We always had a love affair with the stars. Our ancestors looked at the night sky and created myths to make sense of all these wonders. We do the same thing, but use telescopes and call it science. So we don’t use myths very much. They are considered quaint old stories, not living, breathing narrative. But what would a new myth look like? Would it be so charming?
Yes and yes. Katamari Damacy: raise is as close as it gets to living a myth in real time. And like any good tale, it’s both simple and bizarre. You are the prince of the cosmos, tasked with rolling around a katamari (a large sticky ball) to pick up trash. You give the junk to your father, who accidentally broke all the stars in the sky and needs the junk to build replacements. What?
If you’re looking for a cohesive father-son celestial epic in the vein of God of the warkeep watching. Katamari Damacy: raise takes its ridiculous premise and rolls with it (pun intended). The aesthetic is somewhere between a psychedelic fever dream and office space. The prince rolls the katamari, picking up mundane household objects in paperclips and mahjong tiles, slashing his way to appliances and cars.
Katamari Damacy: raise is a game based on solid fundamentals. Controlling the katamari takes some practice. The controls are nuanced, but not necessarily intuitive. It would have been possible to make a simpler game with Super monkey ball style analog controls where just push the sticks and that’s it. Instead, you have to work both analog sticks in tandem and often have to reposition the Prince so you move as efficiently as possible.
If that sounds boring, it’s kind of at the start. The game is so bright, colorful and fun that you just want it to be this super easy thing. However, it doesn’t take long to adapt, and as the difficulty increases you start to appreciate how little of a challenge the controls offer. Do not mistake yourself, Katamari Damacy: raise is not a difficult game. It takes about five hours to complete (triple if you do full stuff), but the katamari is wonky enough that the challenge keeps you engaged.
The challenge is dictated by two things: the size of the katamari and the time you have to complete it. Each level starts with a diameter goal, say 3 meters, and a set time to reach it. If you reach your target before time runs out, you keep playing until you can increase your score. This is where the real fun happens because katamari is all about momentum.
Run into something that’s too big and you bounce around and lose some mass. But get bigger and back and suddenly that pesky can of soup is now part of the katamari. The last few minutes of a level can get absolutely crazy as you start ripping things off the walls and floor that seemed like permanent fixtures before. The bumpy, lumpy swing of the katamari starts to feel more chaotic as it gets harder and harder to control.
Katamari Damacy: raise absolutely worth your time. It doesn’t require much. There’s no big junkyard to dig through, just some very original scenes with the insane king of the cosmos and some of the most addictive video game music you’ll hear anywhere. Like any good myth, it doesn’t make perfect sense. But you’ll never look at the night sky the same way again.
Katamari Damacy: raise is available on Xbox Game Pass until July 31. It is also available for purchase on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and PC.