2023 has been a bumper year for fans of Keita Takahashi's Katamari, one of the most singular game series ever made, which recently saw the best entry released on Steam. Katamari is about rolling stuff up into a ball as the Prince of All Cosmos under the watchful eye of disapproving daddy The King of All Cosmos, and starts small-scale with you rolling up paperclips and erasers and fruit, before scaling into cars and trees and eventually whole city blocks. May sound a bit weird but what this all adds up to can only be described as a sincere and touching ode to the joys of play and childhood innocence (really).
It's a special game, and someone at Google clearly loves it as much as I do.
Google has incorporated a Katamari minigame into its omnipresent search engine: you can start rolling a ball around the search results page, gradually increasing the ball's size with text and buttons before sticking on things like the images. It's a little bit of an OCD magnet actually, because once you've started rolling I don't really see how one could walk away unless the page is delightfully blank and everything's part of your ball.
To access the game type 'Katamari' into Google search, and the results page will appear looking as it usually does. But in the top right there's a colorful ball which begins to wobble, begging for a click, and when you do the game begins: you guide the ball around with the arrow keys, and scale it up with all Google's offerings and widgets.
"Katamari is a nostalgic game for many of us and has a large fan following," Google engineer Lucas Bullen told Kotaku. "The recognizable game mechanic of items getting attached to the rolling Katamari is so fun and unique that we wanted to see it interact with the Search page and give fans an opportunity to play with the Katamari outside of just the games".
Bullen says Google has other gaming Easter Eggs for players to find, and suggests searching Star Fox and The Last of Us.
We Love Katamari Reroll+ Royal Reverie is the recent Steam release of the second game in the series, and my favourite (the first game, Katamari Damacy, was released on PC in 2018). "Namco made several more Katamari games after this without the involvement of series creator Keita Takahashi, but this was definitely the peak," said our own Wes Fenlon, correctly. "It adds more mission variety and other playable characters and has a funny meta story about Katamari being so popular they had to do it again."
These games are a delight, and Google's little tribute is a nice office diversion. Plus, you get to imagine the Prince rolling across the US and eventually schlooping-up the Googleplex on the final level, saving us all from the inevitable near-future where AI-generated websites destroy what little value Google search still has left.