If I was ever asked to recommend a video game that I thought was a great example of how crazy and over-the-top Japan can be, I would say Katamari Damacy, and I mean this in the most positive way. If you look at the game’s theme on paper (the child of God collects items from earth so his dad can make stars and planets) I doubt it would have been made here in the United States. Thankfully a game like that is pretty normal in Japan, and we didn’t miss out on this fun series.
With the release of the Vita, we have Touch my Katamari, the latest entry for the series. Does it work well with the Vita? Well, for the most part, yes.
The story is just as ridiculous as you’d expect. The King of All Cosmos has a panic attack when three random people say he’s as cool as a school principal (seriously). He then enlists his son to travel the world reminding people how awesome he is by gathering materials to make stars with his Katamari (Still not joking). In the meantime, there’s a side story about some fat guy trying to lose weight.
For the uninitiated, you play the Prince who controls a ball called a Katamari. With the ball, you run over small objects in whatever level you’re in. As the Katamari runs over stuff, it gets bigger and bigger, and as it gets bigger you can collect even bigger objects. You’ll start by collecting bugs, paper clips, and buttons to collecting cars, people, and more! If you get the ball as big as you need to, you pass the level and move on.
The controls are translated really well on the Vita. There are two control schemes for Katamari; the classic controls from the previous games and some new ones for the Vita. With the new moves, you can move around with just the left stick, and the right controls the camera view and turning. It works pretty well, I’ve used it for most of my time playing.
The touch controls are pretty hit or miss. Some of the moves can be pretty helpful, such as double tapping the upper part of the screen to jump, or the lower half to do a 180-degree turn. Turning by touching to points and the screen and rotating was nice, too. You also use the touch screen to navigate through the start and select screen. I really enjoy it when the developers take advantage of this ability as I love using the touch screen to go through menus. It’s just easier.
Other abilities you’ll be using more are the ability to stretch your Katamari. For instance, by putting two fingers on the back touch screen and pinch outward you can stretch out the Katamari. Doing this means you can cover more ground and collect more stuff. By pinching inward, you can shrink it inward. This allows you to get in narrow spaces, and climb over obstacles easier.
There were some issues I had with the touch screen controls. On paper, the touch controls look great but there’s something the developers missed. For the most part, Katamari is a game with a timer, so you only have so long to accomplish what you need to do. As the level winds down, you might start to get a little anxious when you’re playing, and this can cause problems as you accidentally hit the wrong inputs. In the heat of the moment, you could end up hopping when you want to turn, or you could want to stretch out the Katamari but jump over the objects you want to collect instead. All of this can be fixed through practice, but expect a lot of frustrating moments when you’re learning the controls.
The gameplay is still what you’d expect from previous Katamari entries but they do make some changes. Some levels will include special challenges such as making your Katamari out of expensive objects or using beauty items. For the most part, however, it’s still the same Katamari. It’s still fun running around the floor collecting objects and hearing the screams of people as you collect them into the ball. but those looking for a new Katamari experience will be disappointed.
Touch my Katamari does have a surprising amount of stuff to unlock and do. In each level, there’s a cousin of the Prince to find, which is essentially like an alternate skin for the Prince. There are also clothes to unlock for the Prince and the King of the Cosmos, music to play, and lots more. On top of this, there are special creatures called Fan Damacies. As you collect these characters, it unlocks special missions to play through.
I want to give kudos to the music as well, as Katamari has one of the most criminally under-appreciated soundtracks ever. The songs are just as catchy as they have always been and make the levels all the more enjoyable. It’s a very good example of quality Japanese music.
Katamari works as a portable game. As the levels are timed they can be completed in a few minutes. However, it would nice if you could cut through all the talking with the King and just get to the level. At least they allow you to just start rolling when the king is talking once the level begins.
Those looking for a new Katamari experience may want to pass on Touch my Katamari. Aside from the touch controls, it offers really nothing new. Said touch controls can be very frustrating to learn, especially in a timed environment. Those who are new to the series, or simply like the idea of being able to play Katamari on the go, should pick it up. While really nothing new, it’s still a fun game. I just wish the touch controls were a little easier to use.
TOTAL GRADE: B-