This week, Yahtzee reviews Katamari Damacy Reroll.
You know, the first few weeks of January are always slow ones, 'cos everyone's still picking the bits of candy cane out of their teeth and chasing the last few New Year's partygoers out of the kitchen cupboards. But it's a waste of energy getting frustrated at the release schedule; if it's decided it's on a break, let's do the same and just have a super-casual time talking about whatever games we're playing without fretting about silly things like being relevant or funny or interesting or getting to the bathroom before I piss my pants. So here goes!
Hi! I'm Yahtzee Croshaw, super-casual game reviewer! What's that, games industry? No new games of interest? That's cool; we're all "super-cazh" here. Have a fun-sized Twix. Yes, well, I finally finished Celeste this week; I've been playing it "super-cazh"-style for about an hour every three months, and yeah, it certainly is a game. It was okay. I don't know. The way people were banging on about it all year, I was expecting it to fire streamers and ticker tape out of its nipples. It's just like the Senua's Sacrifice thing, where the main character has a mental illness, and therefore, it's a masterpiece, and if you think otherwise, you're Hitler. Oh, you are Hitler? Well, that's cool; I'm "super-cazh". Have a Twix. Heyyyy...!
And over Christmas, I did a "super-cazh" stream of Katamari Damacy Reroll, the rerelease of the original PS2 game that recently came out in a "super-cazh" kind of way. And what surprised me was how many young people in the stream chat pulled out their pacifiers and mentioned they'd never heard of Katamari Damacy before, which I suppose is the result of an industry getting a bit too "super-cazh" about archiving its history and just letting things drop out of memory like milk bottles from a poorly-supervised factory production line. If you could only preserve one thing, preserve the fucking PS2 era, for God's sake, when the big developers could still "indulge" out their ideas before the industry was infected with a terminal case of "big money" and turned itself over to exclusively making milking machines that they can't even be bothered to paint in interesting colors. "Come on, Yahtzee. 'Super-cazh', remember? Eat the Twix." Oh, all right. Heyyyy, let's retro review!
Katamari Damacy was a quirky Japanese game from 2004, and there's no quirk like Japanese quirk. Gosh, the Japanese are quirky, aren't they? Just look up "Unit 731"; even Japan's atrocities are quirky! Hey, that's not where a human arm goes! Anyway, Katamari Damacy is about the King of All Cosmos - a very serious-faced man with a Swiss roll for a head and a fondness for unsettlingly tight leggings - getting a little bit too "super-cazh" one day and destroying all the stars in the cosmos. Fortunately, this can be remedied because the King can create new stars from clumped-together balls of random quirky bullshit, and double-fortunately, today just happens to be Random Quirky Bullshit Clearing Out Day down on Earth and everyone's fucking ankle-deep in the stuff, so the King's son, the Prince of All Cosmos, has to come down and steal the random quirky bullshit using a magic sticky ball that can suck up anything smaller than it. Yeah, I've got some magic sticky balls for you...
Katamari Damacy's greatness lies in the simplicity of its concept and the unrivaled catharsis in its execution; you start off with pathetic, laughable sticky balls that can just about pick up drawing pins which get gleefully batted about by the cats that patrol the living room, but then, a few minutes later, after you're doing Hoovering up the garden furniture, you come back, and there's something very rewarding about seeing an exclamation mark appear above the head of a cat that once bullied you. "I see you remember me, Mr. Whiskers!" After all, what good are sticky balls if you can't crush pussy?
Shortly, things get completely out of hand, and you move on to rolling up people, then cars, then buildings, and eventually, continents and Godzillas; presumably, an awful lot of people die horribly when those katamaris get turned into stars, but hey, there's nothing quite so "super-cazh" as a few consequence-free murders. "Boy, Yahtzee! You sure have opinions on Katamari Damacy; you must have played it a lot back in the day!" You might want to put tea stringers over your ears, listener, because this will blow your mind: I'd never played Katamari Damacy before.
The one I played a lot of was We Love Katamari, the sequel, but it runs on the same engine and plays identically. It was doing the Hand of Fate 2 thing: same game, but with more stuff, which is fine, but it does render the original obsolete, and that makes me question Reroll's decision to only rerelease the first game. I know precisely why they didn't do We Love Katamari, instead: it's because the plot of We Love Katamari is literally "Let's make a sequel to Katamari Damacy." It's all very self-referential and "Ooh, quirky, quirky Japanese Unit 731 and un-anaesthetized live vivisection, etcetera", but it does mean that We Love Katamari doesn't really work by itself. Still, they could have easily remade both the games into one package like they did with Crash Bandicoot and Spyro and those people in The Human Centipede.
Playing the first Katamari Damacy alone, I feel disappointed by its comparatively slim variety of levels and gameplay modes, and I think it suffers from being a bit overgenerous with the time limits. On one late-game level, I'll have sucked up the entire fucking town into my sticky balls and still have about three minutes to roll around the empty valley looking for every last remaining brick and dustbin, and thinking up even more oblique ways to talk about my testicles. The time limits in We Love Katamari are a lot tighter, and even if you pass, the King of All Cosmos will talk shit about the size of your sticky balls if you show up with anything that wouldn't immediately silence all conversation in the men's locker room, which is good, because challenge is important for catharsis. The success of victory is all the sweeter when there's a clear and looming presence of failure; that's why it's important to have a few ugly bridesmaids at a wedding.
Katamari is quite challenging on the base level because you control your sticky ball in the same sense one controls an overloaded shopping trolley with one dodgy wheel around a car park. See, that's what I didn't get out of Donut County. That's right! It's a Donut County review, now! That's the kind of thing that happens in "super-cazh" videos! Donut County was an indie game from last year that had a similar vibe to Katamari, except instead of a big sticky ball which gets bigger as things attach to it, like what makes sense, you get a hole that moves around and gets bigger as more things fall in it. And how does that work, Donut County? Does every single loose object in this town carry a little pickaxe? Are we supposed to believe this is some kind of magic hole for wizards? Why is everyone stupider than me?
In any case, amusing as it is to watch a cat fall down a hole with a stupid look on its face, after that, the cat's gone, whereas in Katamari, the cat's still there, stuck to the side of your ball, kicking its legs in fury, and you can continue taking the piss out of it, and that's why Katamari's better. Donut County has its merits; it's got a stronger story aspect, but it has no challenge, so it's a one-and-done two-hour distraction, where Katamari's meatier gameplay and jaunty soundtrack makes it almost endlessly replayable. Besides, who'd want a hole when you can have sticky balls, am I right, fellas?! I'm very lonely.
- Roll of a lifetime: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- You know what they say, if you can't tell who the ugly bridesmaid is, it's you
- I'm more of a dog person anyway