Feb 012011

Status:Normal mode and vast majority of drive mode complete

Put this on your box: Katamari is too unique to be derivative of anything else, so we made it derivative of itself!

Most intriguing idea: That a Katamari game would benefit from HD graphics. (It says “intriguing, folks, not “correct”)

Best design decision: Katamari Drive compensates for some of the older games’ deficiencies.

Worst design decision: The Prince’s jump, which proves that the Move is an improvement on something.

Summary: Katamari Forever represents the absolute worst in corporate game design. The Katamari gameplay, so fresh and exciting when it first appeared, shuffles along drearily through the same old levels you played years ago. The gameplay has been dressed up with the gimmicky “jump” move, which aside from being useless except in a few specific situations is very difficult to pull off with the finicky SIXAXIS controls. I still can’t get it to reproducibly happen, except by shaking the controller vigorously (in rage, for instance). Of the three graphic filters available in most levels, one actively interferes with gameplay and another is simply ugly. Every trick the game has gets done to death, especially the major upscaling levels (where you go from centimeter scale to hundreds of meters or more), of which there seem to be a dozen. All of this is accompanied not by new music or the original, fun songs from Katamari Damacy and We ♥ Katamari, but instead by thudding remixes that suck all the joy out of the series’ classic tunes. Every moment of this game screams that it is a cheap cash-in dictated by a corporate board that has absolutely no appreciation for the qualities that made Katamari Damacy a game deserving of sequels.

There was a right way to do this game. For instance, the main problem of the levels from the earlier games is that they often end up being a little sparse in terms of the objects you can roll up. The high-speed Katamari Drive gameplay is an excellent tonic for this problem, allowing the player to move quickly across the level to find something that will stick. If the revisited levels had defaulted to this option rather than the normal speed, it would have at least made the game seem like a new spin on the classics rather than a recycling job.

If you can’t say something nice… Rolling through the old levels in drive mode really is a bundle of fun, especially if you load up the original Katamari Damacy soundtrack on your MP3 player.

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