When Namco Bandai announced yet another game in the Katamari series, I was only slightly surprised, and I was delighted that it would be on the PlayStation Vita. And I was tickled – no pun intended – by the title, which was Touch My Katamari. With the dual touch screens and dual analog sticks, there was no way this would be as bad as Me and My Katamari was for the PSP, right? Right??? The answer to that question made me sad, disappointed, and more than a little frustrated.
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: February 21, 2012
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
What is it about Katamari that is so magical, and that has worked so well in the past? The charm and whimsy of it, for one. The soothing addictive quality of rolling things up, for another. But the third one is just the ease of the controls and how smooth it was to roll things up in both Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari. This smoothness was interrupted in Me and My Katamari – using the directional pads and the buttons just didn’t work out as well.
Touch My Katamari suffers from these same issues. The analog sticks, while far more responsive than the buttons were, still don’t quite function as well as they do on a regular controller. I found myself constantly aggravated when I would try to turn… pretty much during the entire game. Unless you pushed on the analog stick at just the correct angle, you would flounder in an agonizingly slow manner until you were finally able to turn. The camera was not as responsive as I would have liked, either.
Sure, you can use the front touch screen to roll up items as well. This came with its own set of annoying aggravations, though. My instinct was to roll with both thumbs, as though I were actually rolling a katamari down the street. However, if you touched the screen with both thumbs at the same time, there’s a good chance that it will stretch the ball out, which is a new feature unique to this game. While stretching it out helps – you can get through tight places if you stretch it vertically, and roll up lots of small things all at the same time. But when all you want to do is roll the ball regularly, and a mis-swipe on the touch pad changes your shape, it can get very irritating.
The other major drawback is the fact that nearly every single level is the same. There is a base area (a room) that you start in earlier in the game, and as you have to roll bigger and bigger katamaris, you’ll unlock more of the area (the rest of the house, the yard, etc.), but it gets tedious and boring when you’re just seeing that same exact opening to the level over and over again. When the levels weren’t exactly the same, they were duplicated from previous games in the series (like the bear and cow level from We Love Katamari – seriously, of all the levels to duplicate, they chose that one?). While I’m sure they had their reasons for repeating the levels in both handheld versions, it’s still a huge disappointment to have a repetitious experience in something that is as fun as Katamari.
The actual levels and what you’re supposed to accomplish in each one is similar to We Love Katamari. A fan of the game, or of the King, tells the Prince that they want him to do something – whether it’s make the King more royal or more fashionable, or collect a bunch of workers. The Prince then must fulfill this request at the behest of the (often distraught) King. At the end of the level, depending on how well you did, you get candies from the person who gave the request. You can dispute the number of candies they give you, but disputing doesn’t always work out to your benefit, though you can sometimes get a few more out of them with this sweet talking technique. The candies act as currency, and can be used to unlock outfits and modes (Drive and Eternal).
The game still allows you to roll up cousins and presents, and gives you bonuses for doing so – oh, and the game also has Trophies, which is awesome. Go PlayStation Vita! But it’s also got a strange new addition called “Curios.” Curios are objects that you can find that are added to your Curio collection. I’m not exactly sure what this does – perhaps it unlocks things for you, or gives you more points? I couldn’t figure it out, and there was only one level that I got all the Curios on, and nothing special happened. Whenever you roll up Curios – which don’t look any different than anything else on the screen – the King starts talking, interrupting your rolling with his irritating text box. So as far as I could tell, the only thing the Curios did was make my game experience more annoying.
The cutscenes – which are usually quirky and funny at best or annoying and creepy at worst (that goes for any Katamari game) – are the latter in Touch My Katamari. The barely coherent story being told is boring and creepy. The graphics themselves – especially that of the King – are the worst they’ve ever been as well. He has a creepy human-like face that has a strange plastic orange triangle over the nose. His always ample package is larger than ever, and the strange way he turns Katamari into stars is more bizarre than in any other game.
The only redeeming thing about the game is how short it is. Even the soundtrack – which is usually one of the shining stars of a Katamari game – is here only average. I found myself turning the music down or off in most cases, which is unheard of for me when it comes to this franchise. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge Katamari fan, so for me this entire experience was substandard and frustrating.
Touch My Katamari could have been an amazing game. With all of the new functionality of the Vita and all of the history of the franchise, there was so much potential here to make the best Katamari yet. Instead, we’ve been given a lukewarm, repetitious disappointment that does nothing to satisfy the hunger of this Katamari fan. If you’re looking for a good time giggling over strange objects and listening to catchy Japanese music, do yourself a favor and pop in one of your Katamari games on the PlayStation 2. This one is definitely not worth rolling up.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Touch My Katamari was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.