Beautiful Katamari - hands-on

Three years ago the world was treated to a deviously simple idea that erupted into a worldwide gaming phenomenon - roll a sticky ball over stuff until it grows so large that it usurps everything from ants to clouds to islands. Since that fateful introduction, the Katamari series has seen a new game each year and commanded a strong, faithful audience despite each release handling just like its predecessor. So what's all the excitement about then? How can people consistently go crazy about a tiny prince rolling up objects into massive spheres of junk? Because it's so effing weird, that's why.

Beautiful Katamari continues the utter madness of the tiny Prince gobbling up people, dogs, thumbtacks, elephants, cars, cruisers and hurricanes, but now it's in super-pretty high-definition. And honestly, that's the biggest change you're going to see when it comes to gameplay. This totally off the wall idea is intent on sticking to its roots and offering more of the same for die-hard fans who love to read the wacky dialogue and jam out to the series' exceptionally groovy soundtrack.

Zipping the Prince around a small tiled floor until his katamari becomes so large it sucks up animals is just as easy as it was on PS2, but now you're getting a boatload of extra objects lying about. The previous games featured 1,486 items to collect and capture - Beautiful sports closer to five thousand individual things for the Prince to absorb. Watching your katamari grow is such a small victory when it comes to videogames, but it's still insanely gratifying to beat the clock and create a ball so enormous that even the King of All Cosmos has to sit up take notice (still wearing his skin-tight spandex, of course).

Gameplay modes are largely unchanged. Some challenges will have you collecting items until the katamari is a certain size while others follow a specific theme - collect only crabs or bears or objects with wheels, for example. Even the graphics are relatively untouched. Our time with the game revealed a stunningly diverse world to play in, just not one that looked particularly amazing. But, just like the past three games, it's not the quality of the visuals, it's the whole experience.

Traversing the enormous worlds, slowly adding heft and size to your katamari, is rewarding in and of itself, but it's the vast sense of exploration that makes everything so fun. Like we said (and like you probably know), you begin with a puny, featureless katamari. Several areas are out of reach due to your miniscule stature, but the more you collect, the more the ball grows and what was once an impassable wall is now nothing more than a speed bump. A whole new area now lies in wait for your maniacal katamari.


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