Katamari Damacy first graced store shelves way back in 2004. It was recognized almost immediately for its uniqueness. An absolute oddity, Katamari Damacy became a cult classic practically overnight. With its pastel colors and vibrant atmosphere, Katamari had a certain degree of whimsy about it. It was the kind of game that was as enticing to play as it was genuinely off-beat; an experience that always left a smile on your face no matter how bizarre things got. I first played a Katamari Damacy game was at a friend’s birthday party circa 2007. We took turns rolling the Katamari around and we had so much fun that we ended up fighting over who got to play longest. It was weird and different, but at the same time it was a ton of fun to play. Even as a kid, I knew this game was special.
Here we are, eleven years after that birthday bash, and BANDAI NAMCO has released Katamari Damacy REROLL for PC and Nintendo Switch. An HD remake of the original Katamari game, Reroll seeks to preserve the classic gameplay experience while freshening up the visuals. Reroll certainly succeeds, for better or worse, at taking us back to the early days of Katamari.
So what is Katamari anyway? You take on the identity of the an itty-bitty space boy, the Prince, and roll around a rather adhesive orb called a Katamari. Your father, the incredibly groovy King of All Cosmos, has recently been on a universe-breaking bender. All of the stars in the night’s sky have been shattered, leaving the cosmos dark and not at all fun. Hope is not lost, however, as the King hands you your first Katamari. You see, if you roll up a ton of junk with the Katamari, the King can turn them into brand new celestial objects. Thus begins your adventure to roll up the biggest Katamaris possible and fix your dad’s terrible mistakes.
Besides the wacky setup, the first thing you notice about Reroll is how stylish it is. The King of All Cosmos is this Bowie-esque figure of psychedelic charm, and his realm is just as flamboyant as he is. Funky pastels make up the bulk of Katamari’s world; even the segments that take place entirely on Earth are borderline abstract. The items you roll up are mundane, yet there is a real artistic way about how the piles of junk are rendered within each level. Spiraling paths made of lined up lipstick tubes or pieces of sushi cut through otherwise ordinary scenes of suburban Japanese life. Sometimes you will encounter a level that is just full of crabs for no reason other than the King thinks we need to roll up a bunch of crabs. Katamari is at its best when it is at its most peculiar. The visual fine tuning that Reroll has done helps accentuate all this absurdity. All of the objects and backgrounds stay relatively the same, but this new HD version really sharpens up all the images.This is one of those scenarios where a small change makes a big difference: Katamari Damacy is brighter and crisper than it ever has been. All of the cutscenes have been remade for this game as well with the same result; the core integrity of Katamari Damacy remains unchanged, yet the small visual upgrades work wonders.
While this remake has paid a lot of attention to enhancing the visual aspects of Katamari Damacy, the actual mechanics of the game have not been touched at all. You control the Prince and his Katamari with the two control sticks on the Switch controller. Pushing both sticks in the same direction rolls the Prince in that direction, while one stick up and the other down causes the Prince to rotate in place. You can also quickly do a 180 degree spin or charge up the Katamari for a sort of dash move, but the bulk of gameplay comes from simply maneuvering the ball through the level. Your Katamari typically starts out quite small and can only scoop up objects that are smaller than itself. As you gather items, the Katamari grows and can pick up larger objects which typically lets you enter new areas in each level. All of the levels in this game boil down to essentially “grab as much stuff as possible within the time limit” with the only variation being that occasionally you are asked to gather as much of a specific item as possible.
The lack of variety in objectives is dwarfed by just how fun it is too zoom around like a space vacuum. Even levels with longer time limits feel very fast paced and exciting. You will occasionally be reminded that you are still playing a game from fourteen years ago. The controls definitely work, but the Katamari itself can be sluggish; there is this feeling that you cannot have quite the amount of control as you would want to have. A few times I accidentally got the Prince wedged pretty badly in a tight space, and there is not much you can do but to pray and wiggle around in the hope that you will get out of trouble as easily as you got into it. I feel like the game tries to contextualize some of these control issues; you are, after all, a 5-centimeter tall space child trying to wield an orb often ten times your size. Realistically, control schemes like this have been polished up over the last decade and a half, making it hard to fault an older game for feeling like an older game. There is a lot more fun to be had in the Prince’s adventure than there is frustration to be found in his shortcomings.
Music plays a big factor in why Katamari Damacy is as beloved as it is. The soundtrack for this game is a wild blend of JPop, Jazz, and general euphoria that is as peculiar as the King of All Cosmos himself. Every track is instantly memorable and is just as perfectly odd as any other aspect of the game. Just thinking about Katamari Damacy causes me to hum the main theme to myself. Any good meal needs a great wine pairing to go with it: the Katamari Damacy soundtrack is a particularly good vintage.
Katamari Damacy is one of those games that everyone should play at least once. There is nothing like this game; its color, its charm, and its pure imagination sets apart from so many other games out there.The Prince’s first adventure holds up well; playing through this remake took me right back to my buddy Morgan’s basement. I may be older, but Katamari Damacy fills me with the same kind of perplexed excitement it did years ago. While not perfect, Katamari Damacy Reroll is a great way to experience a true classic. Time rolls on, but so does the Katamari.
Katamari Damacy Reroll
- Reroll gives Katamari Damacy a big visual upgrade without diverting from the art style that made it famous
- Katamari is a vibrant, unique adventure
- The controls were not polished for this rerelease, leaving some aspects of the game in 2004