Touch My Katamari

Touch My Katamari is the latest Katamari game and is out on the PS Vita (and has been for awhile). It retains the classic gameplay elements that makes Katamari fun and mixes it up with a new feature, allowing the player to control the width or height of the Katamari, enabling them to squeeze into or under tight places or roll things up in different, possibly easier ways.

For those sadly unfamiliar with Katamari, the object of the game is deceptively simple: you roll a ball around (called a Katamari) that can roll other things up: think of it as like rolling a snowball to make a snowman. As you push it, you gather more and more snow and the thing becomes bigger, and you wind up rolling up more than just snow (grass, sticks, leaves, whatever). In Katamari, depending on your size, you can roll up different things, ranging from tiny hairclips to people to houses to islands.

Of course, things aren’t just that simple. The cosmos is ruled by The King of All Cosmos, a flamboyant (and happily married, sorry ladies… and some men) giant who loves capes, innuendo, and himself, and who utilizes the royal we to an absurd extent. You are his son, The Prince, a diminutive green guy who never speaks. The frame of the game takes place on the King’s head, where you can cycle through the game’s bonus content (think media player, store, etc) and the games various missions. The missions are given to you by folk on Earth, who all have different requests. Most missions have three measures of success: size, time, and number of items. Typically you need to reach a certain size in a certain amount of time: not meeting that requirement results in a Game Over screen and a very displeased King. You can roll throughout the entire time period, though, so the real trick is to get it as big as you can always. The last metric varies based on the mission. Some people want you to roll up fashionable things (so wristwatches, rings, hairclips, whatever), or children (so young humans, young animals, whatever), or workers (so employed people or things having to do with work), and so on. The last metric isn’t particularly important, but it is there. At the end of every mission you are awarded Candy based on your performance, which can be traded in for items in the store. The Katamaris you roll up are then turned into stars or planets (or destroyed if you’ve done better previously).

Throughout the missions you can also collect presents for yourself and Fan Damacys (people who are just fans of Katamari, I guess). Fan Damacys in turn can be exchanged at a 1:3 rate for Candy Tickets, which double your candy reward and can be used 3 at a time (for a massive multiplier) — the King will also occasionally gift Candy Tickets. To even further increase your candy intake, you can meet a certain Candy challenge at the VIP Club. Collecting a certain number of candies increases your rank, which in turn increases your multiplier. You’re given a set number of days to complete each challenge, at which point your rank increases… or, if you haven’t been trying, your rank decreases.

The game features DLC missions, all of which (so far) are free, but at a catch. In order to unlock the DLC, you need to spend Fan Damacys. Ten are required for one DLC mission, but sadly Fan Damacys can be hard to come by. There is, of course, a solution: for the low price  of several dollars you can buy them in the PSN store one, three, or five at a time (five at once being the best deal). On the one hand, I was happy to see free DLC. On the other, well, it seems as though Namco Bandai made the Fans difficult to find so you’d have to buy them. The DLC is free, but not really.

The game’s story is, unwisely I think, split between two separate-yet-similar stories. The first of story begins when a kid asks his dad who is greater, his principal or the King of All Cosmos; the kid’s mom answers that they’re both equally great. The King of All Cosmos overhears this and falls into a depression as he realises that people on Earth have lost faith in him and don’t believe in his greatness anymore (which he owes in some extent to The Prince). Most missions revolve around restoring people’s faith in The King. The second storyline follows a guy named Goro who needs to hit the books instead of ogling anime girls. Goro sees a newscast about the depressed King of All Cosmos, and decides to get his life back on track. The first plotline is developed as you help people out, while the second is told via cutscenes between missions. Ultimately it ends up being confusing and not as entertaining as it could be.

The game’s gameplay ends up making up for the story, I think, because Katamari is, and was, never really about the story: it’s always been about rolling stuff up. The gameplay is mostly solid with the occasional bug, some popup issues, and an occasionally finnicky camera, but the new mechanic of being able to stretch your Katamari is pretty fun — stretching it out wide can help you roll up more things, while stretching it up can help you squeeze between barriers, catch flying objects, and climb things better. It is really hard to go into much more detail beyond saying that you roll things and it is fun to roll things. The game is awfully short, however, and you can blast through it in a few hours. You can buy (with Candies, not real dollars, thankfully) extra game modes for almost every mission, which lengthens the game. K-Drive speeds everything up, making you roll superfast, while Eternal mode allows you to roll without a time limit, enabling you to literally roll up every possible thing on the map.

One thing that disappointed me was the final level: it really wasn’t as big as I would have liked. You only end up rolling a couple hundred metres and that’s it, and you don’t roll up anything really huge: I found myself with a minute or so to spare and literally nothing to roll up. It would have been cool to be able to roll up the universe like in past games or roll up larger objects, but that might be beyond the Vita’s processing capabilities (which I doubt), or something Namco Bandai either didn’t want to do or is saving for DLC.

All in all, Touch my Katamari is a fun game. It isn’t the longest, but it is a game that most people should be able to pick up and have fun playing. It isn’t terribly complex but if you’re a perfectionist, you can easily waste hours trying to get the best score. The game also has a “Buddy” system which involves you giving a game good to someone on your friend’s list; if they pick it up, they get to challenge on of your scores (picked randomly). If they beat you, they get bonus candies. I’ve never had a chance to use it myself, but it seems interesting. I think the price might be a little high for the content, but it is nonetheless a fun game and if you’re a Katamari fan, have never played a Katamari game before (shame on you!) or like rolling things up (who doesn’t!?) definitely give this game a spin.

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