a didactic condemnation of the developed world’s rampant consumerism. Takahashi never wanted to make another Katamari game. Not only had his point been made elegantly by the first game, but also the core idea had been fully explored.

-Simon Parkin, Eurogamer

Rolling a katamari is as charming as ever, but you may have rolled most of these katamaris before.

-Gamespot

The first point is easy enough to address: Takahashi made a sequel thus fully opening the doors to the series expansion into a franchise. The second is a little more complex, but in my opinion, still somewhat unfair. Named Katamari Tribute in Japan, Forever is essentially an HD re-make of levels from the previous games. I may be starting to sound like the traditional ‘fanboy railing against the mean journalists’ here, but it seems unfair to criticise KF for re-hashing old levels when it’s entire purpose is a greatest hits of the series to date. You don’t criticise a band’s Best Of compilation for using previously recorded material.

As with previous games the final few levels reach a ridiculous scale.

That gripe aside, Katamari Forever breaks down like this: For newcomers to the series it is, pretty much, an essential purchase. Katamari remains a brilliant concept and, unsurprisingly, it’s as fun as ever here. Series veterans, however, will have to weigh up whether the game adds enough new twists to justify the asking price**.

There’s certainly a lot of content on offer. Each level can have up to four different modes in which it can be played. The Endless mode, which allows Katamari’s to be rolled independent of time constraints, is a feature so obvious it’s staggering this is its first inclusion. The soundtrack has also had some attention, consisting of some excellent remixes of previous songs in the series (and some that make you pine for the originals to be included). While not the most visually stunning game you’ll ever see, the graphics are charming and, as with everything on offer here, in keeping with previous games. Of special note is the filter applied the first time you play through a level in the King’s memory: at first everything is black and white, with colour returning to any object in the level that matches something you have already rolled. Not only is this a nice visual representation of the story but also a helpful gameplay mechanic highlighting potential routes that would be beneficial to your growing size.

On successive level playthroughs different graphical filters can be selected.

Some will argue that there still isn’t enough new content to make the game worthwhile, and that’s fair enough. For me, especially after the deluge of ultra-violent, ultra-murky (I’m looking at you Prototype) games I’ve played recently, the passive, peaceful atmosphere of Katamari Forever has been exactly the game I’ve wanted to indulge in over the last week.

*On browsing some of the review summaries from Metacritic I noticed one that read, “Katamari Forever is the penultimate game in the series thus far”. Hey, Metacritic: How about you don’t count the opinion of people who don’t know what penultimate means?

**Actually, don’t pay the asking price which is a staggering £45 RRP. It’s available, with a little digging online, for about 20 notes, a much more reasonable price.

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