There’s nothing quite like Katamari Damacy – absolutely nothing. Art style, gameplay, story, characterisation… you’ll never see anything like it anywhere else. No one has tried to replicate its blend of wacky, goofy, touching arrogance because it’s such a unique proposition, and that means Bandai Namco are pretty much free to periodically release the game again under a new guise. We’re perfectly happy with that by the way! That’s what Katamari Damacy Reroll is, a straight up HD remake of the original PS2 game from 2004, and whilst it’s been on Switch and PC for the last couple of years, it’s now come to the PS4 and Xbox One. After 16 years of rolling up plants, animals and structures, can it still provide a refreshing and entertaining few hours?
Having cut my teeth on We Love Katamari after eventually being able to track an EU copy down back in 2006, I’ve been a fan of the King of All Cosmos and the Prince for a number of years, so all this is old hat. If you’re new to it though, it might seem just a bit nuts. The King has woken up after what must be the mother of all benders to find that he’s managed to wipe out all the stars and celestial bodies in the heavens, barring the Earth. Tasking his diminutive son with fixing his mistake, he sends the Prince to Earth with a Katamari ball to roll up everything he can find and recreate the wonder of the galaxy. With its magical powers the ball makes everything smaller than it stick to the surface and the more it picks up, the bigger it gets. The King uses each collection of stuff to replace the stars and return sparkle and delight to the night skies. That’s assuming there’s anyone left to appreciate them given how much of the planet the Prince has rolled up, and that he’s put up with the continual interruptions and berating from his oversized dad.
Katamari Damacy Reroll’s principle is simple then – roll around an area and get stuff to stick. It’s not a complicated concept and with the tank style controls for the ball across the two analogue sticks, it’s fairly easy to get the hang of. The King hands out tasks in each level like growing the ball to a particular size or collecting certain objects, then sets a time limit and lets you loose. It starts out easy enough with lots of little items that are a breeze to snag, but as the mission to repopulate the stars moves up a gear it starts to get more challenging. The levels are not quite open world, though as the Katamari grows it “unlocks” other areas. Trundling around a house at 30 cm might be the start, but it doesn’t take long to get big enough to break out and head to parks, towns or even roam the oceans looking for bigger fodder. Core to the game is making as big a ball as possible before the timer expires and the King uses his royal rainbow to whip the Prince off planet and critique the effort. He’s a tough being to impress.
As it’s an easy game to pick up and play you’d be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t anything to consider, and there you’d be wrong. It’s not rocket science, yet there is an element of tactical play to hit the target size on time. Most of it comes from experience, and knowing which objects are going to stick first time and which are best avoided is key to quick completions. It’s not all about size, the density and weight of items do contribute to rollability and need to be considered before running smack into them. Likewise, moving objects can knock the Prince flying and make the ball shed things from the surface, so watch out. There’s little more frustrating in Katamari Damacy Reroll than being punted off and getting wedged – sometime you can escape, sometimes you just have to watch items fall off and the size shrink until you’re able to move again. Picking everything back up is possible as long as it’s done quickly enough, so getting back up to diameter doesn’t take long, then it’s off for more assimilation.
Over the years and iterations of the series the art style hasn’t changed much, and with the HD makeover it’s nice to see that there are smoother edges, but it’s retained the same look and feel. With a deliberately angular presentation (presumably originally to handle the number of items being rendered), coupled with a bright and colourful palette, Katamari Damacy Reroll just oozes charm and fun. This isn’t meant to be taken seriously, it’s absurd and whimsical in equal measures, and – if you think a bit too much about the story – a trifle distressing too. Refilling the night sky involves stripping the Earth of all its resources to the point where there’s nothing left including the family that are used to convey the world’s view of the strange occurrences, guided by an egotistical deity that holds the power to accidentally (and jovially!) destroy stars. Yeah… look at the pretty colours and listen to the funny sounds and take yourself off to your happy place. There is always the music to keep you calm. A nice mix of Japanese jazz and ridiculously catchy pop will make you forget about the suffering of those trapped near the centre of the seething, roaring, shouting mass. That got dark fast, eh?
No, you’re not actually going to think any of those things with Katamari Damacy Reroll because it’s just pure joy. It excels at making you think there’s no progress being made before suddenly ramping up the scale and the delight, and it leaves you wanting the next run to be the biggest yet. It largely satisfies that craving by drip feeding larger and larger environments, though it teases a bit when it doesn’t pay off completely and leaves you wanting more. That drives the replayability however, even if you’re not a completionist wanting to roll up all the items in the game, or desperate to dress up the Prince by finding all the lost presents. Take it at face value and get lost in this bizarre universe where scale means everything and nothing, and its only purpose it to make you smile.
A PS4 review copy of Katamari Damacy Reroll was provided by Bandai Namco’s PR team and the game is available now on PS4, Xbox One and Switch for around £30 depending on platform.