While it is new to the 360, the novelty of the Katamari series is growing old…fast. Not really offering anything new besides some online multiplayer modes, the Katamari series is starting to take the path of Dynasty Warriors. The King of All Cosmos has once again caused a problem in the galaxy (made a black hole by hitting a tennis ball too hard) and it is up to the Prince to plug it by rolling up a bunch of random crap on planet Earth. Confusing? You bet’cha, but that is what the Katamari series is all about. From the opening movie alone, you know you are in for one crazy ride.
The gameplay is a very simple concept, blown up to epic proportions. You play as the Prince, a little green alien with a majorly-misshapen head. Using both analog sticks, the player must roll a sticky ball, a katamari, over everyday objects. Once rolled over, that item then becomes a part of the katamari, increasing the ball’s size. Continuing this process will result in one giant katamari which allows the player to pick up bigger objects.
During the early stages of the game, the player will roll up small items like coins and thumb tacks, but the later stages in the game will have player collecting humans, clouds, islands, and eventually stars and comets as this sticky ball grows. Growing a katamari within the given time limit is the only restriction, giving players a sense of panic and worry when completing every mission. Beautiful Katamari does offer a co-op mode, but it is pretty much useless. Instead of having two players control their own katamari, two players share one katamari, each controlling only one analog stick. This just makes playing confusing and uncooperative. Instead of splitting up the control scheme, wouldn’t it be more fun to control separate katamaris, then maybe have the players slam them together before time runs out to make one big katamari? A mode like this could have been a nice breath of fresh air…but it wasn’t.
Over all, the game is not very long. Getting to the last stage will only take a few hours. But new to Beautiful Katamari, there is more to offer in the replay value department. After the game is completed, the player can go back and replay old levels in hopes of rolling up every item in the game, collecting hidden bonus items, or finding cousins (other playable characters). These stats are managed in one of the option screens. But the newest addition to this series is the online modes thanks to the magic of Xbox Live. Up to four players can compete in a match to collect a certain amount of a particular item. Specifically created for the online Versus mode, the left trigger will lock on to your opponent. When combined with the charge attack (flicking both analog sticks in opposite directions repeatedly), the player can slam into an opponent, causing them to drop their precious cargo. Once the match is over, the King rewards players with Cookies…almost acting like Achievements within Achievements. These cookies are managed through online leaderboards and are used as bragging rights besides the usual gamerpoint Achievements.
Unfortunately, the graphics retain the same blocky theme as the game’s first release on the PS2. This 360 version merely allows the game to be played in a higher resolution which makes the game look a little cleaner. And just like the graphics, the music is the same as it has always been; crazy Japanese tunes and sound effects are used in bulk in this game, a feature that gives the game much of its quirkiness.
Without question, Beautiful Katamari is an entertaining game, especially for newcomers to the series. However, it is not hard for veterans to see that this series is losing it edge as Beautiful Katamari, the fourth game in the series, is essentially the same as the first game on PS2, the second game on PS2, and even the PSP version. If a new Katamari game is to be made, there will need to be some type of new gameplay element to keep the series fresh, exciting, and above all, playable. Paying the full price of this 360 is asking a little too much, especially because it does not really offer anything new except for a mediocre online Vs mode. Because of this, newbies to Katamari will enjoy this title more than veterans.