By Alec Meer on January 25th, 2008 at 6:05 pm.
First thing I do in any game is go the settings screen. It’s a complusion; I don’t know why it’s so very important to me that I check anisotropic filtering is at a required level and EAX is turned on before I begin playing, but, as with an open bag of smokey bacon-flavoured crisps placed before me, I just can’t help myself.
When doing so in the demo of freshly-released indie game (and another IGF entrant, but not one of the shortlisted ones so this is a worthless aside, sorry) The Wonderful End of the World, I found simply this…
(Well, except for the music, which was annoying enough for me to coldly select ‘nope’ for that particular option.) I mean, I do really want to be able to change the resolution and stuff, but it’s charming enough to hold off my rage for a little while.
Anyway, it’s a Katamari clone, inescapably so. I have mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, it’s brazen copying. On the other hand, Katamari isn’t on PC and I’d very much like it to be. Plus, it chucks out all that amusing-but-headache-inducing gibberish about the King and his pornographically tight leggings in favour of letting you get straight on with merrily trashing stuff and absorbing the world into your mass. The Wonderful End of the World elects to have you stomp rather than roll, and it’s a good fit. More importantly, it goes to visual places Katamari doesn’t reach.
The first level is pure Katamari, though – in someone’s home, picking up cans and bottles and spiders and chairs and sofas and dogs and bigger and so forth. It does a great job of auto-managing the zoom, adjusting the camera to your ever-embiggened scale, and of that turning point moment where you hit just enough size that everything which has hitherto been an obstacle suddenly becomes your victim. If it is going to copy something, at least it’s done it well. “Still”, I thought, “bit shameless, innit?”
Then I hit the second level. Suburban chintz and tchotkes were replaced by neon-wireframe walls and floating cubes. Hmm. Well, let’s stomp around a bit and try and work out what’s going on. There are two big oblongs over there, moving up and down. And some of these cubes seem to spell out numbers. Oh. OH. I’m in Pong, aren’t I? I’m eating Pong. I stomp and I stomp and eventually I’m big enough to absorb pieces of the wall, where I break out and find a maze. A maze full of dots. With coloured ghosts roaming about. Can you tell what it is yet? I grow and grow, and eventually those ghosts become part of my mass, and I break out of the maze, and I see mushrooms. I see Space Invaders. I see Tron light cycles. I see Tetris blocks. It’s silly and it’s one note and it’s exactly the same videogames every other post-modernish game references, but it’s a total hoot.
Major criticism I’d level at it is the conflicting aesthetics of its menus and stuff – it bounds carelessly from smilies to goofy voices to skater rock to 1920s ragtime to too-close-to-Katamari’s-music-to-whatever, and feels a little confused as a result. Most of this stays out of the levels themselves, thankfully. (Also, it would lose 5% from the score at the end of imaginary review in my head for not alt-tabbing without crashing, but that’s a personal bugbear of mine).
I’d love to tell you more, but that’s all there is in the demo. I ordered the full game an hour ago (a mere $20), because it was pretty much exactly what I wanted to for a couple of hours on a Friday evening, but the email with the download details got gobbled up by my spam filter and I only just found it. Boo. Still, it’s there for when I roll in home all sozzled later tonight, a state for which it should prove even more appropriate. Give the demo a spin, anyway – let’s see how enraged it makes the more devout Katamari fans amongst you.