Beautiful Katamari

Written by Joe Martin

March 1, 2008 | 08:58

Beautiful Katamari

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: Xbox 360
UK Price (as reviewed): £29.95 (inc. Delivery)
US Price (as reviewed): $36.99 (excl. Tax)

If you’re reading this review from either Japan or America then you’re probably a bit confused. You probably think that bit-tech is fabulously behind the times and out of date – Beautiful Katamari came out ages ago!

Sure, it did – for you.

Here in Europe, we’ve only just got our hands on the game as the release was horrendously staggered. The game went gold back in early October 2007, seeing an American and Japanese release just a fortnight later, while Europe has had to wait until now.

Delays like this aren’t always a bad thing though, especially when it comes to hugely popular and hyped games like Beautiful Katamari. While other reviewers who get the game first are possibly succumbing to the effects of the advertising and hype machines, we have time to sit back and watch how the tide goes. Then, when the first few waves have broken we can wade in past the high-water mark and let you all know the truth.

Simply, the delay allows us to divorce ourselves from any manufactured buzz or excitement and just review the game for what it is. It’s an interesting, if slightly annoying, way to review a game. Hopefully...

So, let’s get down to it.

Beautiful Katamari
The King of All Cosmos – beware, he packs an awesome backhand!

Princely Behaviour

Beautiful Katamari is the fourth game in the Katamari series, though you wouldn’t know that from the title of the game. Fear not though if you’re a newcomer to the games, the series is specifically aimed at being accessible to new players and doesn’t require any background knowledge at all.

The game is probably best described as a wonderfully presented celebration of all things bizarre and Japanese – and it’s important that we mention that before dishing out the plot just so you know how to take this most crazed of storylines.

As Beautiful Katamari opens, the King of All Cosmos is on holiday with his family, playing tennis with his wife while his son, the player character, watches on. This most powerful and eccentric of families is having the time of their lives and the King decides to show off to his son by demonstrating his omnipotence in a savage backhand.

Predictably, it all ends in tears. The volley goes awry and the King’s demonstration ends up creating a black hole that hoovers up most of the cosmos. Rushing to undo his mistake, the King quickly seals the hole and saves the galaxy – but not before some damage is done! Half the clutter of outer-space has been sucked up and lost beyond the event horizon and the King asks his son to help rebuild the universe.

Beautiful Katamari
The Katamari will grow as it devours more and more clutter.

This rather unlikely, but most uniquely Japanese of storylines sets the stage for the gameplay – the Prince is given a Katamari by his father and asked to collect as much mass as he can from the one remaining planet, Earth. The Katamari, a ball with infinite stickiness, must be rolled across whatever clutter the Prince can find to make it grow and, if the Prince can grow it large enough, then the King can remake his kingdom.

Now normally game storylines can be drawn into two categories. There are games like Half-Life and BioShock, which have plots that are integral to the game and getting the most out of it, and there are games like Mario, where the story isn’t really needed at all and serves more as a kind of dialogue-fuelled seasoning for the gameplay.

What’s interesting though is that Beautiful Katamari sits between that division as a game where the story is part of the main attraction, but completely ancillary at the same time. The plot is definitely part of the singular craziness that makes people love the series, but if you wanted to then you could skip over it all and not lose anything.
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