Beautiful Katamari Review

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Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Namco Bandai Games

Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

"The King of All Cosmos and his family were vacationing on one of their favorite planets. The King was enjoying a delightful game of tennis with his beloved Queen and Prince. The King's tennis skills were truly first-rate. But alas! The King's swing was too strong, and the ball was sent flying into the sky!

"The ball flew on and on, and opened up a hole in the sky. The King and his family gazed up in worry at the dark hole that had popped open... The hole began to suck up all sorts of things, for this was truly that dreadful astrophysical anomaly: a Black Hole! The Black Hole hungrily ate up bigger and bigger things. Growing even bigger, it started to suck up nearby stars as well.

"The King had had enough! He stood up to face the Black Hole. The King summoned his almighty powers, and in a spectacular fashion, stopped the Black Hole in its tracks. Harmony has returned to the Great Cosmos, but no one knows when the Black Hole will strike again..."

Kyle Ackerman

Oh that crazy King of All Cosmos... always getting his fashionable royal self into a pickle, and usually a pickle involving an empty sky. That leaves the innocent and pure prince using his kindly nature to repopulate the heavens. And every time, the prince gets a sticky Katamari to roll around, picking up objects in an increasingly larger ball to replace the stars and planets that are missing from the firmament.

When the first Katamari Damacy was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004, it was something different and fascinating. Surreal and stylized visuals mixed with a wildly eccentric soundtrack made for a game that was almost impossible to stop playing. Despite the simplistic style of play, I kept returning to roll up yet another crowd of flailing pedestrians, tempered with an assortment of penguins, cats, cars and every conceivable household object.

Then came We Love Katamari for the PlayStation 2 and, more recently, Me & My Katamari for the PSP. Now, Beautiful Katamari brings the franchise to the next generation of consoles by way of the Xbox 360. The game is just as bizarrely engaging as ever and the soundtrack is just as wildly catchy, but Beautiful Katamari doesn't add much to the series. As a result, there are plenty of entertaining levels to roll around, but I feel just as done with the Katamari games as I felt after We Love Katamari.

It would be hard to add wackier settings and new objects to a game that already has us rolling up every conceivable object in the strangest locals. So, Beautiful Katamari was a great opportunity to take the visuals to an entirely new level with the power of the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, while the graphics are sharper, it maintains the same blocky, stylized visuals. Aside from having more objects on the screen, Beautiful Katamari would look similar on an older console like the PlayStation 2.

There are a few variations on the theme of rolling up large balls of stuff, such as the one level in which you try to get as hot a ball as possible (while avoiding cold things), and the level in which you try to stuff a black hole's mouth with a katamari to plug it up. But for the most part, this is the same play as the past games. The co-op mode (only playable offline) remains from We Love Katamari, giving two players cooperative control over a single katamari. Also, a Versus mode sets you and online competitors on a small map, competing to collect the most of whatever object the King of All Cosmos declares to be the goal.

There are a limited number of stages, so most of the length of Beautiful Katamari comes from replaying stages to create an even larger katamari, or hunting for the hidden presents and cousins of the prince.

Given that the experience of playing Beautiful Katamari is so similar to past Katamari games, the only real reason to play (if you've played past Katamari games) is to hear even more catchy music and be entertained by the King of All Cosmos' fascinating quips and dialog. It's particularly entertaining when he shouts "Khaaaaan!" upon discovering the Prince's failure to complete a level.

Ultimately, Beautiful Katamari is entertaining – the problem is that it's more of the same. The Katamari franchise needs to learn from something the King of All Cosmos said about the katamari that became Uranus: "It's very important knowing when and how to quit. Maybe you can teach us?"

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 13, 2007 9:42 PM.

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