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Katamari Forever
Score: 93%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Puzzle/ Free-Roaming/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
The first time I had ever heard of Katamari, I was in a local videogame store where the manager knows me. As soon as I walked in he told me I had to buy it, that I would love it. Given that he's never once said that before or since, I went ahead and boughtKatamari Damacy without any clue as to what it was. Years later, I'm still a Katamari addict, so much so that I bought my PS3 just to be able to play Katamari Forever!

If you've ever tried to describe Katamari to someone who's never seen it before, you know what kind of strange looks you get! It's this game where you roll a ball around and pick things up. Doesn't sounds very exciting, I know, but really it's such an addictive game! Graphically, it really hasn't changed much over the years. The Queen of the Cosmos is still wearing the same outfit even. The cousins are all still there, but there is one new cousin around, Drive. Actually, a lot of the boards are the exact same as in the previous games, which makes sense when you're in the King's dreams. Plus, there's a new option that you didn't have before. You can change the visual style of the world (as soon as you unlock them). Personally, I really liked this as I hated the "new" style. The "wood" one is quite interesting as well, but I prefer to leave mine on "comic book." There is also "anime" style.

The music in Katamari Forever is just as weird as always. You will recognize several of the song selections from the previous games. There is no voicework as the characters do not really speak. You do get exclamations from the people that you roll over from time to time though. Their cries are always amusing to hear.


Gameplay:
Katamari always has some storyline that involves the King of the Cosmos messing the cosmos up and the Prince has to fix it. This time, the King of the Cosmos jumps so high that he hits his head on a meteor and winds up in a deep sleep from which no one can wake him. The cousins decide that they will build a robot to replace the King until he wakes up. They call him RoboKing. Well, apparently RoboKing is too much like the King, and he ends up destroying all the stars in the sky (sounds familiar, right?). So now, it's once again up to the Prince and his cousins to put the cosmos back in order, not to mention wake up the sleeping King!

Since you have two different goals, you're going to have two different areas to roll in, the King's area and RoboKing's area. If you need to know which of them has the latest board that you need to beat to open a new board, simply look for the antenna on the right side of their head. If there's one there, that's the place you need to visit next. You can, of course, replay the boards as many times as you would like to collect more objects or get a better score. When you first go through them, you'll only have the normal way to play. If you get a high enough score, you will unlock Eternal mode but only after you've gotten the Single Player Trophy (which you get for completing 50 Single Player Requests). At least I didn't unlock Eternal mode until after that, even though I had gotten 100 points on several boards. You can unlock Eternal mode with less than 100 points in some cases. It is possible to get a high score of 120 points. To do that though, you're probably going to have to find the hearts on the board! The King's/RoboKing's Heart and King's/RoboKing's Broken Heart are really nice additions to the game. If you roll over a broken heart, it will suck up everything that you are large enough to get in your vicinity. If you roll over a non-broken heart, the effect will last for a period of time, making it very easy to clear an entire area! You need to make sure to learn what size they will disappear at though so that you can get to them before they disappear.

After you have beaten all the boards in the Normal mode and woken up the sleeping King, you'll then get the new "Drive Mode." Drive mode is the exact same as the race car board was in previous games. Your Katamari will roll on its own, making it a whole lot faster to move around. In some boards, this makes it much easier to get a really high score. Some places require a very fine control, like the hot board where you are only supposed to roll up hot things. With your Katamari going super fast, it's much harder to avoid those cold objects! When you have beaten all the boards in Drive Mode, you'll unlock the end game of Beautiful Katamari to play.

There is also a Classic Mode that you can unlock. Once you have it, you will be able to play the boards the way they were in the previous games, without the addition of Prince Hop and the hearts. It is quite easy to get Classic Mode unlocked once you have Eternal Mode, so don't even sweat it until then. If you can't tell yet, for a game with a very simple storyline, there is a lot to do in Katamari Forever.


Difficulty:
Katamari Forever is a very easy game to play, but not quite so easy to master! The difficulty in the game lies not in passing all the boards, that's easy. The real difficulty is finding all the items, collecting all the presents, collecting all the cousins, and unlocking all the various things that you can unlock.

Granted, some of the boards are more difficult than others to pass. The "hot" board has always been one of my least favorites as I invariably end up running into something little and cold and killing my Katamari after I've already collected presents and/or cousins that I didn't want to have to find again. But, given that it is the same board as in the previous game, it is much easier this time around as I know what order to do things in. That's the real trick to Katamari, figuring out what order you should go and on what path to get the best results.

As is typical, there is one new type of board in Katamari Forever. This time, it's called Sprinkler. On this board, you will need to fill your Katamari with water and roll around, turning the huge dustbowl into fertile land. Your Katamari is always going to spew the water though, whether or not that section has already been watered. This means that you're going to need to learn how to maximize the water that you have and cover the most space that you can. There is a water spot in the middle of the board as well, but you're going to have to become very good at the Prince Hop to get up to it and roll from there!


Game Mechanics:
The controls in Katamari Forever are pretty easy to get the hang of. You use both analog sticks to move the Katamari around the screen. If you just use one of them, the Katamari simply turns in place, so you can use that to change directions. If you want to face the opposite direction quickly, push in on both analog sticks and the Prince will flip to the other side of the Katamari. This quick turn can be quite handy on some boards! You can also dash across the screen. To do so, move the analog sticks up and down very rapidly. There is also a new move available, the Prince Hop. I found it to be very useful for getting to items that previously you had to try and climb walls to get to. To Prince Hop, either move your controller up or down quickly or press (R2).

Sometimes you need to get a good look around the screen. You can use (L1) to look around from the Prince's point of view or (R1) to look around from the Katamari. These viewpoints can be very helpful for locating presents, cousins, or just an area with lots of stuff to roll up. If you like, after you have gotten the camera as a present, you can even take pictures of the world. To do so, you have to first equip the camera and then press (X) when you're in either the Prince's view or the Katamari view. You can keep up to 3 photos at once and you can store them in the Photo Album. One change to the game that I really liked is the circles around the areas you can go into. Previously, I'd have to run away from other cousins to avoid switching to them instead of playing the level. Now you don't have to worry about that!

I have been addicted to Katamari for years, and Katamari Forever is no exception. At first, I didn't think that there was as much to do in it since a lot of the boards are the same as before. I "beat" the game, or at least woke up the King, in the first 12 hours that I had it. Since then though, I'm still playing and trying to complete everything else. If you're a Katamari fan, you want this game. Even if you've never played the previous ones, you want this game! It's an addictive game to play that's even fun for the whole family to watch!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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