Rolling a katamari is as charming as ever, but you may have rolled most of these katamaris before.
With 34 levels in all, it will take most players around five or six hours to reach the credits. But as with earlier Katamari games, the fun lies not in simply completing each level, but in going back and rolling a truly impressive katamari. There's no shortage of objects to roll up and add to your collection, as well as the prince's playable cousins and fashion accessories to find. And online leaderboards make the pursuit of katamari greatness more interesting. After completing the story, you'll start to unlock additional modes. The most novel of these is Katamari Drive, in which your katamari rolls around at a ludicrous speed. The experience is one of barely controlled chaos, and it's a lot of fun. There's also Eternal mode, which lets you roll your katamari around a level without the pressure of a time limit, and Classic mode, which does away with the hearts and prince hop to duplicate the gameplay of Forever's predecessors. These modes don't quite make up for the lack of original level content, but they do add some replay value.
There's multiplayer here, too, though disappointingly it's the same two modes that you've probably seen before, and neither offers online play. Co-op mode has you and a friend rolling a single katamari. The sheer awkwardness of this endeavor makes it amusing, and you'll have to communicate and coordinate your movements if you hope to do well. Vs. mode puts you and your opponent in a small environment and has you racing to roll the bigger katamari. If you make yours big enough, you might even be able to roll up your opponent. It's a nice competitive twist on the core game, but the split-screen display limits your visibility quite a bit.
The classic Katamari Damacy graphics have gotten a nice upgrade for their PlayStation 3 debut, while maintaining the appealing simplicity that has defined the series' look. Every object in the environment looks crisp and well defined, even at its closest. By default, there's a filter that makes everything look like a moving pencil sketch, bringing a captivating liveliness to the visuals. There are other filters as well--one that imitates a woodcut, one that makes the graphics cel-shaded, and one that mimics the visuals of the earlier games, though they're much sharper--though these filters need to be unlocked, which is unfortunate for those who prefer one of these options to the default setting. And the camera woes that have plagued the series are here. When you roll under or behind an object that obscures your view, sometimes a peephole will open to give you a clear look at your surroundings, but sometimes it won't, which can be a problem if you get caught on something. Musically, Katamari Forever carries on the series' tradition of wildly catchy soundtracks. In keeping with the game's retrospective format, most of these tunes are remixes of songs from earlier games, and they all sound terrific. The eclectic mix of sunny J-pop, throbbing dance music, jolly jazz, and more is sure to work its way into your head.
Considering the budget price points at which earlier games in the series have been released, and that most of this game is recycled content, $50 is steep. And it's perhaps a bit early for the Katamari Damacy series to be resting on its laurels with a retrospective compilation like this one. If you're eager to revisit your fond memories of katamaris past, you'll find that rolling a huge clump of stuff is still as irresistible as ever. And if you're new to this whole katamari thing, Katamari Forever conveniently features the best content you've missed from the earlier games. But this is all very well-covered territory. For its next outing, the katamari had better blaze a new trail or two.