Sony has long laid claim to Namco Bandai's Katamari series, in which you roll around a ball of junk that grows bigger as you collect increasingly larger objects, from small household effects all the way up to skyscrapers and islands. Yeah, we don't know what substances were involved in this concept's inception, either. Regardless, Xbox 360 owners will finally get to play a Katamari game of their own in the fourth quarter, when Beautiful Katamari releases. We got to try out the game's two-player cooperative and competitive modes in an early version of the game today at Namco Bandai's E3 display.
The competitive mode simply tasks you with picking up more objects and thus growing your ball bigger than your opponents' within a set time limit. In the sample level we played, that object was a football. You won't have to hunt down the required object in hidden places, though; our level was filled with literally hundreds of them, which made for a frenzied race to beat our opponent as the final seconds were ticking down. There were a few other objects scattered around the river in which we were rolling around, such as trumpets (?), but there didn't seem to be any penalty for picking these up in addition to the footballs.
In the cooperative mode, both players will have to control the same ball, and on our demo stage, our objective was to reach a certain mass before the time limit expired. The co-op here was quite similar to that found in We Love Katamari, in that each player's controller essentially acts as one stick. Thus, the two players will really have to work together to coordinate on which direction to move in. When we miserably failed to meet our weight objective, the King of All Cosmos threw our two little princely avatars onto a giant cosmic billiard table and started rolling balls at us rapidly. This was actually a little interactive sequence in itself, as we were able to dodge the balls, and a score counter kept track of how many times each player was hit rolled comically around the table.
Finally, we got a look at one of Beautiful Katamari's new themed stages, called Roller Roaster. This one was set in a kitchen and tasked us with only picking up hot objects, with a goal of raising our ball's temperature to 10,000 degrees Celsius. This included lots of food, like bacon and eggs frying on a skillet or hamburgers fresh from the grill. Hot sauce also boosted our heat in a big way. There were lots of perilously cold objects like ice cream and fire extinguishers scattered around to negatively impact our temperature, though, so we had to carefully use the camera to watch where we were going and make sure we didn't roll over the wrong things.
Beautiful Katamari looks like it will serve up all the absurd rolling action fans of this series have come to expect. We'd like to see Namco Bandai do a little more with the 360's graphical power, but then, we did note a nice depth-of-field effect in this latest build that we haven't seen before. Since the game isn't due out until the fourth quarter--sometime in the October-November time frame, Namco says--the developer still has plenty of time to add polish. The game will certainly ship on the 360 first, but contrary to recent rumors, a PlayStation 3 release hasn't been ruled out yet.