Someone Turned ‘Katamari Damacy’ Into a Text Adventure, and It’s Still Fun

A participant in the San Francisco Stupid Hackathon turned Katamari into a text adventure.
May 22, 2016, 4:00pm
Image: Noah Swartz.

In 2004, puzzle-action game Katamari Damacy became notorious for its ecstatic, poppy soundtrack and absurdist gameplay, which entails rolling up everything—from cats to celestial bodies—into a "Katamari" ball at the behest of the alcoholic King of All Cosmos.

Twelve years later, Electronic Frontier Foundation technologist Noah Swartz has reimagined the game as a text adventure, usually thought of as a vestige of 1980s interactive fiction. Somehow, it works.

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Swartz's Katamari Master boasts none of the sparkling rainbows or random, pop-up disparagements from the King of All Cosmos that won Katamari, against all odds, effusive praise from both the Game Developers Choice Awards and the New York Museum of Modern Art. Swartz's text-only video game gives players five minutes to roll everything in their vicinity into a 10cm Katamari, which you may only do by typing "look" or "roll" into a command prompt. No pomp, no circumstance, no city-wide destruction benders.

"Welcome to starter_house!" Katamari Master reads. "You're standing firmly on the ground, with 4 items around you." A tree frog, a mah-jong tile, a black crayon, and another tree frog, are on the ground before you. Typing "roll tree frog" appropriates the object into your ever-growing Katamari ball.

"RRROOOYYYAAALLL RRAAIINNBBOOWWW," it continues, in rainbow font.

So far, Swartz has only designed two levels: test_level and starter_house. The game runs in Python 2.0 (Swartz is currently updating the style prints for Python 3.0).

Katamari Master was developed for San Francisco's Stupid Hackathon, California's edition of the New York-based hackathon that inspired the 3Cheese Printer and Holdr, an iPhone app that tells you whether you are holding your phone. Swartz also developed a commandline Neko Atsume game, a riff on the blockbuster cat-collecting mobile game.

Although Swartz birthed Katamari Master into existence, he can't take all the credit. Like dozens of terrible (read: wonderful) ideas beforehand, Katamari Master was originally conceived of on a Livejournal fansite from 2005.

"There is a bottle of WHITE OUT here," it joked. "> ROLL WHITE OUT."

Since 2004, Katamari has been rolled into nearly a half dozen sequels. Keita Takahashi, its eccentric developer, is currently working on the finishing touches on Wattam, the details of which remain obscure. In the intervening months before its 2016 release, while gamers worldwide wait for the next Takahashi game, Katamari Master should appease the King of All Cosmos.