There are many reasons to love a game. It can be a marvel of technical accomplishment, dazzle with breathtaking lifelike graphics, or create a whole new genre of gameplay. It can have an intricately crafted, immersive story, with expertly realized characters and intricate twists and turns. It can be a challenge, pushing the player to the limits of their reflexes and creativity.
Or, every once in a while, it can be disarmingly, irresistibly weird. Like Katamari Damacy.
To try to describe Katamari Damacy is silliness. You roll things up into a ball (called a katamari), and as the ball gets bigger, you get to roll up bigger things. When you’re all done the King of the Universe insults you and turns your ball into a star. With some slight variations, that’s basically the whole game. Did I mention that there are two sequels?
It’s a simple but infinitely variable mechanic—you just use the two analog sticks to control your direction. Buttons? We don’t need no stinking buttons. But keep rolling! Faster! Larger! Don’t touch that bear!
But what really makes Katamari Damacy memorable is the vibe—loud, colorful, and gloriously weird. Why is the King of the Universe’s head shaped like a cylinder? Who cares? The man can dance. Did I mention that the reason why you’re making katamari is that the King of the Universe accidentally destroyed all the stars on a drunken bender? Seriously.
Seriously awesome, that is.
I think it’s admirable that Katamari Damacy is a game where you don’t need to spend the first third of your playing time mired in tutorials, while the game doles out pieces of its mechanics bit by bit, so as not to overwhelm you. I love that a big part of the replay value involves the hope that the King of the Universe (the player character’s father) might dole out a faint word of praise instead of a glib dismissal. I love that you can roll up people into your ball, and that they scream at you when you do it. I love the later stages when you finally get to move up from rolling paper clips, flowers, and cookies to rolling up buildings, islands, and rainbows.
But most of all, I love that the game explodes with color, energy, and weirdness. It’s not as visually impressive as Final Fantasy XIII. It doesn’t have the surprising emotional depth of Red Dead Redemption. It takes a little bit longer to get the hang of than Mafia Wars. It’s nothing more than an extraordinarily entertaining game, and, happily, it offers no apologies for that.
Gavin Craig is co-editor of The Idler. You can follow him on Twitter at @craiggav.