For many years now, originality has been a difficult thing to find in video games because, as with other forms of media, it’s so much easier for producers to just keep making clones of the things that sell (i.e. the ‘Call of Duty Effect’). In 2004 Namco broke free of that mold by bringing to the Playstation 2 something that was truly…odd.
Katamari Damacy was the kind of game that made players stare at their TV screens and ask, “What the hell is happening here?” The story begins when the extremely flamboyant and almost painfully-colorful “King of All Cosmos” accidentally destroys all the stars in the sky. The King sets his diminutive son, the Prince, the task of rebuilding the stars and constellations. In order to achieve this, the Prince uses a “katamari”, which is basically a super-sticky ball. Rolling the katamari over everyday items will cause it to pick up those items, which makes it bigger. The bigger the katamari gets, the larger the items it is able to pick up, and when the ball is complete, the King judges it and turns it into a star.
Mind blown yet? Wait for it…
In each stage the King will set you a goal – either to reach a certain size, collect as many as possible of a certain type of item, or to make your katamari as big as possible without picking up a certain type of item. You start off in ridiculously cluttered rooms, picking up such things as coins and paperclips, but before you know it you’re emptying a house of all of a family’s worldly possessions. And that’s nowhere near as crazy as it gets. Soon you’re rolling up people in your katamari (and the world as a whole seems pretty much okay with this). From there your katamari becomes a civilization-destroying monster, gobbling up cars, houses, and eventually whole land masses. If it gets big enough your katamari can even start plucking clouds and rainbows right out of the sky. And this is all in the name of zapping everything you’ve collected into a new star.
Understandably, when my husband and I first discovered this game we were pretty bewildered. It seemed as though the producers would have had to been on some pretty amazing drugs to come up with something so strange. Not to mention that it was such an overly simply idea (roll ball…pick up stuff…) that it hardly seemed to qualify for “game” status. But then we started playing it, and oh man, was it addictive. Many of the stages involved a time limit to get as big as possible in, so we kept returning to the same stages over and over again, desperate to get our katamaris bigger and better. There were also “gifts” and “cousins” to find and collect, as well as the completionist factor of attempting to collect every possible item, of which there were hundreds. It was surprisingly fun, and in truth part of that fun was because it was so fresh, strange, and unique.
Unfortunately, as Namco made the several Katamari Damacy sequels, they were themselves drawn into the “Call of Duty Effect” I mentioned earlier. Each game was pretty much a carbon copy of the last with very few noticeable changes. Even so, I commend the creators of this series for coming up with something so strange and different that you couldn’t help but love it.
Did you ever play any of the Katamari Damacy games? What did you think of them? What kinds of drugs do you think the creators were on when they made it? Please share!
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