Rolling up entire planets to avoid disappointing our wacky space dad - why We Love Katamari

Ladies and gentlemen, roll up, roll up, and... that’s it, actually. It was We Love Katamari’s simplicity that led to it bowling over from Japan (and into our hearts) on a glittering rainbow of quirky puzzle-action fun. The rules? See a thing, roll it into your ball of stuff, repeat until the stability of the universe is compromised. See? Whimsy abounds.

The mechanics are at once charming, satisfying and a little terrifying. Katamari are bumpy pseudo-balls that magically attract anything and everything they come into contact with. And we do mean everything. You roll one about the kaleidoscopic ‘toon world using the analogue sticks, the Prince’s stubby green limbs going like the clappers as he pushes the katamari over a lounge floor littered with paperclips and drawing pins.

Once your ball o’ junk snowballs, it can traverse trickier terrain and pick up bigger objects. Then, it’s up the steps and out the front to add a handful of carrots, the neighbour’s dog and several mailboxes to your mobile haul.

After assimilating a neat row of skyscrapers, you might wonder why you’re doing all this. Don’t worry, there are reasons. Sort of. Hilariously, the success of the first game, Katamari Damacy, has gone to the already-outsized head of the King of All Cosmos. He’s eager to please his fan club, who request katamari from down on Earth.

The variety and originality of missions is what makes We Love Katamari so absurdly brilliant – they’ll ask for balls made only of sweets, or task you with shunting about a sumo wrestler until he’s big enough to defeat his opponent. Nothing ever feels like a chore, and everything makes a bizarre kind of sense. Honest.

It’s all fun and games until some serious challenge kicks in. If your balls aren’t big enough, bashing into oversized obstacles will dislodge your katamari. This can mean the difference between high praise from your omnipotent papa (he lobs your katamari into space to become a new star) and a mini-game in which you dodge lasers firing from his eyes as he hurls verbal abuse at you. Tough time limits and specifications ensure that it’s a regular occurrence. Sorry, Dad.

But it’s not simply the desire to please our goofy guardian that has us returning to We Love Katamari time and time again. We hardly need a reason: it has a natural, irresistible pull. The intense strategising that goes into rolling up an acceptable katamari is coated in the hypnotic pleasure of tidying up personality-rich worlds.

Add in that toe-tapping J-pop, swing and drum ‘n’ bass soundtrack, and the sensory overload is stratospheric. When you tire of solo spins, you can give its co-op mode a whirl – an instinctive couchplay delight that’s all about communication and wiggling those sticks in sync with your buddy.

What puts We Love Katamari on a whole other planet to its predecessor is that it goes further, layering in complex and delightful weirdness. By the time you’re calmly acquiescing a dog’s request to use the Earth as a katamari to roll up the sun, you realise that We Love Katamari’s simple appeal has attached itself to you. Slowly, effectively, like so much katamari fodder, this is an experience that starts small and builds big until it’s one of the brightest stars in the PlayStation sky.

This article originally appeared in Official PlayStation Magazine. For more great PlayStation coverage, you can subscribe here.

Jen Simpkins

Jen Simpkins is the former Deputy Editor of Edge magazine, and has since moved into the games industry itself. You can now find Jen lending her immense talents to Media Molecule, where she now serves as editorial manager – helping to hype up all of the indie devs who are using Dreams as a platform to create magical new experiences.