Mini-Review: Katamari Forever
February 29, 2012
This article was originally published at Kombo.com on October 6, 2009.
When the King of All Cosmos decides to show off for the Prince by jumping high into the sky, he's beaned in the head by a passing interstellar object and knocked out, stricken with impactinduced amnesia. What's a Prince to do? He and his cousins decide to build a robot replacement to fill in for the King, but soon there's a flaming red alert as the newly constructed RoboKing goes off the hook, soaring into space and destroying all of the stars. Now the Prince is tasked with restoring the King's memories and helping RoboKing rebuild all of the stars in the cosmos in Katamari Forever for the Sony PlayStation 3. Both feats can be accomplished by rolling up objects on Earth, of course, as players revisit levels from both the PlayStation 2 title We Heart Katamari as well as the recent Microsoft Xbox 360 release Beautiful Katamari in this tribute to the Katamari franchise.
The classic Katamari formula remains intact in Katamari Forever as players must roll around the planet to gather up objects centered around certain themes or general sizes. The quirky soundtrack from previous Katamari games makes a reappearance in remixed form, while the visuals sport high definition clarity for the first time in Katamari history as well as some interesting visual filters that turn the Prince's world into that of, say, wood grain or a comic book. The katamari controls identically to past games in the franchise with the addition of a new move: the Prince Hop in which the clump of objects can leap variable distances with either a shake of the Dual-Shock 3 controller or a tap of the R2 button. Heart-shaped power-ups act as object magnets when rolled up, causing nearby objects smaller than the katamari to be automatically sucked in and collected. The unlockable Classic Katamari mode omits the Hop and power-ups to restore the traditional Katamari gameplay, while the returning Eternal mode eliminates the everpresent ticking clock. The energetic Katamari Drive mode gives the Prince a turbo boost, allowing him to roll up objects quickly. All in all, there's plenty of ways to roll and lots of levels to explore.
Anyone who completed both We Heart Katamari and Beautiful Katamari may be frustrated by the lack of new material in Forever, as the bulk of Forever's content is recycled from the two previous titles (meanwhile, the original Katamari Damacy is represented by one level, while the PlayStation Portable release Me and My Katamari goes unloved). Katamari Forever is meant to be a compilation/best-of adventure, something that its localized title fails to make clear (the game is known as the less murky Katamari Damacy Tribute in Japan). However, if you're like me (and I know I am), then We Heart Katamari and Beautiful Katamari are the two entries in the series that you missed, and therefore Forever is basically all new material to you. Some of those revisited levels are better left in the past. One level sets the katamari on fire and challenges the prince to add to its size before igniting a bonfire. Go too long without rolling up an object or fall into a river and the katamari is extinguished, failing the level. Then there's the level that requires the katamari to heat up to a target temperature. That level is loaded with cold objects, and one wrong turn towards the freezer puts an end to things immediately leaving no room for mistakes. It's also worth noting that performing the Prince Hop by shaking the controller has been nearly impossible for me to do, so I defaulted to the R2 button pretty quickly and haven't looked back.
Katamari fans who have not played every game in the series will most likely get more out of Katamari Forever due to the recycled content, but it's solid entry in a quirky franchise regardless of your past Prince experience. With plenty of replay incentive and a still refreshing ease about it, it's easy to recommend this one despite the few levels that are more frustrating than they are fun. As the RoboKing says, "Respect the katamari!"