Joystiq hands-on: Beautiful Katamari

Katamari Damacy is a strange, strange game. This is a fact of which its fans are patently aware. I'm an Xbox guy, so my experience with Beautiful Katamari at E3 was my first with the series. Considering this is also the first time the series will be showing up on Xbox, it seemed like a good fit for me to try it out. For the uninitiated, the object of Katamari is to roll things up into a ball. By things, I mean all things. Thimbles, cats, bushes, people, cows, buildings, boats, everything: it's all up for grabs. You do this by manipulating the thumbsticks. That's it. That is the game. But most of you already knew that, so the next question is "why should I buy this game again on the Xbox 360?"

There are few features that set Beautiful Katamari apart from its predecessors, though the core gameplay is the same. Pulling directly from the game's fact sheet, we can tell you that it features HD resolution (720p), a new "catchy" soundtrack, new levels, new characters, offline and online multiplayer, and downloadable content. It's those last two bits that are likely to grab most people's attention. The game supports 1-2 players on the same Xbox and 2-4 over Xbox Live. Multiplayer includes both competitive and cooperative play, so everyone should be satisfied. Another interesting addition is that players can participate in mini-games inside the online game lobbies. We don't know what these mini-games are precisely -- though they are promised to "spread the world of Katamari Damacy" -- but they should ease the pain of waiting for more players to join.

%Gallery-2766%We have loads of new screenshots from E3. Check them out in the gallery above.

The Namco Bandai representative at our demo station also told me that the controls have been tightened and made more accessible (i.e. easier). There are also some new and interesting challenge levels that require players to do more than simply obtain the largest ball of stuff. For instance, one level is filled with hot spicy food. The object of the level is to have your Katamari reach a certain temperature. Hot items (naturally) increase your Katamari's temperature. Cold items will lower the temperature and should be avoided.

Is it worth it for Katamari fans? If online play is your cup of tea, then yes it probably is. Of course, Xbox fans who've never played a previous Katamari have a good reason to check it out, too. If Namco Bandai has the sense to put a budget price tag on it -- according to GameStop, they do -- Beautiful Katamari could introduce lots of new players to the King of All Cosmos and bring in plenty of old fans itching for some online play.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.