Review: Beautiful Katamari

BK_boxart.jpg Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 10/16/07
Genre: Action/Puzzle
Players: 1-4

You won’t find a more adoring Katamari fan than this guy right here, but after playing through Beautiful Katamari, in oh… two hours or so, I’ve come to the sad realization that Namco Bandai needs to let the series fad away before it tarnishes its name any further. The original PS2 outings were brilliant, the PSP edition was a solid enough portable translation, but with BK the gameplay concept that was once so fresh and original has lost its luster and become almost tiresome to play.

As always, The King of All Cosmos is up to his usual shenanigans here – this time out creating a black hole that sucks up the universe while amidst a heated tennis match – but for whatever reason the charm and hilarity of it all isn’t as strong. And that’s essentially the common theme throughout the game.

Everything about BK strikes me as a setback from past games (well, the soundtrack is still good at least). The roll-up-everything-in-sight gameplay is still good, wacky fun, but the novelty just isn’t there any more and the mission goals show no signs of creative thought. Roll up cold things, roll up hot things, roll up Japanese items, roll up ring-shaped objects… blah, blah, blah, it’s all the same. Similarly, Katamari control doesn’t feel nearly as smooth and elegant as it once did due to a stickier camera and what I found to be a higher propensity to get stuck in tight corners and on larger objects you can’t roll up yet.

Worse yet, BK is plagued by an awful frame rate. Slow down creeps in especially bad when the scaling increases, and overall the game engine is noticeably bumpy. This baffles me too given how little the graphics have improved. Sure, the resolution has been HD-ified somewhat and the overall scale of the game world is larger, but up close the textures are quite blurry and the geometry doesn’t appear to have received even the slightest bit of improvement. The rudimentary graphical design has always been one of the series’ most charming, distinctive qualities, and for the most part that’s still the case, but surely some sprucing up could’ve been done with the greater power of the 360. Or if nothing else the frame rate should’ve been 100% steady, not all over the map like it is.

BK’s only real advancement is simply having more of everything. More presents, more cousins, more multiplayer features (including online leaderboards, which is a neat addition), etc. That said, the main portion of the game only takes a couple of hours, as I said in the opening, and because of the problems mentioned above I found the replay value to be at an all-time low for the series. Honestly, the only part of the game I’ve played more than once has been the ending credits vertical-scrolling Katarmari shooter mini-game – it’s even better than the 2D credits mini-game from Me & My Katamari! When a game’s credits mini-game is its main standout feature, though, you know something is wrong.

Beautiful Katamari is by no means dreadful, but at the same time nothing about it justifies spending the time or money to play it, and that’s coming straight from a diehard fan of the series! As much as it hurts my heart to say, Beautiful Katamari is a forgettable, skippable game.

SkipIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Core Katamari gameplay still has its brief moments of charm and fun
+ Features more content than any of the previous games
+ Vertical-scrolling shooter mini-game is a hoot

Cons:
– Dull, uninspired mission goals
– Poor frame rate makes the game feel choppy
– Extremely low replay value
– Overall sense of downgrade from past Katamari titles

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!