Leave it to the Japanese to create some of the most unusual and bizarre games ever created. Katamari Damacy is unusual in it's appearance, and yet very simple in concept: create the biggest ball of crap possible. The "King Of The Cosmos" went on some sort of drunken bender and destroyed some of the stars in the sky. Rather than take responisbility for his actions, he sends his son, The Prince, to fix the problem. And how to you fix the problem of no stars in the sky? Roll up a lot of junk on the Earth and make stars out of them! Yay!
Much of Katamari's brilliance comes from it's presentation and simplicity. It's a very inviting game for everyone to play. In fact, I think this is one of the few games I've ever played that hasn't caused me to yell at the screen. The gameplay involves creating a ball of a certain diameter within a given amount of time. The way this is done is by using the two analog sticks to roll the ball and collect items. While using two sticks seem unsual, especially when a game like Super Monkey Ball only needs one, control is pretty fluid and easy to get use to. There really isn't much that's complicated, so within 10 minutes, anyone can learn to play this game.
The gameplay is almost the ideal embodiment of what a video game should be. The game has a very simple goal in mind: collect items. It doesn't have multi-layered goals or a long winded story. Katamari Damacy really takes gaming back to how it was in the 2-D era: something simple, addictive and fun. Granted, I know there are some people out there who think this game is only for kids, or lacks depth of other titles on the console, but you'd be wrong if you played this game. How could you not see rolling up children, cats, cars, and so many objects as fun? There's a bit of a demented edge to the game, knowing that you're rolling up people and animals to become flaming balls of gas. Then there's the cinematics, which are just plain-ass bizarre, but also pretty funny.
If there's one thing Katamari really does well, is provide a sense of scale. When you begin the first few stages, you'll roll up small items and objects around the house, and you may see a little growth. But in the later stages, notably "Make The Moon", you start out as something only as large as a chicken, but end the stage rolling up buildings, mountains and clouds. It's pretty cool to see your ball of crap go from something small and hardly threatening, to something of a gigantic colossal wrecking ball of terror. And sure, you can stop at the minimum goal for the stage, but this is a game that you want to repeat stages in, to try and get a larger ball, or reach the prescribed goal faster.
Visually, Katamari Damacy is extremely simple in it's graphic approach. In a lot of ways, the game looks like a PS1 title, especially the textures. While this would be seen as a huge negative, it's more or less the game's art style. Although I think it would have been better if the developers took a more cel-shaded approach to textures, you do have to make sacrifices for all the objects that are given in a stage. If the textures were detailed and sharp, I'm sure the framerate would chug quite a bit. It's not the best looking game on the PS2, but it certainly has a style that seems charming on it's own merits.
For the audio, Katamari has some great and original music that really does fit the game. Some tracks have a techno theme, while others are almost lounge acts that you would hear in the 50's. But it's some really great stuff, probably some of the best that Namco has done since Ridge Racer Type 4, AND it's memorable. The sound effects are quite funny, especially when you run over people. Some scream, some laugh, and then you have the ones you really need to question. There is not Dolby Surround support, which would have been nice, but there's not heavy distortion to speak of.
Katamari Damacy is a must-own for any PS2 owner looking for something very original. The concept is simple and easy to grasp, but it's also addictive and hard to put down. Yeah, the graphic quality isn't as great as other games on the system, and the game could have been longer, but this is a very solid game that deserves attention, and at a price of only $19.99, this is a tough one to pass up.