If you’ve ever played the Katamari series before, then you might be sorely disappointed by Namco Bandai’s newest entry. However, for those of you who are newcomers, you’ll find a very unique game that’ll keep you entertained for hours. From the very first moment you start the game, you know it’s going to be a very unique experience.
Right off the bat, the intro video features ducks singing, pandas flying, and a random assortment of other bizarre things that just don’t normally go together. It sets the tone for the rest of the game, as you’ll often see strange events while playing. The main storyline is similarly bizarre. The King of the Cosmos has been knocked unconscious and cannot be awoken, and also happens to suffer from amnesia. With the ruler of the universe out of the action, the Prince and his cousins create a robotic version of the King (Aptly named RoboKing) to take over his role.
Unfortunately, RoboKing malfunctions and destroys all the stars in the sky. Thus your task is to recreate all of the stars in the galaxy, awake the King of the Cosmos and help him regain his memories. While the storyline does tie in the gameplay aspects well, it ultimately doesn’t make much logical sense: so don’t try to understand it!
Yet, despite the lack of a real storyline, the gameplay is really what makes the Katamari series so much fun. You first start off with only one mode available, “Forever” mode, but players can unlock up to three additional modes for every level. In each of these modes, you are in control of a Katamari, a giant sticky ball that you roll around the environment and use to pick up progressively small to large objects. The more objects you pick up, the larger the Katamari becomes, and while you start off collecting buttons, chopsticks and batteries, you’ll soon find yourself collecting people, cities, continents and even planets and stars.
The goal of each level is usually to reach a certain length within a certain time limit. Although, some levels require you to perform special tasks, such as becoming as large as possible while only picking up 50 objects. These little tasks help break up the monotony of the game, as you’d quickly get bored of doing the same thing over and over otherwise. For each level, the RoboKing will give you a score out of 100 (though you can score 120 if you do exceptionally well) based on your size and how quickly you managed to achieve the level’s goal.
Forever can be fairly brutal however, at first, you’ll often find yourself scoring very low and RoboKing will mock and criticize you quite harshly. Finishing levels will not only let you progress through the game’s storyline, but it will also on occasion unlock cartoons to watch.
Failing the task on the other hand will lead you to the punishment mini-game, which is a fun little distraction as opposed to the traditional game over screens. It’s basically a 2d game where you must avoid falling rocks coming out of a volcano by moving your character around the screen. This is one of five mini-games available in Katamari Forever, with another mini-game unlocked each time you finish one of the four modes available.
In addition to unlocking the storyline and videos, if you manage to score highly enough in Forever, you’ll also unlock the ability to play the same level on “Eternal.” This is probably the most entertaining mode to play as you have no tasks to complete and have unlimited time to roll up every single object in the level. Thus you can collect everything in the game world, and it’s just an awesome feeling to be a giant Katamari that can roll over anything. Score highly on Eternal, and you’ll unlock “Classic Katamari” mode.
The classic version is actually not very interesting, as it’s essentially the same as Forever, with the only difference being that no power-ups are available and the Katamari loses the ability to jump (more on this later). Ultimately, this mode feels like it’s just being tacked on for the sake of adding another mode when in reality it doesn’t add anything to the gameplay experience. Lastly, once you finish the game, you’ll also unlock “Drive” mode. In this mode you must perform the same tasks as in Forever, but you have less time to do it in and your Katamari travels twice as fast as before. In addition to these four modes and five mini-games available, on each level there are also a set number of cousins and presents (characters and accessories) available to collect.
A total of 34 levels are available to play, however only three of these are completely new. The rest of the 31 levels are direct ports from Beautiful Katamari, We Love Katamari and Katamari Damacy. Newcomers will find the levels extremely fun, but veterans of the series may often find themselves replaying old levels they’ve played before. Despite this fact, the game does retain its appeal and the developers have tried to incorporate new features into the game.
Most notable of these features are the updated graphics, running at a crisp 1080p. In addition to the high resolution, players have the options of selecting filters for the graphics to make them cel-shaded, coloured pencil or wood-grain. Power-ups have also been thrown into the game which makes it both more interesting and more strategic. These power-ups will draw all smaller objects towards you, and thus it becomes a question of whether to use it early on to get bigger quicker, or to use it later and get a larger amount of objects instantaneously.
The other addition to the game is the Prince-Hop, which unfortunately does not add much to the game. Basically, it gives the Katamari the ability to jump, but this often doesn’t work the way you intend it to. It’s very hard to control where you jump, and you’ll often find yourself having to constantly repeat your jumps in order to get on one box. Sadly however, this is not the only problem present within the game. Previous players of the series have often complained of poor camera control, and Katamari Forever is no exception to the rule. You’ll often find the camera blocking your view when you go under a table or near a wall, meaning you often have no idea where you’re turning and what objects you’re picking up.
In addition, while the 1080p gameplay looks beautiful on the PS3, this comes at the cost of the title running smoothly. Growing in sizes will often lag the game, and in environments where there’s a lot going on, you’ll find yourself lurching across the world slowly for quite a while. In some places, you’ll also notice that objects are extremely pixelated and just look bad.
Katamari Forever also suffers from a number of gameplay mechanics which simply get in the way of enjoying the game. For instance, if a moving object hits you and it is larger than you, you will be pushed away without any control of where you’re going for a few seconds. This can often end up in a situation where you are constantly being hit by moving objects and are simply watching your Katamari move around the screen without any control.
You will also find that sometimes you can become trapped between two objects and will have to slowly push your way through them in order to free yourself. Small things like these are really quite frustrating and just make the game annoying to play at times. The soundtrack of the game somewhat makes up for these flaws however, as the music is very addictive and fits the theme of the title quite well (as in, the music is a little weird, but still good).
Once you finish a level, you also have the ability to select which song to listen to in future play-throughs, which is a nice touch if you plan on playing the game often. That being said, the sound isn’t exactly revolutionary and isn’t going to blow your mind with anything amazing. Despite these facts however, the game really is one of the most unique games you can pick up, and you’ll often find yourself playing for hours on end.
There is something extremely satisfying about rolling up cities and planets that are hard to describe if you haven’t done so before. Unless you have a fear of Japanese anime or games, then there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t give Katamari Forever a go.
While the game looks graphically polished, it suffers from camera flaws, low-resolution textures and framerate issues
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A fun and unique experience that unfortunately suffers from problems with the controls and gameplay mechanics
The sound fits in perfectly with the oddness of Katamari Forever, although it ultimately doesn't add much to the gameplay itself
With four gameplay modes per level and five mini-games to play, this game is guaranteed to have you playing for hours
While Katamari Forever is a fun, quirky and interesting experience, it suffers from a number of issues which really disrupt the flow of the game. Nevertheless, it is a highly addictive game that will have you playing for hours on end