Games are often at their best when they embrace the truly weird and wonderful. In an era where so much emphasis is placed on gritty realism, life-like character models and terrifyingly accurate simulations, it’s nice to punctuate that authenticity with oddity or two. Thankfully, the peculiar world of Katamari has returned in the form of Katamari Damacy Reroll, and it’s ready to serve a slice of out-of-this-world action in glorious HD.
First released on PlayStation 2 a whopping 14 years ago, the original proved an instant hit in both Japan and the West, offering up a bizarre experience that was completely unlike anything else out there. Borne out of a high school design competition in Tokyo, Katamari Damacy followed the story of the Prince of the Cosmos, who is tasked with replacing all the stars in the sky. Turns out his father – the King of the Cosmos, naturally – knocked them all down while he was barrelling around the universe, so it’s up to his tube-headed heir to roll up some new ones.
It spawned eight sequels that appeared on everything from portables to mobile, and now the game that started it all is finally making its way to Nintendo Switch. With improved graphics and performance and completely remade cutscenes in high definition, this strange mixture of puzzle and platforming action gets to live again in its purest form – and it makes for a welcome addition to Switch’s already eclectic library. Especially when you consider how well it suits using the Joy-Con.
In order to refill the sky with stars, the Prince needs to roll a ball around a series of small maps. The more things he runs over, the bigger the ball becomes. The bigger the ball becomes, the bigger things he can pick up. And the bigger the ball, the more impressed your cosmic papa will be so you’ll really need to scour every corner of each setting. Momentum, size and the gradient of the surface you’re currently rolling across all determine what 'sticks' to your ball. Since you just so happen to be small in stature, these bedrooms, gardens, oceans and cities and littered with detritus to collect.
You’ll pick up pins, badges and pencils, and each one will impact how mobile your growing ball is. To begin with, you can even pick up relatively larger objects such as toy bricks or cards, but you’ll need to be moving fast enough to knock them over. Some objects can’t be moved, and if you hit them too hard you’ll risk knocking items loose. And with all manner of living creatures roaming this Earthly homes – ranging from slow snails to imposing house cats in the first couple of hours – there are plenty of dangers to slow down your star-building process.
If you’ve never played any of the Katamari games before, its twin-stick controls might take a little getting used to. If you’re playing with the standard controls, you’ll soon learn to use the right stick to adjust your position and both sticks to help the Prince move his increasingly vast ball around the environment. Getting used to the careful movements needed to navigate shelves and tabletops isn't easy, but then again, it's not meant to be. However, once you nail it, Katamari Damacy Reroll – much like the original – becomes a relaxing and consistently rewarding experience.
On Switch, you can also use the gyros in the Joy-Con to control the Prince and his growing selection of detritus-filled celestial bodies, and while they definitely suit the purposefully unwieldy control setup, waving both controllers around as you try and move a massive ball as it scoops up trees, people and more perfectly fits the silly and over-the-top antics the Katamari series has always embraced, even if it might be too imprecise an interface for some players.
Mode-wise, Reroll brings back all the classic modes that made the original such a hoot to play. 'Make A Star' mode is the core experience, with your royal parent judging your efforts on the size and composition of your new creation. Score attack is all about – you guessed it – bagging a high score with some slick collecting, while 'Endless' mode simply lets you roll with it ad infinitum.
Thanks to the game’s low-poly art style, you’d really never know it was released almost 15 years ago, so Reroll only needed to smooth out the edges and ensure it could run smoothly on Nintendo’s hybrid hardware to be considered a success. The result is a legitimately wonderful game that hasn’t aged a day. In fact, its Monty Python-esque aesthetic and funky soundtrack ensure that it looks and sounds like it could have come out of the Japanese indie scene today. With support for local multiplayer and plenty of extra modes to roll through, Switch is blessed with another remaster that everyone should play.
In a cynical era where nostalgia is pumped for all its worth with endless soulless remasters, Katamari Damacy Reroll serves up an engaging and rewarding game that hasn’t let any of its original charm or personality be lost in the transition from one platform to another. With support for gyro controls and multiplayer – not to mention a degree of performance that sees it run smoothly in both handheld and docked mode – this Switch edition is easily the best way to play it outside of blowing the dust off your old PS2.