14 years after the original and two years after launch on the Nintendo Switch, the Xbox has finally received a Katamari Damacy of its own. A pure expression of creativity, innovation and weirdness, this is a franchise most will be aware of to some degree. If you’re wondering if it’s worth following the king of cosmos – and putting down a premium price to do so – you’ve come to the right place.
So we don’t get caught up in the abrupt and nonstop strangeness, let’s go through the story and then move on. This is a remake of the original Katamari Damacy game, so if you know that story, you know this one. The King of All Cosmos destroys all the stars one night by accident and gets you, the prince, to fix it. To do so, you must bring the Katamari – a sticky ball capable of picking everything up – to Earth. After your Katamari achieves a certain circumference, that energy can be converted to create more stars and fix the galaxy again. It’s simplistic in its weirdness, offering a story that is easy to comprehend but maybe not to understand. There’s an undeniable charm about that; something that is offered less and less. It feels like Katamari Damacy doesn’t care about what you think of its story. You can say what you like about it but I certainly don’t feel pandered to.
The gameplay in Katamari Damacy REROLL is simplistic, but oh so fun. With your analogue sticks, you must move the ball around, collecting as many items as you can. Collecting them merely requires touching them but items bigger than you must be avoided – else you might lose some of that precious loot you’ve already acquired. Hitting into something too big or too sturdy will knock a few pieces loose, wasting a little of your time. Unfortunately, the controls are a slight bit antiquated, not taking advantage of most of the controller in front of you, but this touches on the main issue with doing remasters/remakes. Should you stay faithful to the original – providing no new content or changes but giving better graphics and higher quality sound – or should you try to improve the original? This is very much a fairly simple update and feels very similar to the PS2 version sat right next to me.
You pay to see your childhood in HD here, and it has done well enough to slap a silly smile on my face the whole way through. In your trip to Earth, central missions have you roll around grabbing anything, whilst on a timer to get a certain circumference. The side missions have you build constellations with charming ways of representing them; Pisces has you grab a certain amount of fish whereas Cancer has you grab a bunch of crabs. These offer a slightly different challenge, sometimes rewarding you by keeping your Katamari small. There are some nooks and crannies you just can’t access if you’re too big.
The levels themselves are more like tiny playgrounds to destroy than structured linear levels. This being said, they’re fun to explore and have this classic way of revealing ways of moving around that you didn’t spot the first time. As you grow bigger and unlock more areas in the few minutes you have, it starts to open up a bit and offer new paths, not too dissimilar to the level design of a Tony Hawk game or something like this. You spot a path upon opening a level, and wondering around will often offer new ways of seeing that, or alternatively give you little paths that can be opened up.
Both the visuals and music come together in bombastic harmony in Katamari Damacy REROLL. It still looks very blocky but intentionally so here. Whereas the PS2 original might have that style due to some processing limitations, REROLL makes it feel like a developed art style, and this helps enunciate the innate wackiness of every single thing you do. The music is legendary almost two decades on, with “Katamari on the Rocks” solidifying itself as both one of the most annoying and adorably catchy songs in video gaming. It doesn’t feel one note though – the soundtrack changes from the bright and upbeat to the melancholic, and even makes its way into techno at points. Obviously it has aged over the twenty years but it adds a great deal of charm to the overall game.
In a way, the soundtrack for Katamari Damacy REROLL on Xbox is a pretty good interpretation of the game itself. It’s eclectic, fun, weird and charming but perhaps a little antiquated when looking at it now. With better technology, this could lead us to a great sequel, but for now it’s just a short, pleasant experience – a very short one. At just a few hours long, it will sadden the player to finish it so quickly, but wanting more of a game is a pretty nice issue to have.