Amidst our grim fascination with explosive, ultra violent video games, there’s also that omnipresent longing for something to come and wow us, whether it be a bold new take on the familiar or something completely abstract. Katamari definitely slots into the latter category and if you’ve always been curious about this Namco curio, you can finally play it on modern PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
Katamari Damacy REROLL isn’t just a nifty remaster of a cult classic, it’s a remedy. It’s a silly salve that dissolves the over-seriousness of AAA gaming, an unapologetically absurd palette cleanser.
Miguel has already waxed lyrical about Namco’s revival of this beloved PlayStation 2 gem when it originally bounded onto the Nintendo Switch and PC at the very end of 2018. Two years later and it has finally made it way onto other last-gen systems (and it’s obviously playable on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S via backward compatibility).
If you’ve never heard of or touched a Katamari game before then the premise is as bonkers as it is refreshingly straightforward. As the Prince you’ll drop into different levels, moving your ball-like Katamari around in an attempt to roll up as many items as possible within a set time. The bigger your Katamari grows, the bigger the objects will be that you can stick onto it.
Damacy starts you off at the small end, scooping up various articles of Japanese paraphernalia around a suburban home. By the end of the game, however, you’ll be big enough to roll up people, cars, and entire cities. It’s incredibly cathartic.
In another universe, there’s a version of Katamari Damacy that is M-rated nightmare fuel. This game turns out to be the complete opposite, oozing with eccentric charm from every pore. Everything, from the calming pastel colours to the blocky 3D models and character designs are uniquely endearing. Just take a look at the Prince’s dad, The King of All Cosmos, to get a dose of the game’s fruity flavour.
Controlling your Katamari in REROLL is deliberately clunky. You’ll need to move both sticks in tandem to push your big ball of rubbish in that direction. Meanwhile turning is done by pushing up on one stick and down on the other, clicking them both snapping you 180 degrees when you need to quickly pivot. The items you manage to stick onto will morph the Katamari’s shape – snag a few fence panels and they’ll likely jut out of one side, awkwardly catching on your surroundings as you roll along. Katamari Damacy REROLL really isn’t the smoothest, most modern-feeling game to play and that could definitely rub newcomers the wrong way, but only if they’ve somehow not been entranced by its sheer bizarreness.
In terms of playable content, there isn’t as much as other games in the Katamari series though plenty to keep you going as you bounce between a mix of story and bonus levels. There’s also a score-chasing element here, as well as competitive split-screen multiplayer that helps expand REROLL’s lifespan beyond its trippy main adventure.
There wasn’t much Namco needed to do here in terms of visuals besides remaster everything in HD. Katamari is one of the strongest examples of games that out-flex photorealism with their gorgeous art direction. The soundtrack is top-tier work, too, to the point that Katamari mixes have long been a go-to of mine when working, studying, or in the mood for uplifting tunes spliced with some killer jazz.
Much like Miguel two years ago, I’m here to tell you that Katamari Damacy REROLL is a Japanese gaming treasure, tarted up for a new generation. You’ll know just by looking at a single screenshot whether it will suit your vibe. Even if it doesn’t, there’s still a good chance you’ll come away with the biggest grin on your face.