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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
PlayStation 3
Namco Bandai
Namco Bandai
GENRE: Puzzle
PLAYERS:   1-2
September 22, 2009

Beautiful Katamari

Beautiful Katamari

i Love Katamari

Beautiful Katamari

Me and My Katamari

More in this Series
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on September 28, 2009

Review: Domo Arigato, Mr. RoboKing

Back in 2007, Beautiful Katamari was initially set for a PlayStation 3 release, but canceled for one reason or another. However, it was canceled with the promise that the franchise would appear on PS3 at some point in the future. That future date ended up being 2009, and the end result is the equivalent of a greatest hits album. Dubbed Katamari Tribute in its native Japan and Katamari Forever everywhere else, this fifth installment in the franchise cherry picks stages from Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari, Me & My Katamari, and finally Beautiful Katamari into one huge package. With some new gameplay touches and a traditionally warped story behind the rolling, the game feels fresher than it probably should feel, given the lack of new levels and of course, the fact that this is the fifth game in the series since the original hit in 2004. New Katamari addicts should definitely start here, and veterans who still can't get enough will be happy with the new touches and beautiful 1080p graphics. For those in the middle, well... there is a demo on the PlayStation Store.

In usual wacky fashion, Katamari Forever's story sets the pace for the Prince's rolling. This time, as the Prince is practicing his Royal Jump, his idiot father... I mean the King of All Cosmos, decides to show him how its done. Alas, in the middle of his jump, he's hit in the head by space junk, and is knocked into a Kingly coma. Panicking, the Prince and his cousins plot to build a replacement King, that they name the RoboKing. The RoboKing is even stupider than the original model, and in a nod to the original game, he leaps in the air and destroys all the stars. Great. So the mission is two-fold; roll Katamaris to fill the sky with new stars, and attempt to get the King out of his coma by reliving his memories of the past. It's fully understandable if you want to totally ignore this stuff, but you'd miss out on the warped intermissions starring the Jumbomen and the adventures of the Queen of All Cosmos, along with the ultimate confrontation between RoboKing and WhateverHeIsKing.

Katamari Forever doesn't stray far from the established formula. What is that formula? Well, you get a ball, dubbed a Katamari. It's sticky. Your job as the Prince or one of his disturbing looking cousins is to use the Katamari to roll up stuff of various shapes and sizes within a time limit to make a star as large as possible. Think of it as a puzzle game; in the beginning you can only roll up small things, but as the size of the Katamari grows, the larger objects can be picked up. The key to a high score is finding the best path and avoiding areas where there's nothing to collect. It's a very simple concept, highlighted by the very simple controls; merely using the two analog sticks on your Dual Shock 3. Those two sticks can be used to move backwards, forwards, sideways, and with a click of both buttons, the Prince will leap to the other side of the Katamari for instant reversing. Katamari Forever does include a new quirk, the ability to hop by either pressing R2 or flicking the controller upwards in a rare use of the Sixaxis. However R2 is the way to go, as the motion control is pretty janky and unintuitive in the game.

With roughly thirty stages in the game, Katamari Forever is the largest game in the series so far, despite the lack of new levels. There are some, such as the stage where you have to dip your Katamari in a pool of water and roll on barren land to grow new vegetation, but on the whole these are familiar levels, though some have been remixed and items are in different places. A lot of them come from Beautiful Katamari, which makes sense given the PS3 didn't get that game. However familiar stages from past games return; using a sumo wrestler instead of a Katamari, rolling up one single bear or cow, cleaning up a messy room, and making a snowman, for starters. Completing the game unlocks Katamari Drive, a completely insane version of the game that speeds up the game at least three times beyond normal rolling, and combined with a reduced time limit, makes the old stages new again with the absolutely frantic pace. Finishing those well usually unlocks the usual Eternal stages letting one roll around as long as possible, and finishing those brings out Classic Katamari, which takes away the motion control and the included visual filters to make the game feel like the old PS2 Katamari games. Suffice it to say, with so many levels and then spinoffs of each level, this is the largest Katamari game around.

While Katamari Forever is the most feature-packed game in the series, it does have a cut feature ? online play. It does have leaderboard tracking to compare scores with friends and other players, there's no competitive or cooperative play. It shouldn't be a surprise, really, since the 360 version was pretty much deadsville online after just a few weeks... I spent more time looking for people to play with than actually giving it a shot. Thankfully, the game does feature local multiplayer in both flavors, so all is not lost. Even without the online play, the replay value is off the charts; not only are there numerous ways to play each level, the hordes of cousins and presents to find, and even unlockable mini-games that come from past games. For fans of the franchise, this is the culmination of five years worth of rolling. The series has still been badly milked, but at least this time they basically came out and said it would be a compilation-style game without a lot of new stuff. The two-year gap between games is a step forward too; the yearly releases were really dragging down the quality.

Katamari Forever looks exactly like you remember. The cartoony stages loaded with familiar junk and Lego-esque people are pretty iconic by now. What's new are the visual filters to mix things up. The classic look is actually locked away until Classic Katamari stages become available; the default is the cel-shaded look, which is fantastic and fits the whole Katamari universe. The ?Wood? style is nice too, but yet it's not very exciting. A special filter for the King's levels put you in a black & white world, where things color in as they get collected. This is a double-edged sword; it makes some stages frustrating to see things due to the lack of color, especially the Beautiful Katamari stage where you have to get a 10,000 degree Katamari. Not being able to pick between hot and cold things in a hurry led to playing a lot of the punishment mini-game. Adding to the game is true 1080p support, and the difference between it and 720p is astonishing. It just looks and runs great.

The soundtrack of the game features a slate of remixes; there's few new tunes. The remixes of classic Katamari music are usually pretty good, though in some of the later stages that take 10 minutes or more, they really need to switch mid-song, as hearing the same one repeating over and over... ugh. Still, Katamari games are well known for their awesome soundtracks, and that continues through Katamari Forever. The usual weird voice ?acting? is back, with the King's scratches, and our new awesome friend the RoboKing has, naturally, a robotic tone. And as always, almost every object the Prince rolls up has some kind of sound effect, such as a telephone ringing when that rolls up, or the screaming of people as they're rolled up to be sacrificed in the star making process. The only downer is these sound effects were in the first game, so they're just not as novel as they were when Katamari Damacy blew our minds in 2004.

Bottom Line
Katamari Forever is the penultimate game in the series thus far; a collection of the best levels combined in a modest port of Beautiful Katamari along with the introduction of yet another awesome new character makes for a game that rekindles the love for rolling. First-timers to the series are definitely the best targets; this shows the series at its very best, though die-hard fanatics should be quite pleased with the variety and usual humor. Yeah, it's a rehash in a series that has tended to have original content in each game, but the new gameplay enhancements and fun new stuff is at least an attempt to evolve the series, which hasn't happened thus far. Long as they don't go DLC crazy like they did with the Xbox 360 version, Katamari Forever is a pretty good value even at $50 ? the highest price the series has ever debuted at ? and still manages to stand out as a unique title... there's nothing like it on PS3.

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