We ♥ Katamari is a sequel to the excellent Katamari Damacy. (I have finally given up and started spelling the second word the same way as its US publisher.) And it is everything that you’d expect from a sequel: quite good, several minor improvements, slightly worse in many ways (largely but not entirely because of the lack of novelty).

They kept the same basic gameplay, of course. And, like the original, there are core levels where you’re trying to get large enough within a time limit, as well as other levels where you have some special rules (the most common of which is that what counts is the number of items of a specific kind).

This time, they’ve added a few new special rules, some of which are kind of fun as a lark (e.g. the one where you’re on a race track and never stop moving) and some of which are annoying (the one where you’re on fire and, if you don’t pick up anything for a certain length of time, you lose). Almost all of the levels come in an easier and harder version, which is good; the main levels also come with a “double your size in a short amount of time” variant, which is bad (see below). They increased the number of places to roll in, which is good; there are only five core levels instead of the fifteen in the original, which is bad. And there’s no way to unlock an unlimited-time variant of the levels, which is bad.

Basically, they broadened the range of options, at the expense of underemphasizing the core gameplay. And, ultimately, I like rolling around well-designed levels, getting really big, and while I don’t mind a reasonable time limit, that’s not the most important thing to me. So what I want the most is the old core gameplay, where you get used to certain environments, being gradually allowed to explore larger and larger areas for longer and longer times, and where you ultimately get to unlike an unlimited time variant. So I’d trade all of the extra variants in the sequel for more and better core levels.

The cut scenes are perhaps even more pleasantly bizarre.

And then there’s the music. The original had an incredibly catchy theme, reused in many ways, with some other quite nice pieces thrown into the mix. Hard to top; it remains the only video game CD that I’ve bought. And of course it’s impossible for the sequel to live up to that, simply because it will keep the same theme instead of trying (and almost inevitably failing) to come up with a new, incredibly catchy theme. Having said that, the music is solid, and Liesl and I are big, big fans of Everlasting Love. Which might be better than any song from the original, and might (I’m not sure yet) be enough to get me to buy the CD for the sequel, too.

All in all, still a quite good game, and I’ll be happy to go another round of sequel. But I hope they emphasize the core gameplay more next time.

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