Something about Beautiful Katamari feels a little bit...off. Not in a "this game is bad" kind of way, but more of a "haven't we done all this before?" kind of way. Beautiful Katamari is the fourth entry in Namco Bandai's utterly loopy franchise about space royalty, painstakingly laid-out clutter, and magical balls that roll up anything in their path into massive planet-replacing clumps, and it's quite a lot like its predecessors. Of course, that's not exactly a bad thing. The same cheery vibe and frequent ludicrousness from the previous games permeate every aspect of this newest installment. But at the same time, all that ludicrousness isn't quite as ludicrous anymore, now that it's been done so many times. Still, there's plenty of good-natured silliness and clump-making fun to be had in Beautiful Katamari, even if it is all too familiar.
You've rolled this clump before, but you'll be happy to do it again in Beautiful Katamari.
For those unfamiliar with the Katamari series up to this point, it revolves around the clump-rolling adventures of the Prince of All Cosmos, an adorably teensy sprite of a creature who is dwarfed both in size and ego by his pompous, flamboyant, and deeply unhinged father, the King of All Cosmos. With each game, the king finds some excuse to force the prince to roll up various parts of Earth into delightful katamaris, so that he can use his powers to turn them into new stars, planets, satellites, and other celestial bric-a-brac. In the case of Beautiful Katamari, the royal family of the cosmos is on vacation and enjoying a game of tennis. When the king delivers his patented serve, he accidentally tears a hole in the universe, which begins sucking up all the planetary bodies in the vicinity. Never one to fix his own mistakes, the king sends the prince to Earth to replace all the lost space landmarks.
You do this by rolling a katamari around one of several bizarre environments. Controlling the katamari simply involves moving the two sticks on the Xbox 360 controller around as if you were controlling a tank. The catch is that you can only roll up items that are relative in size to your katamari. So if you're presented with a teensy katamari, you can only roll up small things, like thumbtacks, coins, and candy pieces, until you're big enough to move on to the next tier of items. Eventually you'll be rolling up people, cars, floating cows, giant mushrooms, Ferris wheels, giant squids, clouds, Trinidad & Tobago, and Orion's Belt, among many, many, many other things.
Most likely this sounds completely insane, and it certainly is, especially if you've never played one of these games before. But if you have, it might sound all too familiar to you. Beautiful Katamari really is just an exercise in the same formula that the series has been relying on since its inception. You get a few gimmicky stages, like the one where you have to roll up nothing but hot things to get the katamari's temperature to 10,000 degrees, and the peculiar final stage certainly offers something of an interesting twist; but otherwise, it's the exact same formula as the previous games.
Still, as predictable and generally unaltered as Beautiful Katamari is, it's quite a bit of fun. Rolling up katamaris is as inexplicably addictive and amusing as it ever was, and though you go into the game knowing the King of All Cosmos is going to deliver a bunch of peculiar one-liners, you'll still chuckle at some of his delivered absurdities. It's not the best or most original comedy to be found in the series, but it's entertaining stuff all the same.