First online with Katamari, Ace Combat

Next, Namco rolled out (tee hee) Beautiful Katamari's online multiplayer. To start, we ran around one of the quirkiest lobbies ever, wrought with sentient balls and friendly bears you can interact with. Once all four of our princely characters activated a mushroom, we were whisked away to one of five plainly stated levels: House, Street, Neighborhood, Town, World.

At first, it seemed a little hard to distinguish one map from another, but we soon realized it dictated the scale of the map, the size our Katamari will be, and the size of the objects that'll adhere to it. For example, in Neighborhood you'll collect stuff like people and roadside items, while in World you'll roll up entire buildings.

In the mode we played, the winner was decided by how many items we had at the end of three minutes. This meant that the opening minutes saw players frantically scrambling to pick up the scant items strewn throughout the relatively small maps. As they began to dry up - the fun started. After locking on to an opponent with the left trigger, a red line tethered us to our intended target. Once we successfully flicked the analog sticks for a quick dash into them, five to ten objects were knocked off our opponent and up for grabs.

Above: Gameplay footage from E3 2007

The remaining minutes keep you on the offensive. With everyone hovering around 100 or so accumulated items, a well placed ramming shot can be all the difference between first and second place. At the end of the match, players were awarded cookies for their progress and we were told that these will be what dictate your position on the online leaderboard. Our first 100 cookies even netted us 5 Achievement points. Score!

All in all, it was quick and simple fun, but the targeting could use some work. Often times we'd lock-on to someone on the other side of the map instead of the player we'd taken special care to sneak up behind. Luckily, you're not penalized for careening into obstructive objects in the environment.

There was some noticeable lag in the demo, but the version you'll see will likely be optimized a bit. And you probably won't be restricted to playing against unrelenting developers in Japan. They couldn't tell us much more pertaining to other multiplayer modes, but the potential is definitely there - say, a race for size or to find specific items. And with downloadable content a certainty, it's a good bet your balls will have plenty of ways to collide online this October.

As for Tekken 5, well, it's this game all over again, plus online. Now, it might have been due to the 16-player Ace Combat games going on, but there was significant lag in this version. It might be fixable, it might not. People were certainly adapting to it, but for others it could be a deal breaker. We'll know more soon.


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