Katamari Forever PlayStation 3
Published by: Namco Bandai
Developed by: Namco Bandai
One of the most enjoyable games I've played in the nine years or so that Deaf Gamers has been running is We Love Katamari. The original Katamari Damacy never made it to Europe and it was torture to read reviews from the US about how unique and enjoyable that game was. With We Love Katamari I got to see just how bizarre and brilliant it was to simply roll the katamari and pick up bigger and bigger objects eventually rolling up vehicles and huge buildings. In recent times we've seen more Katamari titles across a variety of formats but in truth the successful formula hasn't changed at all and it's probably time it did.
There is a story to Katamari Forever and as you'd expect it's a wacky one. The king is dismayed by the prince's pathetic attempts at a jump. He shows the prince how to do a Giga-Jump and whilst he's way up in orbit he is hit by a black star. He's not seriously hurt but he has lost his memory. The prince decides that a robot king, aptly named RoboKing, must be built to do the king's work. Things don't turn out as planned however and RoboKing goes on the rampage destroying all of the stars. Your task is twofold. You'll have to play through levels in The King's Cosmos, in order to restore his memories, and in RoboKing's Cosmos in order to fill the galaxy with stars once more. Completing one level in a cosmos will unlock the next one in the other so you're constantly switching between the two.
Katamari Forever can essentially be classified as a celebration of the previous Katamari games with a smidgen of innovation thrown in for good measure. There are a lot of levels here that Katamari fans will have seen before. For the most part you'll be using the two analogue sticks on your controller to steer the katamari around over all kinds of objects which causes the katamari to increase in size (kind of a rolling snowball effect). Initially you can only roll up the smaller objects but as your katamari becomes larger you'll find you are able to roll up objects that you couldn't to begin with. Some levels deviate from the formula to a minor extent. In one level you're rolling a sumo wrestler around to collect as much food as possible. He increases in size and the idea is to make him large enough so that when you roll him to meet his opponent, he's big enough to knock him over. Another level asks you to roll up enough fireflies so that the katamari will provide enough light for someone to read their book in the dark outdoors. At the end of each level your katamari is turned into a star or planet and thrown into the galaxy. You'll be given a points total (supposedly out of 100 but you can earn more) and the king (or RoboKing) will comment on your performance.
We mentioned earlier that there are some new elements that have been thrown into the traditional Katamari formula. From a graphical perspective there are a variety of filters, such as Wood, Comic and the Classic Katamari look (the default actually looks quite different) which really do help to make those older levels feel quite fresh. There are a few new levels here (which haven't appeared in any of the previous Katamari games) that mix things up a little. One level for instance requires you to fill your katamari up with water and roll it over a desert landscape. The water helps to irrigate the land causing lawns and plants to sprout forth. Of course the water in your katamari will deplete so you'll have to return to one of the pools of water to keep refilling it. You now have an ability called Prince Hop which allows the prince to jump into the air. You can perform this jump either with a quick flick of the controller or by pressing the R2 button. In levels you'll also come across a heart that once rolled up, will give you a temporary ability to suck up all of the objects that you are capable of rolling up within the surrounding area. These new elements don't dramatically change the experience but do make it worthwhile playing through the various levels that you may have already played through many times before in earlier Katamari games.
Probably the most neglected aspect of the game has to be the multiplayer element. Essentially you have a Co-op and Versus mode for two players. This is particularly disappointing as it's exactly the same as what was available in previous games. There's still no support for online multiplayer and that's a real shame as it would have made the game more appealing for those who've already played the majority of Katamari games that have been released.
I think it would be fair to say that this is the most eye-catching Katamari to date. The HD visuals definitely make familiar levels look crisper than ever (although they don't really improve on the visuals in Beautiful Katamari which appeared on the Xbox 360) but it's the variety of graphical filters, which are unique to Katamari Forever, which really help to give this game a distinctive look. The pop-up book effect of the game's menus is actually very impressive and definitely gives the game's presentation a lift. The frame rate is mostly fine but on some levels where the camera zooms out quite a distance you'll notice the frame rate slow significantly. This doesn't cause any problems but nevertheless, it's a little disappointing. The camera is generally well behaved but there are times when your view of the katamari is blocked but thankfully this is never anything but a minor hindrance.
Katamari Forever is exactly the same in its suitability for deaf gamers as previous Katamari games. All of the dialogue in the game is shown in text so you'll be fully aware of the game's crazy storyline. The instructions for each of the levels within the game are shown in text meaning you'll always know how big your Katamari should be and what it should consist of. You're also shown how much time you have left to complete the task. During a level you're notified of what you've collected which is important when you should be keeping an eye on what the katamari should consist of. You'll also be told during a level if you've discovered any of your cousins (which you can play as once you've found them even though it doesn't change the way the game plays) when rolling up an object.
If you've yet to experience a Katamari game and own a PlayStation 3 then Katamari Forever is definitely the one to purchase. It's the most complete package to date and you'll experience a large portion of the levels that were offered in earlier titles. If you have already played the games in the Katamari series then the game is a little tougher to recommend because it contains so much content from previous titles. That said, it's difficult to fault Katamari Forever's value for money. There's a lot of content here and all of the new features do add to the experience. Katamari Forever may not have the novelty value of earlier games in the series but there's no denying that it can still be addictive and immensely enjoyable.