Brutality resides as a Darwinist necessity inside human nature. And when a video game decides to be an extended commentary on just this, we arrive at a crossroads where we can’t decide between the said form of entertainment is just entertainment, or perhaps, art.
Visually, Katamari Damacy is indeed art, in its very basic form, fluid, simple, and breathtaking in scale. It has a simple mechanic that only works because our psyches are conditioned to worship and fetishize power at every given point in our lives.
So, what do we mean when we say that the game is brutal?
Katamari Damacy Review: Hiding behind Color
The world of Katamari Damacy is flexible to the nth degree. Along with that, one could be led to believe that developers Namco designed it by asking one of their employees to list all shades and tints they could possibly find in their everyday life.
Because the game is so full of color it could put Paris on a July night to shame.
And here comes the catch.
You start as the son of a mad god, who has destroyed the moon and ‘all the stars’ in a fit of merry-making.
And as you arrive on Earth, magically spared, you get a ball called a Katamari, which grows exponentially as things get attached to it, the means to rebuilding what is lost.
Exposition as the Means to An End
The King of All Cosmos is only a puppet for a greater purpose, showing you the mirror. Like we said before, brutality is ingrained deeply in human nature.
And the King acts as an excellent vehicle to drive the self-awareness nail into the ego coffins that we all reside in.
Now, coming back to the plot, as the ball increases, so does the power it to pull larger and larger objects.
At one point, a magic ball starts conquering lands like we’re inside one of Julius Caesar’s fever dreams.
It is then a fundamental explanation that the ball symbolizes greed, but no, that’s not the only thing.
While you keep rolling, living objects get sucked into the ball like reality into a black hole, and their screams engulf your ears as you start to wonder if this game knows that the elevated awareness and subtle symbolism are starting to make you uncomfortable.
Spite – The Best Gameplay Mechanic
Life isn’t fair. No wonder so many of us are scared of so many things. And Katamari Damacy showcases that beautifully. With a mechanic that slows you down and drops objects from your Katamari.
This boils down to two things; again, life isn’t fair, and the fact that our lives are bound by time to keep us moving forward.
And moving forward is the only way that your Katamari, and your life, will come to a conclusion that has any kind of meaning.
For a game that essentially has only one plot beat, Katamari Damacy certainly delivers on its promise to deliver the kind of naked exposure that only the strongest-willed can withstand.
If your Katamari is successful at the one function it is supposed to fulfill, then everything goes back to the way it was. If not, your ‘father’ asks you to go back to your Katamari.
Your magic ball becomes the end, and in case of failure, the means to the end.
Now, at this point it is important to realize you aren’t the all-powerful Katamari, you’re the tiny little guy tasked WITH the Katamari.
Scale is important, and the tiny little ways the game keeps reminding and belittling you over your tiny achievements is a shockingly accurate reflection of the world we live in, which is as merciless as it is cowardly.
As your ambition grows, the game puts you firmly back into place, as even the slightest bit of failure will result in ridicule from your father, and this reminds you that Katamari Damacy isn’t the fulfillment of a power fantasy, it is a symbol of the darkness that holding power ultimately is going to give you.
A timer is integrated into the game as a challenging element and hilariously explained in-game as the King not having any semblance of patience for you to find a solution to a problem he created.
Sisyphus was tasked with heaving and pushing a boulder every day for the rest of his days. In many ways, Katamari Damacy aims to recreate the literal meaning of so many of our daily lives in what appears to be a jovial adventure; the constant realization that we’re all Sisyphus.
And at the end of the day, we go to our beds realizing that the boulder isn’t going anywhere, but simply waiting for us to go knock it around for another day.
After all that, we arrive at the great standpoint that according to the series’ creator, Keita Takahashi, Katamari Damacy was a comment on……. consumerism? Surely it can’t be?
Well, it is. But good news. While the creator has a right to their interpretation of their work, so do we all, considering fair critique can be made towards said work.
And Katamari Damacy proves that video games are art, art is subjective, and the fact that subjectiveness exists to differentiate us from each other fundamentally.
All in all, Katamari is a brilliant experience from start to finish. Taken at surface level, it is a romp that you can spend hours upon hours on, and as you go deeper, it unravels like the world’s largest onion.
The genius of Katamari lies in making you believe that you’re all-powerful while at the same time making you feel insignificant outside the reaches of a fictional environment in simulated space. Katamari Damacy is a must-play, whoever you may be, wherever your intentions lie.
Katamari Damacy was developed and published by Namco.
Final rating – 96%