Year of Release: 2005
We Love Katamari
A review by Gregory Gay (email@example.com)
Who loves Katamari? According to Namco, all of us do. I don't want to speak for the rest of you, but I certainly loved Keita Takahashi's quirky 2004 sleeper, Katamari Damacy. Evidentially I wasn't alone in this, as the game quickly became a favorite among critics and landed on many game of the year lists.
This year's sequel, We Love Katamari, remains mostly unchanged, but that's a good thing in this case. You are still rolling things into balls to fill the sky with stars, you are still stopping to question all of the odd things you see (such as men in animal suits holding balloons underwater), and your father is still the "fabulous" king (royal rainbow!). Most importantly of all, you will still have a blast playing this game.
A year has passed and the sky still isn't exactly filled with stars. However, things are going very well for the King of the Cosmos. The videogame Katamari Damacy has become extremely popular and the King has become a sort of pop-culture messiah. Fans have begun to gather en masse to make requests for specific katamari. And in the face of such overwhelming adoration, how could he refuse the wishes of his loyal fans? However, not all is well for his radness. All of this attention is bringing back long-repressed memories of the King's pompadour-ed past.
We Love Katamari takes the winning formula of the original and makes it bigger and better. There is much, much more to do in this game. While the objective remain largely unchanged (most levels are still all about reaching a certain size or collecting large quantities of one object), each level has a unique quirk that ensures that the formula remains fresh and interesting.
This isn't to imply that the game is entirely a rehash of the original; there are a bunch of improvements and new features to be found. In the original, if you got stuck behind an object, you'd often lose valuable time finding your way out while effectively blind. This time around, the engine creates a "hole" in the object so that you can see what you are doing. They've also made it vastly easier to climb up onto objects. The royal presents return again for another go, but this time you can wear two presents at a time (The Prince looks adorable in horn-rimmed glasses). Also, in each level you can roll up one of your cousins and switch characters if you get tired of playing the beleaguered Prince.
Multiplayer, unfortunately, remains the sore spot for an otherwise fantabulous game. The versus mode remains largely unchanged, and while it is fun for a while, it just lacks the replay value and polish that the rest of the game got. Only three levels are present for your perusal, and there is a distinct lack of options to spice up your experience. The new cooperative mode (in which both players work together on the same katamari) was an excellent idea, but the implementation doesn't really live up to the hype. It seems slightly buggy and more frustrating than fun.
One of the most commented on parts of the original Katamari Damacy was its soundtrack. It single-handedly raised the bar for what a game soundtrack should sound like. The tunes worked amazingly as background music, with an oddness matched only by the game itself. Most importantly, the music stood up on its own. Several of the tunes from the first game remain on my "on the go" playlist on my iPod. So, how does the soundtrack of We Love Katamari compare? Well, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the tunes, "Katamari on the Swing" in particular, easily match up to the quality of the first game's mix. However, several of the other tracks just aren't as memorable. All in all, the soundtrack fits well with each level and the tunes will stay sharp in your mind for weeks to come. Also, if you don't like the song accompanying the level, the game lets you swap it for any of the other tracks.
Fans of the original have probably already preordered and purchased this game, but if you haven't, go buy it immediately. Even if you haven't played the original, give this title a chance. This may not be the deepest, or even the best, game of the year, but it is a hilarious, quirky, and unpretentious videogame that actually lives up to the term "game." You won't be disappointed.