I was first introduced to the Katamari Damacy series quite late in its active development history, with Katamari Forever on the PlayStation 3. I originally bought it back when I was in High School, thinking it was a cheesy, fun puzzle game to help keep my mind off the constant pressure of final exams. It has been a title I will still go back to on the odd occasion, given how ludicrously insane and visually creative everything about it is. Although the series has been underutilised over the last couple of console generations, limited to a PlayStation Vita and smartphone version, the recently released Katamari Damacy REROLL has shown there is still life in this eccentric puzzle game.
First released on the Nintendo Switch and PC back in 2018 and two years later on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – Katamari Damacy REROLL is a high-definition remaster of the original PlayStation 2 exclusive, giving newer gamers the chance to explore the Katamari Damacy origins. While it is high time that Bandai Namco Entertainment worked on a brand new console release, this was an interesting way of surging renewed interest in it, and highlighting just how limited the developers were back in the sixth generation of gaming consoles.
The driving force behind Katamari Damacy REROLL is that following the King of the Cosmos accidentally destroying the stars, the moon and the constellations in a drunken stupor, it falls to you, the Prince, to form the stars. You do this by collecting random junk from Earth – which should it reach a specific size or meet another goal – is transformed into one of the missing bodies. While there is an overarching narrative, it is merely there to justify why you are causing mass destruction and hysteria on Earth. Whether it is warranted or not… well… at least they rebuild quickly.
How do you collect the junk from Earth? With a giant vacuum cleaner? With one of those sticky hands? Nope! You do so by rolling a ball called a Katamari around. The goal of a majority of missions is to make your Katamari a specific size within X minutes. You incrementally grow the ball from its original size by rolling up more and more objects, increasing the variety of items you can pick up until you can grab trees, buildings and some very anxious people.
The experience can be quite overwhelming at first, given Katamari grow by smaller margins at first, and the game’s timer keeps ticking away. Especially in my playthrough, I never felt like I could truly relax, especially with more than a few close-calls and moments I honestly got stuck. However, the colourful cel-shaded imagery and catchy music on offer help encourage you to work hard at meeting your target in time. There are also a few, arguably easier, levels that ask you to roll up a certain object or as many of that object in the time limit – with a low threshold for failure, which helps balance out the stress.
While I love the gameplay style of Katamari Damacy and can see why the first game has a reputation of being a cult classic of the PlayStation 2 era… there are some limitations when compared to future instalments. First of all is that there is not much variety in the levels compared against future instalments. You will tackle many of the challenges on the same area of a broader map with minimal variation between them. Secondly, it is far too easy to glitch your way into a part of the world where you get stuck, which the game responds by destroying chunks of your Katamari until you are of a size you can get out. It is easy to lose many seconds or even minutes of progress due to this.
Finally, is that while some levels can be stressful and can be completed with a narrow margin, there was only one that I needed more than one attempt to finish. With just shy of two dozen levels to undertake, it is not unreasonable to expect completing the game in a single day, if not a single play session. I feel the bundle would have been of better value were both Katamari Damacy and its sequel We Love Katamari bundled together.
Despite its few limitations, Katamari Damacy REROLL shows why the series was a shining, underappreciated gem of the sixth and seventh generation gaming consoles. With the game being many years old, it has been impossible to nab a copy of the original experience, so this remastered port is welcome. It is a unique, puzzle game which everyone should check out at some point, whether the authentic original experience, a remastered port, or one of the newer (albeit still difficult to acquire) releases.