Most gamers likely have at least one game that they don’t care for, yet everyone else seems to love, and Katamari Damacy REROLL is that game for me. I missed the original back in the PS2 days, so my experience with this update was that of a first-time player. With a few exceptions, I didn’t care for what I saw.
This series has an interesting history, described as a “sleeper” game. It initially failed to hit Namco’s sales expectations in Japan yet, when later released, couldn’t match demand in the US, with a low number of available copies likely stemming from the Japanese reception. It didn’t even get released in Europe or Australia. It spawned sequels (mostly Playstation and mobile) though some Nintendo gamers might recognize it from a spin-off Japanese DSiWare release.
The story involves the King of the Cosmos, an unlikable sort who tasks you as the prince with cleaning up his mistakes. He enjoys being naughty, yet can’t remember how he did his naughty deed of destroying the sky, although the cutscene makes it seem he was flying while drunk. You need to fill the sky with stars and constellations for the impatient king, who calls you slow and will harshly dismiss you if you can’t hit his time restrictions, among other insults. It’s a wacky premise, but the king’s juvenile, cutting humor is a turnoff almost from the start.
You repair the sky by rolling around a giant ball collecting all manner of random junk. I did like going through the collection to see all the objects I’ve gathered and the percentage of them. But, while the premise is certainly easy to understand, the controls not so much. The tutorial reveals just how unintuitive some of the motions are. Even with two control modes in Katamari Damacy REROLL, there’s a real lack of expected precision. I never did hit a point where the controls didn’t feel awkward, nor where I felt like I even had full control.
For example, a couple of times I put my Joy-Cons down only to watch the ball roll down the mildest of slopes as if they were the steepest mountains. Items are suspect too. You can only gather smaller items, yet evidently not always. Significantly smaller ones can sometimes not be grabbed, yet there are times you expect a collision with a larger item only to find it stuck to you. Sometimes objects a good fifth the size of my Katamari would crash into it and send it flying like a bowling ball down a freshly oiled alley. Inconsistency in itself is annoying, and the controls really don’t help matters any.
Now the game does actually have motion controls, a Nintendo Switch addition that I’m pleased to say I like. However, they are wildly incompatible with time limits the King forces upon you. Evidently, you can unlock a limited free play mode by beating the game with specific criteria hit, but that seems like a slapdash implementation. Motion controls necessitate patience through this quirky world that begs to be explored. Time limits don’t fit the gameplay, only the story to further make the King seem unreasonable. So they bring nothing positive to the experience.
Presentation can’t save the day here either. On a big TV, the bland polygons with their awfully jagged edges really expose the game’s age. It’s a shame as there is some whimsy in the art, but this update is conservative to the extreme. The music is catchy, and thank goodness I can mute the sound effects. When the king speaks, the displayed text sounds like a hungover DJ trying to spin a record. Also, when the clock reaches its final minute, the accompanying one-minute noise sounds more like five minutes of obnoxiousness. Shrill sound effects do no favor to the catchy tunes.
There is a novelty with Katamari Damacy REROLL. It’s original, quirky, and has a catchy soundtrack. It’s still a port of an older game, though. An older game that never could reach a breakout audience, and whose age is showing prominently here. Players revisiting the game will probably dig the nostalgia and be able to overlook the flaws. First timers like myself will see significant weak areas and wonder just what the fuss is about.
I found Katamari Damacy REROLL to be much more frustrating than fun. It lacks modern fundamentals like a good camera and intuitive control, made worse by ill-fitting time restrictions. It’s a very repetitive game too, one that I really couldn’t play for more than two levels at any given time. A minor HD coat of paint can’t compensate here. I suspect Katamari Damacy, though a hit with most critics, will remain a sleeper of a game amongst players, even on Nintendo Switch. I patiently tried to get into it and I just couldn’t. It’s not for me, and I don’t see myself returning to it. That said, if weirdness is a key selling point, check out the demo. Hopefully, you’ll respond to it better than my friend and colleague, Kaelyn, who after playing the demo said, “I wanted to throw the controller!”
Review: Katamari Damacy REROLL (Nintendo Switch)
I found Katamari Damacy REROLL to be much more frustrating than fun. It lacks modern fundamentals like a good camera and intuitive control, made worse by ill-fitting time restrictions. It’s a very repetitive game too, one that I really couldn’t play for more than two levels at any given time. A minor HD coat of paint can’t compensate here. I suspect Katamari Damacy, though a hit with most critics, will remain a sleeper of a game amongst players, even on Nintendo Switch.