There is a certain atavistic revelry to the gameplay of Keita Takahashi’s ‘Katamari Damacy’. Nothing about the core gameplay really changes, yet every session still seems completely different. No two katamari you create are ever the same, and the screams of passer-bys as you pick them up never becomes monotonous. Unfortunately, despite the retention of all the core ideas that make this game fun, the latest addition to Namco’s (now Bandai-Namco) Katamari franchise suffers from a much more serious bout of déjà vu.

Released recently on the Playstation 3, ‘Katamari Forever’ is in fact the sixth game in the Katamari series, but is also the fourth consecutive game in the series to be developed with no assistance from the game’s original designer. That’s right, Takahashi refused to turn his idea into another franchise, and I can only smugly imagine the discomfort that Bandai-Namco’s executives must have felt to be sitting on a cash-cow ripe for foraging into exciting new territory like the iPhone’s tilt-accelerometer (‘I Love Katamari’ for the iOS) and the Xbox 360’s er… features (‘Beautiful Katamari’). However let me not get swept up into any premature nay-saying. Instead, let’s delve deeper into the heart of ‘Katamari Forever’ and flesh it out thoroughly, and maybe then perhaps ask whether the sky is indeed falling towards our heads at an increasingly faster rate.

Yeah, this game has graphics. It definitely has graphics. (from: IGN)

Katamari Forever is the kind of game that video game enthusiasts love to hate, but a game that does indeed have a niche. With the advent of gigantic-screen televisions, it would be a unfortunate, nay dire shame that a game so classic as Katamari Damacy be only playable in 480 or even 760p, and moreover an insult to Sony’s monolithic console! Thus, Katamari Forever renders in sweet sweet 1080p for those with 20/20 vision and the cash to prove it. But in all seriousness that isn’t as much of a feature or an upgrade as much as an expectation these days, although it is nice at least to have a better-looking game on a more powerful console rather than pull out the dusty PS2 to play the earliest games. Well, in fairness our PS2s are not all that dusty due to their still-excellent library, and Katamari Damacy was never really a game that prided itself on fancy graphics. So to Bandai-Namco and your 1080p, don’t pat yourself on the back, unless by pat you really mean slap, and by back you really mean… yeah.

You might be silently asking me to lay off the hate, cuz all graphics look ugly after a while, and all sequels are supposed to be prettier, and all that some-such. That’s true, if these sequels also do their part by adding content or features, or anything new at all. This is where Katamari Forever hilariously fails, to the point of making me laugh out loud several times while playing the game. You see, half of Katamari Forever is directly ripped from the first two games. Something to do with the King of All Cosmos losing his memory and having to remember it by repeating the stuff in the old games, or something. That’s pretty ridiculous, Bandai-Namco. Some game studios spend years developing the features for a single game, but you insist on charging the same 60 bucks for this racket? If Keita Takahashi were dead right now, he’d be rolling around in his grave, scooping up headstones and coffins into a gigantic clump of dead bodies.

Does this level look familiar? (from: Kotaku)

But perhaps the most insulting part of Katamari Forever for long-time fans like myself is that when all is said, the game is still stupidly fun. God-damnit guys, you know just how to boil my blood, by making a spineless evil game that I can’t even help but play through. Katamari Forever’s greatest contribution to gamedom is how it reminds us how innovative and fresh the original Katamari Damacy really was. It’s also a lesson to every aspiring game developer out there: fresh ideas come from inside, not from the boardrooms of expensive production companies.

This review was published previously, but I couldn’t stand to see my fresh blog empty.

My three year stint with blogspot has come to a close, and I have decided to make WordPress my new (old) home. If you want to read my old reviews, commissioned pieces, etc., you can find them at this website.

A nuisance of iTunes’ library sharing feature is that songs cannot be downloaded from peers over a network, so that really the feature becomes more akin to Microsoft Zune’s ‘squirting’ than the name ‘sharing’ would suggest. Fortunately, a nice little app called OurTunes (that has been around for a long time but only recently fixed itself for iTunes 7 compliance) will provide that desired service. According to the blog and Lifehacker, it works fine on Windows but still has some problems on Macs.

If for moral reasons you’re not convinced to download the software, then download a wonderful little 170 page eBook called Free Culture that should quell any internal objections to this software and hopefully create some for the RIAA.

On a more light-hearted note, yesterday I listened to the majority of Brad Neely’s alternative audio track for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He recorded a new track for the entire movie, changing everyone’s names and portraying events in a funnier way than they were supposed to be. Snape is now an ugly old woman and Harry Potter is now a resounding Harry fucking Potter. HARRY FUCKING POTTER EVERYONE. The audio is on two CDs, so have a stereo near the TV when watching or pop the movie’s DVD into your computer’s DVD drive, or think of some other clever way to have them both play at the same time. Hilarity will ensue.

Designs for the newest USB cable, called USB 3.0 (thankfully not USB 360), made a short showing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Article and pictures. I’m not sure that I can accept that the new designs will allow the cables to reach a speed of 4.7 Gbps. My hard drive can’t even do that.

Here’s a hardware breakdown of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO-1 laptop. Reading this, it’s immediately clear that the laptop, which the blog’s author calls “brilliant mechanical design” was created with its intended audience (children in third-world countries) in mind.  Hardware highlights:

  • when closed, all ports are covered
  • safer Li-Fe-P battery than current Lithium-Ion technology
  • easy to disassemble (and therefore service)
  • motherboard placed behind LCD screen, minimizing cables that run through the swivel

Wired gives the lowdown on more RIAA sock-sniffery. From the article:

In October, a Minnesota federal jury found Thomas liable for copyright infringement and dinged her $222,000 for unlawfully sharing 24 songs on the Kazaa file-sharing network in what was and still is the nation’s first and only RIAA case against an individual to go to trial….

RIAA attorney Richard Gabriel asked Sony’s Jennifer Pariser if it was OK for a consumer to make one copy of a track that was legally purchased. No, she replied, saying that’s “a nice way of saying, steals just one copy.”

On Thursday, while debating a Washington Post reporter, Sherman told an NPR audience that Pariser “actually misspoke in that trial.”

The real problem is that the RIAA doesn’t actually know what their stance is on DRM and file-sharing. It’ll be ages until the public ever fully finds out and a Duke Nukem Forever until the RIAA can actually enforce it.

Ars Technica previews Office 2008 for Mac. A dreadful development: it seems that the new interface elements for Word have been mangled beyond repair.