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If You Have to Play One Video Game at a Rave, Make It ‘Katamari Damacy’

Loud and fast music. Electric lights. Surely you need no further stimulus, beside whatever's in your blood already. But if you really fancy a game, it's best to get weird.

by Mike Diver
19 May 2016, 4:20pm

The King of All Cosmos, as seen in 'Katamari Forever'. What a fabulous prick. (Screen via YouTube.)

I haven't been to a club in a long time. It's not because I don't want to, because I don't like dancing, or staying out late, or paying a small fortune to hang my coat somewhere new for a couple of hours. It's because life has got in the way: all that stuff that you're half-dreaming off and half running from while your eyes are in the back of your head and your arms are reaching for a ceiling that may or may not actually be there. For me, clubbing was a thing that happened, it was great, but now it's done. I miss it, sure, but I remember it fondly enough to not need to force myself to find that feeling again. I've gentler thrills to slip into.

Like video games. Any evening now, I can get my quick-fix kicks on Rocket League, or Pro Evo (or if I'm feeling nostalgic, OutRun 2 always works). A half-hour session, and then I'm clean again for the rest of the day. The bigger, deeper experiences, they take their toll: the eyes sag, the fingers sting. They take dedication, the kind I can so rarely afford to give; but when they offer rewards like the stunning sights and superlative storytelling of The Witcher 3, or the heart-crushing weight of emotion summoned by The Last of Us, the late nights and foggy mornings are totally worth it. But with VICE currently promoting its new film on Britain's new illegal rave scene, Locked Off, I started to think about what video games would best complement that kind of party.

Realistically: none. The modern rave scene isn't about conformist modes of competition, or distractions beyond the coming together of likeminded people simply out for a good time. From what I understand – and I can't personally relate, only read and regurgitate, so forgive the broad brushstrokes – organisers of today's raves are keeping things streamlined, pure and potent. Come, dance, be merry; lose yourself in another place for as long as it takes for sunrise to show up and reality to snap back into some degree of focus. Nevertheless, I asked Twitter for recommendations on the best game to install at a rave. Or a club. A loud-as-fuck brilliant party, basically.

Wipeout was suggested several times, which doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Psygnosis' futuristic hover-racer of 1995, a true-enough essential of the original PlayStation era, wore its clubland influences unashamedly. Its official soundtrack album featured The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Orbital and Leftfield. Its promotional campaign included a print ad starring a young Sara Cox with blood coming out of her nose, the implication being she's on some sort of substance-assisted trip already and Wipeout is tweaking her higher. Other replies directed me towards alternative future-vibed racers: F-Zero, Spectra, the as-yet-unreleased Thumper, Extreme G. "Anything fast or colourful," said one respondent; another, "All the ones with ravey soundtracks," forgetting that you wouldn't be able to hear the game's music, over the DJ's set. Probably.

(Someone also mentioned Daytona. It wouldn't fit, but please, take a moment to appreciate this, the happiest video game music video on the whole internet.)

In amongst some other rhythm-action games – again, they wouldn't really work without the sound on – was a terrific recommendation, though: Katamari. That could be the original PS2 oddity Katamari Damacy, its sequel We Love Katamari or the Xbox 360's Beautiful Katamari, or PS3's Katamari Forever. It really doesn't matter, because I totally agree: a Katamari game at a rave would be perfect.

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For those who're completely lost right now, Katamari Damacy is the work of the singularly minded Japanese game designer Keita Takahashi, and came out quietly in 2004 before earning the reputation of a quirky cult classic. The aim of the game sounds simple on paper and is an absolute joy in practice: using the twin sticks to represent each hand of a little avatar, you roll stuff up, sticking whatever you like to a "katamari", a tiny magical ball. There's a story, and it's wonderfully off the wall: the King of All Cosmos, a planet-sized deity, got totally shit faced on a bender and accidentally wiped out all the stars from the night sky. So his son, just five centimetres tall, comes to Earth with his katamari and begins rolling it, over chair and table, cat and dog, ice cream truck and convenience store, building humungous balls of crap that are then used to recreate the missing celestial bodies. It's brilliant. It doesn't need sound (although the soundtrack is incredible). Anyone watching it would share a facial expression with the young Miss Cox. And anyone playing would be either in stitches or smiling so hard they're at risk of needing some.

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I challenge you to watch this intro sequence to 'Katamari Damacy' and not conclude that it's one of the greatest things in the history of humankind.

Nothing about the Katamari games encourages that raw sense of competition you get in racers, or sports titles. The game challenges you to complete levels against the clock, to achieve a set diameter before the timer runs out; but really, it's no biggie if you piss the King off. It's all his fault anyway, so balls to his noise. And he looks stupid. Fantastically stupid, like a leggy, sentient Christmas cracker auditioning for David Bowie's role in Labyrinth. He is a delight of an antagonist, the fabulous prick. Katamari for the win, then – but what else would be right at home in a place of anything-goes escapism, goose-pimpled skin and exposed souls?

If you have to have a game running, power up something happy: nobody wants ravers rage-quitting and getting prickly as a result. Colour, contrast, cuddliness: all roads lead to Nintendo. What could be better than leaving a few Wiis around the place with Super Mario Galaxy rolling? Or a Kirby game, or anything that looks like someone spilled a rainbow over it. Nothing complicated, though: unintuitive control schemes are a non-starter, so there's no room for anything from the Wii U library. Tune in and get turnt up; but then drop out into something to cool the blood and let the brain forget itself. Couple of screens, some old-school consoles, done: the best games to play at a rave are exclusively those that came out when the ravers themselves were younger, fitter, more optimistic. Reminders of simpler times, ideally Friday night part-baked and looking like they fell out of a fancy dress store. I might not get out much anymore, but you could well find me in the Katamari Club, given half a chance.

@mikediver

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