This is the year of "all things weird and wonderful" for Namco Bandai, according to Todd Thorson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations – and Katamari Forever on the PlayStation 3 proves it.
To reintroduce gamers to the wacky puzzle/action/adventure/weird thing Japan created to ensnare gamers in mindless fun, Namco Bandai has given the original game a graphics makeover, a new story, a "handful" of new levels and some remixed music from the original Katamari Damacy. Sadly, the title wasn't hands-on at the Editors Day event, but one look at Katamari Forever was enough to bring back giddy feelings akin to the first rising vibes of an acid flashback. Even better – it's in 1080p.
The plot – if that's what you can call the disjointed explanation offered by Namco Bandai – features a world where the King of All Cosmos is in a coma and Robo King steps into run the show. This results in some kind of badness where Robo King goes a bit nuts and the normal King loses his memories. Hence, we get a few new Robo King levels, plus all the old levels from the original PlayStation 2 game, which need to be replayed with new gameplay rules to "restore" the King's memories and potentially wake him up.
The new Robo King level on display featured the Prince rolling his katamari ball around a desert dotted with oases. Rolling the katamari into the water filled up a gauge in the upper left hand corner of the screen and gave the ball a blue outline. As the Prince rolled the katamari out of the pool and across the sands, dirt, grass and flowers began to spring up. The strategy to the level was finding the shortest distance between oases and opening up new oases by knocking down walls with jump moves. In the move to the PS3, Katamari has picked up a single Sixaxis motion control – flicking the controller upwards makes the katamari jump the same way it does if you press the shoulder buttons. I guess total Sixaxis control would be a bit much for Katamari, but the watering-the-desert level does make for some obvious Flower comparisons that make me want there to be more Sixaxis.
The one King's-lost-memories level I got to see put me in mind of Rainbow Brite; it was a colourless version of a classic level where the Prince rolls his katamari around to make everything shiny and weird again as it was meant to be. There were classic items I remember seeing from the first game – but according to Namco Bandai, there will be new special and hidden items in each level for the truly committed to seek out and activate. Additionally, there are now different visual filters you can apply to levels – like Wood or Comic – that lend replay potential to Katamari Forever for both newcomers and fans of the first game along with local co-op and multiplayer modes and Trophies.
The sad thing about the Katamari Forever demo was that it was too noisy in the venue to hear the music. I guess I'll just have to settle for watching the trailer over and over to get my fix ‘til the game comes out this fall.
Check out the screens: