Beautiful Katamari - 360 - Review
Different is good and nothing proves this more than the original Katamari that not only caught the attention of gamers around the world but also proved that most gamers are willing to take a chance on something unique. For those gamers who gave the original Katamari a chance, they were treated to a Japanese game that had you rolling a ball that picked up anything it came in contact with in order to make a huge Katamari. While this sounds simple (and strange), the game was loads of fun. Now we enter the next-generation and the series finds itself on a new platform. Beautiful Katamari brings us all the same things past games in the series have already introduced and on the Xbox 360, things are not any different from the PS2 original.
Considered the fourth game in the series, Beautiful Katamari really hasn’t changed much from previous installments and there’s really no change to the gameplay. For those gamers expecting something completely new for the Xbox 360, you will be greatly disappointed. Even the game’s graphics retain the same visual style of past games. The only thing that changes is the theme and the “story” that finds the King of All Cosmos playing tennis with his royal family until he hits the ball into the darkness of the galaxy and creates a Black Hole. In order to fill it and bring harmony back to the cosmos, the King asks his son (the Prince), as well as the many cousins in the royal family line, to help restore order by creating a Katamari (a ball that collects objects) that will be used to recreate planets. Yes, it makes no sense at all but plot isn’t what makes the Katamari series so much fun to play.
As the Prince or one of his many cousins, you will get to roll the ball once again in a few locales the King of All Cosmos will send you to in your quest to fix the Black Hole problem. The Katamari has the power to roll over objects, collecting them in its sticky grasp until you have a ball made entirely of any objects that come in contact with said ball. The various objects you collect don’t even make it a smooth ball so if you manage to pick up a pencil or a spray can you will have a lopsided ball of objects that will roll according to the object in question. In Beautiful Katamari, the main hub is the Princedom that is made up of the Four Areas, Dream Land and the Cosmos. It is here that you can pick through various key places that allow you to jump into a multiplayer round, the options menu and even single-player levels.
You will be rolling your Katamari in a candy shop as well as various other locales while the King of All Cosmos sets a few conditions or requests, as the game calls them. Most requests come in twos so not only will you be asked to build a Katamari of X meters long but also that your Katamari must contain a massive number of specific objects as well. In one area, the King will ask you to collects a number of objects containing liquids whether it’s a juice box or a carton of milk. In another assignment, you are tasked with collecting valuable objects that range from coins to diamond rings. Fail to meet these requests and you will be ridiculed by the King as well as receive a tongue-lashing if the second objective isn’t met.
From the Princedom hub, you will be able to move from assignment or level to smaller hubs that allow you to reveal presents you might have gathered or enter the online hub that will take you to the Vs Battle Mode (that has you competing against three other players to collects objects requested by the King before the timer runs out). It is here that you can switch from the Prince to his cousins to complete the game and sadly, you will be completing the game early thanks to the short length of the single-player mode. The game does very little to change either, leaving you feeling like you’ve done a lot of what you are tasked to do many times before in past games. At least there’s offline co-op that allows you to play alongside a friend and the controls on the Xbox 360 work well even if you’re use to playing the game on the PS2.
Graphically, as I mentioned earlier, nothing has changed on this front at all either. It was quite a sight to see when it was first released on the PlayStation 2 but on the Xbox 360, these visuals really don’t belong together. Much of the game’s original allure is gone in this version and even though some of the much cuter things that clutter the world really stand out, the Xbox 360 could have handled a lot more than what is seen here. There are some nice cut scenes but it is nothing that really shines through the blocky graphics that just seem so dated.
The game’s sound, fortunately for us, is a lot better than the game’s graphics. Composed mainly of Japanese pop, the game’s various songs are just delightfully enchanting and diverse. If you’re a big fan of J-pop, you will find artists like Aya Hirayama as well as Nori Horikoshi just to name a few. While the game’s sound effects aren’t heavily detailed, they do a pretty good job either way and somewhat makes up for the lack of voice acting in the game.
Beautiful Katamari for the Xbox 360 doesn’t try anything new or changes anything we haven’t already played in past games in the Katamari franchise but it’s still a fun game nonetheless. This game would have actually been better as an Xbox Live Marketplace download (and a lot cheaper as well) but for those gamers who have missed the other three games will find this a nice introduction to the series. While the short single-player mode will turn off even the hardcore fans, the chance to play the game on an Xbox 360 is just too good to pass up.
Review Scoring Details for Beautiful Katamari
Rolling your Katamari is still fun and meeting the King’s conditions just make things wonderfully challenging. Sadly, the single-player game is considerably short and there are just not enough features to make this Xbox 360 outing outstanding. This is a next-generation platform and we want more and we want the series to add so much more to this game.
On the PS2 (and, to some extent, the PSP) the game had a charming visual appeal that made the blocky graphics fun but on the Xbox 360 it looks more like an eyesore. The flashy effects found in the cut scenes work nicely but this is not a very good-looking next-generation game.
Fans of J-pop will certainly find a lot to love about the game’s soundtrack and much of it is actually very catchy and a definite treat. It really does make up for the lack of voice acting and the so-so sound effects that make up most of the game.
The King of All Cosmos is a most demanding bloke and meeting his expectations is certainly quite a task but in the best possible way. Each “level” requires you to meet certain condition such as the size of a Katamari and the number of objects of interest that should be in it.
While on the short side, the King of All Cosmos will serve up some pretty interesting places for you to roll your Katamari around. There’s a few interesting places to explore and there are collectible presents you earn along the way. There is online and offline multiplayer and it is good.
Fortunately for us, Beautiful Katamari includes online Vs. Battle mode to play against other players via Xbox Live as well as a two-player co-op mode offline. Both multiplayer modes work beautifully and will surely be the reason you will still play the game after beating the short single-player mode.
Nothing much has changed in the world of Katamari and this is both a good thing and a bad thing, but one thing is for certain and that is that Beautiful Katamari for the Xbox 360 is still charming and fun. It might not push the franchise to new and exciting heights but for faithful fans or those experiencing the quirky series for the first time, this is still a fun game to own.