It may look all happy and cutesy at a glance, but when you properly consider Katamari‘s gameplay, it’s actually rather dark. Very dark, in fact.
Developed and published by Bandai Namco across a number of formats since 2004, the Katamari series is one of those bizarre Japanese imports that happily found itself a welcome place in the West. It’s been a while since we’ve had a Katamari game release – not since last generation, actually – but that has finally changed today. Katamari Damacy REROLL – a re-release of Katamari Damacy – is now available on Nintendo Switch and PC, and it’s as wonderful as ever. Well, I say “wonderful”. It’s not for the NPCs that live in the game’s universe.
Controlling The Prince (not to be confused with The Artist Formerly Known As…), your task is very simple: traverse the environment and roll up as many objects as possible to create the biggest ball you can. Simple, but harrowing.
This ball, the katamari itself (which is Japanese for “mass” or “cluster” – thank you Wikipedia), isn’t just made up of random, inanimate objects. Oh no. There are plenty of living animals and people in there too. Sure, you may start off small, rolling up paperclips, pen lids and random bits of sushi, but as your katamari grows, so does the scope of what you can encompass into your giant ball. Rodents and bunnies are probably the first of your live victims, with cats and small dogs following not far behind. Soon after, poor, defenceless toddlers will find themselves becoming engulfed by a monstrous rolling ball of miscellany, leaving their parents alone and stranded, wondering what the hell just happened to poor little Jack Jr. They needn’t ponder for too long though, because after uprooting a few bushes and park benches, your katamari will soon be large enough to sweep them off their feet, too.
So there you are, a tiny, seemingly innocent Prince, rolling along a colossal sphere of ultimate destruction; cats, dogs and humans alike swirling round and round, their faces brutally bashing against the ground every rotation. The best they can hope for now is that a larger object will soon be picked up, protecting their poor faces and limbs from being maimed against the cold, hard concrete. But then what? Those smaller, poor souls trapped within the innards of the katamari are doomed to certain suffocation.
Just what kind of sick game is this, Bandai Namco?
Don’t even get me started on those super-sized levels, when your katamari becomes large enough to roll up entire buildings, towns, mountains and eventually whole countries. Imagine looking out of your bedroom window in a morning and seeing a giant, multi-coloured ball, filled with screaming people and flailing limbs, hurtling towards your house at unprecedented speeds. I don’t know about you, but I cannot think of a single thing more terrifying.
Look, I know it’s all just fun and games when you’re the one safely stood behind the Rolling Ball of Doom, but all I’m asking is: while you’re having a whale of a time pushing around your katamari, spare a thought to your victims. Those poor townsfolk who have lost friends and family to an unexplained mysterious spherical terror; those cities wiped completely off the map. May their souls rest in peace.