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18 years later, We Love Katamari remains a perfect video game

This weekend brings We Love Katamari REROLL, a long-awaited re-release of the cult series' best game

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We Love Katamari REROLL + Royal Reverie
We Love Katamari REROLL + Royal Reverie
Image: Namco

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?

This week marks the release of We Love Katamari REROLL + Royal Reverie, a mouthful of a title that only somewhat disguises the fact that one of the greatest games of all time is about to be re-released for a brand new audience. Building on the bizarro framework laid down by the original Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari (written with a heart emoji in place of the “love”) was, back in 2005, everything you could hope for from a sequel: Bigger, more experimental, and with dogs barking the main theme tune. Now it’s back, following in the footsteps of 2018’s welcome return engagement for the original game, Katamari Damacy REROLL.


If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, it’s hard to blame you: Namco hasn’t put out a new Katamari game anywhere but on phones since 2011, having apparently abandoned the series as a serious contender after a few lackluster performers in the tail end of the 2000s. But the gameplay remains genius-simple: You have a ball. The ball will pick up anything smaller than it. This makes the ball bigger. Roll the ball until it is large enough to pick up everything. Do it fast, or your semi-abusive dad will shoot you with lasers. Repeat, in a variety of weirdo settings.

We Love Katamari Reroll + Royal Reverie - Announcement Trailer | PS5 & PS4 Games

Released a year after the original, We Love Katamari didn’t try to reinvent the big, house-consuming ball. Instead, it meticulously refined the original’s controls and design, crafting, among other things, the best levels in the entire series. (Our personal favorite: The one that turns your Katamari into a race car, which zooms quasi-controllably along a track.) Whether you’re scooping up animals or demolishing a giant gingerbread house, We Love delighted in giving its players fantastical locales to roll on through—including an absolutely massive final level that basically transforms you into the kaiju equivalent of a big, rotating ball.


We can’t speak to why Katamri went away for a decade, but we can note why its return is so welcome. A few years ago, our former colleague Shannon Miller wrote an essay about the gentle, soothing, consequence-free nature of the games, calling them “low-risk sojourns where nothing truly bad can happen.” Although the games maintain a certain arcade mindset—you’re encouraged to roll things up as quickly, and as extravagantly, as you can—they also present a world where nothing all that bad can ever happen. (Not even getting rolled up into a big ball by an alien and then turned into a star: They’re all still alive in there! The game promises!)

Katamari Damacy Soundtrack: Sunbaked Savanna

The idea that there could ever be enough of these gentle, silly, compulsively playable games seems a tad absurd these days. (It was, if we’re being honest, kind of irritating that it took five whole years for the second game to get the REROLL treatment.) Overall, we tend to be pretty skeptical of the way the gaming industry transforms, a little more every year, into a constant treadmill serving up the same two dozen games and brands, again and again, in an endless tide of remasters, re-releases, and remakes. But every once in a while, this backwards-looking obsession isn’t just an exercise in creative bankruptcy; it’s a chance to re-visit an old friend, and a game that still feels revolutionary now that it’s old enough to vote.

Also, the version of the theme song where the dogs are barking absolutely slaps.