‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ Was Final Mission From Late Nintendo President‘Undertale’s’ Sans Is Basically a Brand New ‘Sma… Stay on target At a certain point we’re just going to have to accept we currently live in a bad time. People like to blame the particular year like “2016 was awful, 2017 was even worse, and oh my god 2018.” But if the bad years just keep blurring into each other, something else is probably going on. Still, 2018 was a garbage year, and as it comes to a close one of the most powerful escapist fantasies for me is somehow controlling the garbage rather than the garbage controlling me. Fortunately, two last-minute Nintendo Switch games let me do just that: Katamari Damacy Reroll and Donut County.Katamari Damacy Reroll is an HD remaster of the original Namco PS2 game that put Keita Takahashi and his gentle brand of Japanese weirdness on the map in 2004. And the entire aesthetic is bonkers before you even touch your first Katamari, or clump. As the Prince of All Cosmos it’s up to you to rebuild the stars for your drunken destructive father who speaks in record scratch noises. All of this insane material is presented in a clean, almost sterile and department store-like square depiction of mundane Earth locations, with an absolutely killer soundtrack.Once you do land on the planet your goal is to roll up the biggest ball possible. You have to take on the mindset of a predatory blob. You can only absorb small things at first but as you grow you can capture bigger targets. The exponential nature of your expansion is very satisfying, therapeutic even in the way a clicker game can be. Bumping into insurmountable objects though can damage your Katamari. So you must roll with finesse using either synchronized twin analog sticks or a new motion control option.This formula never really changes. The game mostly mixes things up by throwing you in new environments, from messy living rooms to bustling town squares, and seeing how you adapt to the physical properties of new items to glom onto as well as the shifting sense of scale. It’s tough to create a round and easy to roll ball when lots of pointy bits are sticking out of it, whether it’s a stop sign or a cat. When you find a rich vein of dominoes and orange slices to roll up before going for the plastic Santa it feels like striking gold. But the original Katamari Damacy was smart to not overstay its welcome, which is probably why the surprising number of similar sequels wound up being disappointments.But if Katamari Damacy sequels made the mistake of giving us too much of the same thing, Donut County from Ben Esposito and Annapurna proves there’s still room to creatively improve on the “trash eating” subgenre. As a literal hole in the ground you use the analog stick to glide along the floor of a bunch of different tiny locales sucking everything down into your abyss. Like Katamari Damacy, most of the challenge comes from monitoring your size. The more you absorb, the bigger the hole gets, the easier it is to absorb bigger things. Even the surreal polygonal art style gives us Katamari Damacy vibes.However, Donut County surprised me with the amount of clever little puzzles it wrings out of the hole mechanic. This is what happens when the developer spends time designing the game, unlike a rip-off like Hole.io. For example, if you suck up two rabbits, they’ll instantly start multiplying the way rabbits do and make the vortex bigger from within. You snag your first rabbit by getting a carrot stuck in the hole. If you get full of water, go near a drinking bird who will suck it out. And if you let a lit firework fall inside you, you can move somewhere else to shoot that firework at a target.Donut County’s most surprising achievement though is its commitment to having a funny and thoughtful storyline linking the vignettes together. It’s a bit like Night in the Woods. The whole reason these holes keep popping up is because a raccoon, another famous trash eater, keeps using a new mobile app. And the way these uncaring uniform bottomless pits literally drain all of these bespoke little communities winds up being a commentary on gentrification. So think about that the next time someone says even the silliest seeming games can’t have real political messages.Like with Abzu and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, these last couple of December Switch games might get lost in the shuffle because of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s utter dominance. But while that game is majestic, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to be a 2018 trash master that only Katamari Damacy Reroll and Donut County can provide.