Katamari Damacy: The most screwed-up video game ever


As I already noted, I went down to Los Angeles a few days before the PDC to spend time with friends and relatives. I stayed with a cousin who works for a major video game manufacturer, and his boss gave him a homework assignment: He was told to go home and play a specific video game. (Unfortunately, it wasn't a particularly good video game, but his boss didn't want him to admire the gameplay. He wanted him to pay attention to the visual design.)

Tell this to a teenager and they will think my cousin has a dream job. "He plays video games and gets paid for it!" But of course, we all know that there's a difference between playing video games for fun (where you can choose which game to play and how long to play it) and playing it for work.

Anyway, when he was taking a break from his video game homework, I turned on the Playstation and popped in Katamari Damacy (塊魂), by far the most screwed-up video game ever. In a good way.

I won't bother explaining the game; there are plenty of other sites that do a better job of it than I can, perhaps the most poetic of which is Namco's own site. (They obviously got a professional translator to do the site rather than relying on the bizarro-English used in the game itself!)

Featuring ball-rolling and object-collecting gameplay mechanics of mesmerizing fluidity, reduced to Pac-Man simplicity, through pure absurdity. Dimensions change drastically as your clump grows from a fraction of an inch to a monstrous freak of nature.

I was indeed mesmerised by the utter simplicity of the gameplay, the intuitiveness of the controls, and the sense of total glee when you realize that you can pick up an ocean liner. The way the game changes scale in the span of twenty minutes adds to the overall magic. What was at the start of the game a wall you merely accepted as part of the landscape becomes, after you grow your katamari for a while, an obstacle you have to avoid, and later still, an item you can roll up, or, if you neglect it long enough, something you pick up off the ground purely incidentally like a piece of gum stuck to your shoe.

I remember on the last level, realizing that I had just picked up the park where the level started. The entire park.

One thing I found myself doing was standing up as my katamari grew larger. I would start out the level sitting down, and by the time I reached 200 meters, I would be standing up and leaning left and right as my huge ball of junk became more and more unwieldy.

Anyway, there wasn't much of a point to this entry. I just wanted to rave about this completely messed-up game. (I'm hardly the only fan of this game. This particular fan club deserves special mention for their wonderful "Your katamari is as big as <n> comments" link. And then there's the unbelievable katamari cake complete with prince.)

Comments (22)
  1. Rick Scott says:

    Just a week ago they came out with the amazing sequel to KD: "We Love Katamari". Its 10x as awesome as the original =D

    The ultimate last level in the sequel is "collect ONE MILLION roses," which I have been working on for some time…it looks to take between 45 and 50 hours of game play time to finish just that level.

  2. quanta says:

    Amen, brother. I don’t remember being seeing such a unique, addicting game since Tetris. And to think that the designer was originally given virtually no budget to make a bargain bin stuffer that was (and still is being) sold for $26 CAN.

  3. DavidE says:

    I was introduced to this game by the children of some friends of mine. I don’t have a PlayStation – or a TV, for that matter – but I’m planning to buy both soon just to play the Katamari games. Damn you, Namco! ;-)

  4. Chris Lundie says:

    We Love Katamari really is a great sequel. At one point you end up pushing around a sumo wrestler whose body grows fatter as he absorbs the food he rolls over.

  5. James Schend says:

    Hey, you gotta have Microsoft head-hunt whoever designed this thing to make an Xbox game or two. I’ve love to play it, but a single game isn’t worth getting ripped off buying Sony’s inferior hardware at an inflated price.

  6. Joseph Millman says:

    Mac Hall’s take: http://www.machall.com/index.php?strip_id=317

    and, yes, it is a very adictive game

  7. boxmonkey says:

    Katamari is a great fun game, especially enjoyable for someone like me who still isn’t used to having to memorize what 42 different buttons and 8 direction pads/joysticks on the controllers do.

  8. Jim says:

    Re bizarro english. As a veteran of mid-80s NES games, I can assure you that the odd writing in Katamari Damacy is very much not what English written by Japanese speakers reads like. The idiosyncrasies in the dialogue seem quite deliberate to me.

  9. Paulcam says:

    There’s lots of great Katamari Damacy coverage over at my favorite blog — http://www.boingboing.net.

    See here for articles: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Aboingboing.net+katamari

  10. The dev lead on my product was over at my place with his family picking from a litter of kittens when I sat his seven year old son, who was bored with the kittens, in front of Katamari Damacy. When I came back in a half hour, my dev lead and his son were taking turns playing, and both were completely absorbed.

    Katamari Damacy is a great game.

  11. Kyle Oppenheim says:

    We have a PS2 at the office and one of the guys on my team ended up really getting into the game, playing every night before going home.

    Late one night, some other folks decided to get a hot glue gun and roll up everything on his desk into a large katamari. :-)

  12. "Dimensions change drastically as your clump grows from a fraction of an inch to a monstrous freak of nature."

    I seriously thought for a second that "clump" said "dump."

    I was flabbergasted and dazed for a second while thinking, "….did…that really….just say, what I think it said? Is scat hitting mainstream now?"

  13. Yeah I can agree with the statement, "But of course, we all know that there’s a difference between playing video games for fun (where you can choose which game to play and how long to play it) and playing it for work."

    Not sure if you remember Raymond – but back in the Windows 95 days I was that STE that had the shelves full of games in his office. I think I skulked into your office (although I’m pretty sure that I bugged Ralph Lipe a lot more than I bugged you) more than once with a bug on Doom or Wing Commander. Yes I used to go home and write code for fun. To this day (10+ year later) I still don’t enjoy video games as much as I probably should.

  14. GavinL says:

    I suspect that I *would* be addicted to it…. except that for some insane reason they never made a PAL version, so I couldn’t play it. Frikkin’ standards wars.

    Word is that WLK is supposed to have a PAL version too, but there’s been no sign of it so far… :(

  15. Kelli Zielinski says:

    This entry is cooler than Jesus.

    I just wanted to say that. That’s all.

    … I do keep hearing a lot about this game, but I fear that I’d probably end up amped up on caffeine and hoping around with a big ball of crap on the screen. I may just have enough issues without that.

  16. Name required? Like this you mean? says:

    "your clump grows from a fraction of an inch to a monstrous freak of nature"

    Sounds like software development to me.

  17. Connor McDonald says:

    Katamari Damacy is a halariou game with bad graphics I have play.The game also teaches people by introduces coonstilations.

  18. For Christmas, we got the kids a PS2, they’ve been having a great deal of fun with it.

    On Raymond’s…

  19. Raymond Chen posted up about Katamari Damacy. This looks like a seriously cool game – just go and look

  20. A logistical nightmare.

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