|We Love Katamari (2005)
Available for: PlayStation 2
The Japanese have a way with incredibly weird games. Any MAME fan can attest to this, with the wealth of games available to play through the emulator that were never released stateside. In the same way that many people profess to enjoy British TV comedy shows more, the Japanese have the corner on the market for enjoyably weird, addictive video games that should see the light of day more often over here. Last year, a step was made in this direction when Namco released the delightfully twisted “Katamari Damacy,” in which the player assumed the role of the Prince of the Universe.
The gameplay was ridiculously simple. When the King of All Cosmos had knocked out all the stars in the sky, he sent the Prince down to earth to roll a ball-shaped item around called a Katamari and collect all the objects he could so they could be sent into space and replace the stars. That’s all there was to it. The bigger the Katamari, the more stuff you could roll up, like people, animals, vehicles, and buildings. There was the most original soundtrack to be heard in years, and the game proved that simple and weird is often fun and refreshing.
So it was rather surprising to see that Namco has come up with a sequel to this oddball, called “We Love Katamari.” Talk about self-referential tongue in cheek gaming! This time around, the people of earth loved “Katamari Damacy” so much that they have demanded more, and want to roll up more stuff to send into the sky. The King, in all his egotistical glory, thinks this is a fine idea and sends the Prince back down to earth to start rolling Katamaris around and collecting even more stuff to chuck into space. It’s weirder, and yes, even better and more fun than the first title.
Along with performing tasks for the “Katamari Damacy” fans, the Prince will often roll up cousins in his family while on earth. These characters are fully playable and add an enjoyable new twist to the game. There’s also a new two-player co-op and battle mode that expands this game threefold. Any fan knows that playing the original “Katamari Damacy” would easily lead to friends sitting around and watching and eventually wanting to try it for themselves. This is now rectified with the most welcome two-player modes.
Once again, there are plenty of twisted songs in the soundtrack that range from everything that sounds like Mosquitos-inspired Brazilian pop to Pizzicato Five-esque J-pop. In between is some lounge hilarity, some dance tune addiction, and lots more to keep your ears as happy as your eyes and hands. And if that’s not enough, there’s this little dog character that presents the Prince with his biggest challenge of all: to roll the sun itself into a Katamari. It’s weird, it’s wonderful, and simply brilliant.
Why more games like the “Katamari” series aren’t released outside of Japan is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the game companies are too wary of the odder titles, thinking we gamers only want to spend time blowing up things or beating the hell out of them. In the meantime, those same companies will crank out junk title after junk title while old reliable Namco will send out something like “Katamari Damacy” and revolutionize the video game world all over again. That said, both it and “We Love Katamari” are not to be missed by any gamers out there. If you’ve played the first, you’ll love the second. If you’ve never played either, then both of these belong in your collection now. These games work on the classic video game principle that less is more and often more addictive than sugar. “We Love Katamari” proves this effortlessly.