Review: Katamari Damacy Reroll

When Katamari Damacy first rolled out in 2004 it was one of the most unusual games of the year. The premise was ridiculous, which paired with the cast of characters and opening sequence molded a surreal gaming experience. This was a PlayStation 2 exclusive, but Katamari Damacy always had a certain Nintendo-esque quality to it where it would have felt right at home on one of their consoles, at least that was the thought during the first time playing it. Someone in the industry must have shared that sentiment as Katamari Damacy Reroll has brought some modern upgrades to the title for a re-release on Nintendo Switch, meaning players can now roll their katamaris on the go, much like the pint-sized Prince.

Katamari Damacy Reroll begins with the King of All Cosmos presumably going on a bender that results in destroying all the stars in the galaxy. The King is not one to dirty his own hands, but those stars aren’t going to fix themselves. The only logical solution is for the King to task this endeavor to the Prince, resulting in sending the Prince to Earth to roll up just about everything and send them into the sky as replacement stars. How exactly this is a good solution is difficult to explain, but being unable to grasp this is probably why I write for a video game website instead of ruling over the cosmos.

In order to restore the stars to the sky the Prince has to roll everything on Earth into a ball. These little katamaries begin made up of tiny objects the Prince may encounter, such as thumbtacks and dominoes but eventually includes cars, giant squid and even people. For an innocuous goal of bringing back the twinkle to the night sky this specific progress can have disastrous results on society. During the course of the game many lives are lost as sacrifices to bring back the stars but this is something that is largely ignored in the conversations between the King and Prince, which usually involve the inadequacy of the size of the katamari.

The task isn’t always the easiest. The King is not an easy monarch to please and patience is not one of his virtues. The Prince has a limited amount of time to roll the katamari to the designated size and reaching that size is only the minimum acceptable katamari size. The King wants the Prince to greatly exceed the minimum threshold of acceptability and will criticize the Prince’s efforts for not being good enough. The borderline verbal abuse from the King is one of the more entertaining aspects of Katamari Damacy Reroll, but it’s best not to take the King’s criticism too personally. After all, he isn’t disappointed in you, he’s disappointed in himself for believing in you.

In addition to trying to fulfill the Freudian urge to please the family patriarch, a certain amount of strategy is required to maximize the katamari. The Prince cannot roll up anything larger than the current katamari and collisions with large objects can knock already rolled items loose, reducing the overall size of the katamari. After the katamari has reached a sufficient size, the problem objects can be absorbed and animals that may have previously posed a threat can now be rolled up. When the katamari reaches a sufficient size the scale of the level shifts where the general size of the surrounding area becomes smaller to reflect the growth of the Prince’s ball of collected items. Some levels require the katamari reach a certain size in order to access certain areas, whether it be through artificial barriers or simple size mechanics. Rolling up a katamari to meet the minimum requirements for each level isn’t too difficult though it can be challenging to get an enormous katamari or find all the hidden items in each level.

Katamari Damacy Reroll is a game that looks like it is designed for children with its bright colors and lack of graphic violence but it’s bleak in its humor. In addition to the high death toll in rolling up everyone and everything, the premise of the King drinking so much he destroys a galaxy is bad and the alcoholic father at best gives the most backhanded praises to his son for doing his dirty work. This is one of the definite charms of the game, as being berated by the King never gets old. There are also a few humorous events that occur in the background by some of the living residents of the world for the eagle eyed player. Katamari Damacy Reroll is a silly and highly-entertaining game with a subtle layer of black humor.

The controls are rather straight forward with a mandatory tutorial to provide an explanation of what the two thumbsticks can do. It’s simple in theory but does take some practice to get proficient with guiding the Prince around the world. Controlling the Prince isn’t always as smooth as one would like at all times but that seems like it is part of the design. The Switch version offers some motion controls that can be used by tilting the console on handheld mode but this doesn’t enhance the experience. The cutscenes have been redone in HD and the overall graphics have been upscaled so they aren’t painful to look at on HDTVs, but they are otherwise the same graphics from the PlayStation 2 version. The soundtrack is fittingly weird for the game with the music from the opening sequence being one of the more memorable tunes from any game that fits the psychedelic animations perfectly. There is local competitive multiplayer as an extra game mode, and while it can be enjoyable to kill time with a friend, it isn’t the main reason to play this title.

Closing Comments:

Katamari Damacy Reroll is just as fun today as it was fourteen years ago. The game can be completed in around six hours but offers a lot of replay in trying to capture all the different items hidden throughout the world. There aren’t any noticeable upgrades or new features included, but honestly it doesn’t really need any. Katamari Damacy was a unique and bizarre game that offered simple fun in lieu of a complex and twisting narrative. This title may be short and repetitive, but it’s extremely difficult to play this and not have a good time. Whether a newcomer or a fan of the PlayStation 2 version, the odd gem of a game should be included in every Switch owner’s library.