Every once in a while, I hear a game being raved about for months, then finally get my hands on it and think there must be something wrong with me... because the game sucks. Beautiful Katamari is definitely one of those games.
So maybe "raved" is a strong word, but this game has definitely received a fair amount of attention for being representative of taking gameplay in a different direction. Its name has been passed around in more than a few interviews I've read or watched in the past few months. Well, I finally got my hands on the Xbox 360 demo.
So why don't I like it?
First off, the controls are terrible. My third time through the demo, I still felt like I was dragging a car uphill. I could control the ball well enough to eventually get it in the direction I wanted, but I always felt frustrated. I was constantly fighting the camera.
Then there's the king, whose dominion obviously consists of opium fields. After his psychedelic entrance, the king goes into four or five lines of pointless dialogue. I'm assuming this game is directly primarily at very young kids, in which case the inclusion of such dialogue is boggling. But, even if it's directed at adults, what's the point of the empty exposition?
The gameplay can be summed as novelty. It's new and interesting, but could it really be fun after the first week? The only goal is to get your ball as big as possible. Accomplish that goal and you get a little praise from the King of New Orleans as well as a string of meaningless observations ("Your katamari is as big as 50 rubber ducks!"), but nothing that affects gameplay in any way. The real rewards are just your own satisfaction in the size of your katamari and grinning mischievously as you roll over a human being or someone's dog (which, again, is a novelty and fades quickly).
It might be a good game for a 5-year-old, but the shoddy controls would probably frustrate even a toddler. I don't say it's a game for toddlers because of the simplicity. I enjoy Bejeweled and Frogger, and games don't get much simpler than that. I say it's a game for toddlers because there's no reward structure. It's a sandbox, but a sandbox with only one thing to do... which makes it a sad sandbox.
And, yet, every media site has given Beautiful Katamari a rating above 7.
So... What am I missing? What makes this game worthwhile to so many other people?