We Love Katamari PlayStation 2
Published by Electronic Arts
Developed by Namco
Release Date: Out Now
We Love Katamari, an introduction.
Being a big fan of console RPG games, and given the fact that here in Europe we miss out on so many, it's been a big temptation to import a US PlayStation 2 over the last few years. There has also been one other game that has had me sorely tempted to import. Katamari Damacy, that odd and reportedly very addictive game from Namco where you take a sticky ball and roll around all kinds of environments in an attempt to stick all that you can to the ball, looked very inviting indeed and it's a real mystery why the game was never released here in the UK. We should be thankful at least that the sequel has made it to our shores.
What's the game about?
The game's introduction informs you of how the King of All Cosmos managed to destroy all the stars and how the Prince, controlled by the player, had to put the damage right by rolling up great balls (katamaris) of stuff that was then made into stars by the King and then placed back in the sky. The people of Earth were very impressed by this and have come to adore the King. Their adoration knows no bounds and they offer heaps of praise along with requests for all kinds of katamaris. We Love Katamari focuses on you, controlling the Prince again, carrying out these requests. There's not much of a story here although completing certain requests will trigger a cutscene that give snippets of the Kings progression from childhood to finally becoming King.
What's good about the game?
What makes We Love Katamari so enjoyable is its simplicity and its originality. Most of us here in Europe won't have experienced Katamari Damacy but even so you'll have no trouble in getting to grips with the game. During the game's levels you only have to use the two analogue sticks to control the katamari. Instead of using a Super Monkey Ball style control scheme where you only move one analogue stick to control the ball, here you'll have to use both sticks together. You'll push the two sticks in unison most of the time. You'll push the two forward to move forward and vice versa for moving backwards and sideward. To turn you can either push one of the sticks up or down on their own or you can push one up and one down at the same time to turn more quickly. Pressing the two sticks down together performs a quick 180 degree turn. Dashes can be performed by quickly moving the sticks back and forth. That's really all there is to the control scheme and whilst it takes a little while to get used to moving the camera around you'll soon get used to it.
The basic idea then is to take the katamari and make it as big as possible by sticking as much to it as possible. The challenges place you in all kinds of environments and you'll get to pick up all kinds of objects. Initially you'll only be able to pick up small items but these will make your katamari bigger which in turn will allow you to pick up larger items. To add extra spice to the challenges (requests) most of them have time limits and the idea is to reach the required size within the time limit. Early challenges will start you off with a katamari of 5cm and will require you to reach 15cm (in 3 minutes) but a later challenge begins with a katamari of 1m and requires you to reach a size of 500m (in 17 minutes). It's not just about making katamaris that are as big as possible though. One challenge hides the gauge that shows you how big your katamari is and you have to push it to the finishing location when you think it is 20cm. Another level requires you to push a Sumo wrestler around instead of a katamari. The idea is to make him big enough (by rolling him over enough food) to defeat his rival. Another level sees you rolling a snowball around until you think it's big enough to use as a giant snowman's head. One of the levels even has you rolling around a flaming katamaris which has to be big enough to roll up a camp fire. If you fail to pick items up the flames will go out and you will fail your challenge. Failure to complete a mission will result in you getting the laser eyes treatment from the King. Thankfully though you can easily replay any of the challenges should you fail them.
The biggest positive about We Love Katamari is that it's quite unlike any other game you've played before (assuming you've not played Katamari Damacy of course) and it's one of those games that all the family wants to have a go at. It's as addictive as it could possibly be and even when you've completed all of the challenges (which won't take too long) you can go back and replay them to improve your katamari size and finishing times etc. The multiplayer games mean you'll be able to enjoy the game with a friend. There's a versus mode and a co-op mode (which allows you to play the single-player missions with a friend). The versus mode gives each player a katamari but in co-op you'll both have to control the same katamari. Thankfully there are indicators on screen to show each player how the other one is moving their analogue stick. Both modes are fairly entertaining although personally we thought the co-op mode was the better of the two. We Love Katamari is definitely one of those games that every PlayStation 2 gamer should have in their collection.
What's not so good about the game?
Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari have been big sellers in the US and one of the reasons has to be the budget price of $20 that each game has sold for. This roughly equates to around £12 so some may find it disappointing that here in Europe the game costs the full retail price of almost £40. Thankfully though, this complaint is negated somewhat by the fact that the game is worth the asking price and is very enjoyable. More challenges would have been welcome, although I would imagine there's a limit to how many different ones you can come up with when the goal is simply to roll a sticky ball around. Throughout the various challenges you'll pick up the Prince's relatives on the Katamari and these relatives can be controlled in place of the Prince if you want to do so. Unfortunately, choosing to play as these other characters makes no difference at all (although you'll have to find at least one of these relatives in order to be able to play the two-player games). Had these characters had different characteristics that allowed to them to move or turn faster etc. it would have added an interesting twist to the game play.
How does it look?
On the face of it We Love Katamari looks simplistic. There's no denying though that the game has a certain charm that more than makes up for its simplistic look. The people and the animals you'll see are rather square looking. The buildings and the vehicles are rather simplistic too. In fact virtually all of the objects in the game look like they came from a pre-school children's toy box which might seem odd but it's a visual style that certainly works. On the technical side of things the frame rate is fine throughout the game but you will notice that the draw distance isn't that great when your katamari gets huge and your viewpoint is elevated to a bird's eye view of the world. Some levels are very large and broken up into separate parts. These parts have barriers which you can only pass when you reach a certain size. When you reach the required size a loading screen will appear and you'll have to wait whislt the loading takes place. Thankfully there is some dialogue from the king so you're not just staring at the screen. On the whole though there is very little to complain about with the look and presentation of the game.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
We Love Katamari is extremely deaf gamer friendly. All dialogue within the game is shown in text which means you'll be able to understand everything that is being said and also what is being asked of you in every challenge. In order to obtain the challenges (requests) you'll wander around the Select Meadow and talk to the people who have requests for the King. You'll know who has a request for the King because the character's speech is shown in speech bubbles, which is very useful. During the levels your katamari will get big enough to pick up people and large animals. When you get near to them an exclamation mark will appear above their head to indicate they can be picked up which is a nice touch. The game manual is certainly worth a mention for its clear presentation (it answers any questions you may have) and wonderful artwork. Even the screenshots have been drawn instead of simply including a screen grab.
It's really difficult to put into words just how enjoyable and addictive We Love Katamari can be. It's not a perfect game by any means but it's a whole load of fun that everyone can enjoy. The simplistic control scheme (camera control may seem initially fiddly though) and the crazy level design do a lot for the game's appeal. It's the kind of game that won't take you long to play through each challenge for the first time but will have you replaying them time and time again because the game is just so enjoyable. The multiplayer modes aren't quite so impressive but the co-op mode in particular can be a real laugh when you're used to how it works. All things considered, We Love Katamari can be considered an essential purchase.
Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10
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We Love Katamari is a game every PlayStation 2 owner should experience. It's addictive game play and unique style of presentation make for a memorable experience that you would be silly to miss out on.