sticky spinning fun
replacing the stars
In short, it is wonderful. Simply wonderful.
Let me try to break it down for you...
First impressions: When you pop in this game, you will see a minute-long theme-song animation. There are not enough drugs in the world to make this cartoon seem normal. (See for yourself.) A chorus of ducks sing from the sides of the screen, accompanied by giraffes, elephants, shamrocks, and a plethora of mushrooms. The song is super-catchy, and will certainly stir you on to playing the game.
Story: (Ready for this? It's a doozy...) You play the son of the King of All cosmos. He's a quirky giant, and apparently last night he was cruising the galaxy after partying hard. He doesn't quite remember the whole night, but it's obvious that this lumbering drunk was out of control: he managed to destroy all the stars in the sky. As the tiny prince, you must make new stars. (As an astronomer, I obviously NEEDED to have this game!) Your father provided you with something called a Katamari (the best research I could do seems to indicate that this means 'clump', which makes sense), which is a sticky ball. A super sticky ball. This thing apparently the universal adhesive -- because EVERYTHING sticks to the ball. And that's the point -- use the sticky ball to collect things and make the ball big enough to be a star.
Gameplay: Rolling, rolling, rolling. The prince must roll the ball around and stick things to it to make it bigger. Each level starts with a ball at a certain size -- you have a goal size and a time limit to make it that large. I'm fairly certain that it's the only game I've played that actually uses NO BUTTONS. It just uses the two analog joysticks. Think of it sort of like driving a tank (remember Battlezone?) -- push both joysticks forward to go forward, one forward and one back turns you... there are a variety of combinations of the joysticks to maneuver different ways. It's a little tricky to get the hang of it, but once you do, it's a lot of fun, and quite fluid. The physics are just right. It's kind of funny when you pick up an odd-shaped item like a pencil or a shovel, you ball sort of rolls with a limp.
Graphics: Simple, but clear. The graphics are almost retro-style simple. The objects that move look foolishly simple. The animals that move look like plastic toys. The cut scene graphics look like low-budget, two-frame animations. But somehow, it works. In fact, it lends a kitchiness that makes you laugh that much harder at some of the objects and events. I don't know how they it was done, but the graphics are awful and amazing at the same time.
Sound: This is the true kicker. The soundtrack is TREMENDOUS. It's almost too good. I didn't want to finish some levels because the music was so good. Perfect, catchy Tokyopop. (Here's some clips.) They have made a soundtrack, but it costs more than the game itself.
Final thoughts: The game retails brand new at $20. This will be money well-spent. The levels are huge, and VERY replayable -- the open style of zipping around and picking up things whichever way you want, is amazing. It's a simple game -- there's no shooting or flying or racing or role-playing elements -- but it's so clever, quaint and odd that you have to like it. I can't imagine ever getting rid of this game.
Buy it now. Love it forever.