If there were ever a game that highlighted the odd world that the Japanese live in, it would be Katamari. A long running franchise that is so bizarre, you could be forgiven if you thought you were having a cheese-induced dream while playing it!
Touch My Katamari is the latest game in the franchise and has been exclusively made for Sony’s Playstation Vita. The game starts off with The King of all the cosmos feeling down because people have lost faith in him and feels that he has lost some of this coolness. In order to combat this, he sends out his son, The Prince, to meet the fine folk and accept their challenges to make the greatest Katamari ever known. See, I told you this was nuts!
The aim of the game is to roll a Katamari around different areas like houses, play parks and shopping precincts, as you roll the Katamari around objects stick to it. Small objects at first, but as your Katamari grows in size, you are able to pick up bigger and bigger objects. The King’s fans set the challenges based upon how they feel the King has lost his groove over the years, so it isn’t just about how big your Katamari is; it’s what you manage to pick up along the way.
Most challenges require you to grow the Katamari to a certain size, within a time limit. But there are also game types that require you to completely clean up an area, or collect objects of a certain type. This does mix things up a bit, but ultimately, this game is about rolling a ball about a screen! This does get rather repetitive, and the game suffers from it in the long run. The game also gets tough really quickly; no sooner have you gotten to grips with the controls are game play when it starts throwing levels at you that seem impossible to complete. Being new to the franchise, I did feeling like the game was expecting me to know all the tricks of the trade. This made it a little more frustrating that was really necessary.
As you complete the challenges, the folks will reward you with candies, which will differ depending on how big your Katamari was and what you collected during the level. These act as the games currency, which can be used to pimp out the King and Prince. The King is a very odd and creepy looking fellow, but it can be a real hoot dressing him up in all manner of bizarre clothes and items. The game does try and encourage you to replay levels, by offering you the chance to pick up bonus items and playable characters, but this does then add to the game’s repetitive nature.
There are also Damacy Fans that hide in certain levels, find enough of these and you will be able to play special levels that can be downloaded free from the PSN Store. They are incredibly hard to find however, which is why Namco Bandai have put packs of Damacy Fans available up on the Playstation Store for you to buy; which does kind of mean that you are essentially playing for free DLC.
The other main collectables in the game are called Curios. There are several dotted about most levels and by collecting as many as you can will result in a better score (which means more candies), but they also unlock items for the in game store. The only real issue with this is that the King insists on popping on screen and reading off a load of text every single time you find one! This is extremely off-putting, especially when you are in the final seconds of the level, trying to get your Katamari up to the minimum size.
One thing that is great about this game is that the levels are short, very few are longer than 8 minutes in length; meaning that this is perfect for those you just want to pick up a level or two while on the train or bus.
The game of course utilises the touch functionality of the Vita. You can use the touchscreen to control the Katamari, which is quite difficult to get used to. But the game allows you to change the controls from the new ones to the old ones whenever you like. You can re-shape the Katamari by using the rear touchpad. This means that you can manoeuvre the Katamari in to hard to reach places. The touch controls in this instance are subtle and work well; but for the main controls, it is definitely best to use the sticks. The only issue I had with the controls is that after a while my hand started to cramp up, meaning that I couldn’t really play for longer than 45 minutes per sitting. You could see this as a good thing though, as you could easily get bored if you were playing a large session of this game!
As I mentioned at the top of this review, this game is odd. Very, very odd. The King is a very peculiar character, often scorning you as much as praising. He is also prone to bursting in to dance and the less said about his crotch, the better! There is also a side story running through the game, involving a teenage nerd who has a thing for Japanese schoolgirls! This story is told in the form of an anime cuts-scenes and I really couldn’t make head nor tails of it! Not that is really matters, I would imagine that long standing fans of the series would probably be used to it.
Touch my Katamari is a fine edition to the Playstation Vita line-up. It may have a few flaws, but playing the game in moderation will resolve most of these. It is loud, brash and bizarre; but that’s what makes this a Katamari game and goes a long way in making up for some of the minor niggles. Fans will no doubt love it and by being a launch game, Katamari may find itself some new Damacy Fans with this portable adventure.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.