The best video game series ever to involve giant space kings, city destroying sticky balls, and completely nonsensical dialog has returned for another run. Beautiful Katamari brings back the same wacky sense of humor, art direction, and catchy soundtrack that have charmed gamers since the original version. The King of All Cosmos has messed things up again, this time tearing a hole in the universe with his powerful tennis serve. He is too lazy to fix it himself, so he hands that task down to his son, and he himself sits around and yells random (and hilarious) gibberish as the Prince succeeds and fails. If this all sounds familiar, then you win a prize. Beautiful Katamari is a fun and charming game, but it is essentially the same thing we’ve seen from the Katamari series since the beginning.
For those not in the know, the Katamari series revolves around rolling a ball through different game worlds. The ball controls like a tank, with the two sticks of the controller acting like controls for the two treads that a tank would have. As the ball rolls over objects, the objects stick and cause the ball to grow larger. Eventually, the ball grows big enough to roll up people, houses, landmasses, etc. Most levels are based around getting the “katamari” to a certain size cut-off in a certain time. These completed katamaris are then turned into planets by the King of All Cosmos to replace the planets that he accidentally destroyed. The concept works really well, as the game nails the sense of scale. It is very satisfying to look back as you are rolling up the house that, just earlier in the level, you were rolling around inside.
Again, if one has never experienced this game before, it is absolutely insane. The dialog from the King of All Cosmos is psycho-babble: he switches between angry sputtering, glowing praise, and pop-culture references at the drop of a hat. None of his dialog is voiced, as it is all translated through record scratches. The colors are vibrant pastels, which provide for an interesting and fun world to roll through. There are several hilarious objects to roll up, and the game tracks how many of every item the player has captured inside their katamaris. The game retains the addictive quality it has always had. Unfortunately, it is a bit too familiar, as the game offers very little new qualities to the series.
The game does very little to utilize the power of the next-gen systems. It essentially looks like a very pretty PS2 game. The soundtrack (although very catchy) is still only about fifteen songs. Most objects that can be rolled up are reused from other games. Nearly every stage is the same “get the katamari to X size in Y minutes” that is typical of previous games. A few stages throw a curveball into the formula, such as one where the king asks you to get the temperature of the katamari raised by rolling up “hot objects” and avoiding “cold objects”.
Beautiful Katamari is also a very short game. Actually completing the game will only take most players a few hours. There is a decent amount of replay value, however. Online leaderboards let you compare the size of your katamaris with players all over the world. Every stage has hidden presents as well as “cousins” to pick up; both of these alter the appearance of the Prince. There is also the task of trying to complete the collection of objects (which is incredibly difficult, as there are thousands of objects to roll up). So if you are completely hooked to the katamari gameplay, Beautiful Katamari will keep you busy. There are also a few multiplayer modes, but they are a bit underdeveloped and suffer from being over too quickly to really leave a lasting impression.
Overall, Beautiful Katamari is an enjoyable game. It is fun and quirky, and is very different from most other games out there. If you have played a game in the series before, and have had your fill of katamari, then this game will do little to bring you back. If you have not grown tired of the formula (or have never journeyed to the katamari universe), you should give Beautiful Katamari a shot. You will have quite a bit of fun with it.