Balls! Sticky, crud encrusted balls. The bigger, more crud encrusted, the better. Okay, so "balls" is not technically correct; Katamari. Katamari - sticky balls - are an awful lot of fun. We love them and so it would seem do a hell of lot of other people. You see, almost two years ago Namco released a slightly off-the-wall little game named Katamari Damacy. The spawn of wannabe playground designer Keita Takahashi, the original title was only released in Asia and North
King of All Cosmos
America. In it you played The Prince, a fat-headed little critter who's daddy - King of All Cosmos - accidentally obliterated all the stars in the universe. Clearly a terrible mistake, The Prince is charged with assisting the blunderous King in repopulating the skys. How? By rolling his Katamari around, collecting random odds and sods until the Katamari is large enough to be shot into space to create a new star ... of course! Unexpected and widespread success followed, with Katamari Damacy developing a huge cult following. As is too often the case, eager European players were stiffed, with no PAL version appearing on shelves.
It came as no surprise when Namco announced plans to produce a sequel to its wunderkind cash cow. We Love Katamari continues the King's quest to redress his firmamental fubar. Selecting your "mission" forgoes the usual, tedious menu system in favour of the Select Meadow; a grassy parkland where you meet fans of Katamari. Taking The Prince for a stroll around the meadow you'll meet loving fans of Katamari Damacy who each have their own request, starting with "I've forgotten how to play, please show me" - an excellent tutorial and refresher course in Katamari handling. As with the original game you use the Dual Shock's two analogue sticks to guide The Prince in his Katamari pushing endeavours. Think of controls like those of the tank in, say, arcade classic Battlezone, and you're not far off. However, you can roll sideways, perform instant 180 turns and, with a quick waggle of the sticks, perform a speedy if uncontrollable dash. Dexterity is the skill du jour, and tumbling around sucking up paper clips, erasers and skyscrapers calls for some hot thumb action.
Each request you accept from a fan in the Select Meadow actually renders down to two fundamental objectives; time limited challenges where you must reach and surpass a specified number of items or target size before the timer expires and time trials where you must attempt to meet an item or size quota as quickly as possible. Overall, the primary objective is to pick shit up - it's a genre defining pick-shit-up-em-up. This is not as easy at it may first seem, given that your Katamari can only pick up items that are of a relatively similar size. There's no chance of snagging a car when your Katamari is no bigger than a plant pot, but this is readily addressed if you carry on rolling as this barmy collect-a-thon yields a larger Katamari. When it gets too large to easily see where you're going, the camera zooms out to grant a clearer view. As the Katamari grows, so does it's "gravity", but beware of ploughing into oversized items that are roaming the area, such as lions or running children, as these result in a nasty rebound and the loss of some collected items. Still, stick at it and those pesky tykes will soon be mere Katamari fodder.
Look out kids!
There are numerous variants to the two mode of play, such as making your Katamari as large as possible with the fewest number of items - a tricky task where you must avoid the tiny items in favour of those that are just small enough for you to hold on to - or a racing track where you have no control over your speed, only your direction. No matter what the aim, just keep on rolling and before you know it you'll be picking up children, adults, cows, cars, trucks, buildings, landmarks and continents - even your cousins aren't safe from you. What starts out as trundle around a bedroom soon escalates to the garden, as you become large enough to plough through (and collect!) barriers. Then you're on to the village and then the town, the city, the countryside and eventually overseas. It's this that gives We Love Katamari its lure; the freedom, time constraints not withstanding, to just go about trying to get a large as possible, chuckling maniacally as you add people to the Katamari, their arms and legs jittering as they're slowly consumed by your freshly accrued detritus. Next you're picking up lampposts and fences, which play havoc with your rolling ability, but who cares? Oh! There's a car over there, and it's just begging to become one with my great big Katamari of love!