Katamari Forever is a trip down memory lane for Katamari lovers, both literally and figuratively. The title of the game in Japanese means “ Katamari Tribute.” The game was conceived as an homage to the two earlier versions, and those familiar with them will find themselves once again in the familiar terrain of past rolling fun. For newcomers to the game, the simplicity of the idea - you push a ball that picks up objects and grows larger, allowing you to pick up still more objects - means that learning to play is simple and straightforward. The fun of the game is in the wacky sensibility that is at once sugar-sweet and razor-ironic, that makes it so easy to love. There are a few cool new effects and there are multiple graphic styles that you can unlock that distinguish this from the old versions and make it more than simply a rehash of the old games.
At first, however, I must confess I was disappointed that it was so much the same. There were no new landscapes to explore, the presents were in the same places so it didn’t take effort to find them. Stuff like that. But after the first levels, I started finding the playing very hard, and I needed my skill from the older games to make it through the new. I started to obsess again, and that’s a good thing.
The music his the same quirky humor as the rest of the game. Many songs are remixes of earlier versions. I especially liked the oompah version in the school recorded by the "Katamari HS Marching Band"
Two new additions are the jump and the hearts. Instead of just rolling along ( and sometimes getting stuck) you can now jump. I am still having a love/ hate relationship with the jump. When I try to jump the way you are taught in the tutorial, I succeed maybe ten percent of the time. Fortunately I figured out that the right shoulder button jumps you as well or I would have started throwing things. The frustrating thing is that when I get excited playing, I move the controller around as I play and then I jump A LOT when I don't want to. My friends are having the same problem so it isn't just me. The Katamari makers are cruel inhuman pranksters and I'm giving them a piece of my mind just as soon as I finish the next level.
The other new features of the game are strategically placed hearts encased in energy columns. Roll up one of these, and all the objects nearby that you are big enough to grab are magnetically pulled toward you making your score pop. One kind of heart pulls everything in your immediate vicinity in one giant suck. The other lasts a full 5 seconds, so you can roll around getting bigger very fast. The bigger you are, the more you attract, so there is strategy in when you trigger these bonus effects. But if you wait until you are too big, you lose the option.
One of the most fun aspects of the game is the new character of the Robot King. The King suffers a concussion and is in a coma so the prince builds a machine version of him to keep the stars in the heavens. The Robot King is the opposite of the King, insecure, worried, helpless and hopeless - picture Eyore with the King's critical eye. He's afraid of everything he's supposed to do and you are no help.
The game has two fields of play from the beginning. You roll for the Robot King in his cartoon graphic world. In the King’s world, since he has lost his memories in the accident, you go into his head and roll around there to help him recover them. The device here is that when you start, the landscape is only black and white, but as you pick up objects they colorize. As a bonus, all the other objects of that type in that world colorized as well, so it is easy to see objects you know you can roll up because they now have color.
Between rolls there is a carnival-like village square in the form of a pop-up book for the cousins to congregate. By walking up to either the King’s head or the Robot King’s head, they pop up and you can enter a solar system with their respective levels of play. If you want to change cousins or presents, you change the page of the pop-up book and can enter the appropriate carnival ride to do so.
As you play, you can lock other versions of play. There is Eternal mode, which lets you play as long as you like. I thought at first there’d be no point, but actually it’s great to be able to explore the terrain of each game and to see where everything is. During regular play, you also unlock Classic mode, which does not have the new tricks but has the same rich colors as the original versions of the game. When you have played through the entire game and awakened the King, that unlocks speed mode, which causes your Katamari to roll at high speed through the terrain. Watch out for the race car world, because suddenly you’re zooming doubly fast and bouncing out of control all over the place. I was very happy to find that there was new play after the finish. And that the Robot King was not turned to junk but still allowed to be a part of the cosmic fun.
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Published on Oct 16, 2009