Last week was a good week. On Thursday I trundled on down to my local game store and picked up my shiny new PS Vita. There is nothing like the opening of a new system. It couples the excitement of gaming times yet to occur with the childlike joy of having a brand new toy to play with. So I decided to share this joy with the world on Twitter. The next thing you know I have a message from the Godfather of the Black Panel himself, Erin Marcon. It read something like this. “Hey Matt, great news about getting a Vita. Would you like to review Touch My Katamari?” I thought about it for a moment before I promptly replied “Sure, two things first. One, what’s a Katamari and two, why am I touching it?
I had never played a Katamari game until that point in time. I had no idea what to expect. To be honest with you I still don’t know what a Katamari is. The story of this game is crazier than stadium full of Justin Bieber fans. As far as I could tell, I was a prince and I rolled objects in a ball to give to some big guy in spandex and a crazy hat, a king I think, so he could turn said ball into a star. I think that is what it was trying to tell me. Seriously, the game should have come with an advisory on the box: “To get the full Katamari experience, please ingest a strong hallucinogenic 10 minutes before play”.
The game itself was much simpler. It had me rolling a giant ball around picking up objects littered around the world. The more items I picked up, the larger the ball became. The increase in size meant that items that were previously too big to be rolled suddenly became ball fodder and the cycle continued until time ran out. There was very little else to the game. There were some levels where I had to work under certain restrictions, like a calorie count or an item limit but I found it all very similar. That’s not to say I didn’t have fun, because I did, especially in small doses. The game was at its best when I played it in 10 minutes bursts, which was okay by me. After all, Mum always told me that I shouldn’t spend too much time touching my Katamari.
The title refers to the touch screen capabilities of the Vita. This was incorporated quite well into the game and if I so desired I could play the whole game with nothing but the touch screen. I settled on a combination of traditional controls for movement and touch screen to adjust the size and shape of my ball. It worked well (really well, in fact) and the controls were one of the highlights of the game for me. This leads me to one of the low lights, the camera, which was fiddly and had trouble following my character. Furthermore, whenever the camera was obscured by a wall or large object, the whole screen went grey except for a small circle at the centre. I could only guess at what the developers were thinking when they decided to put this weird tunnel effect in the game. Not only did it make me want to stop touching my Katamari, it made me start thinking about never playing with my Katamari again.
The graphics were simple, yet vibrant and the game looked great on the bright Vita screen. I was particularly impressed with the variety of colours and sharp paper cut-out style animation. It suited the nutty nature of the game perfectly. The sound was a bit of a mixed bag. There was no voice acting, just gibberish similar to what is found in the likes of Banjo Kazooie and The Sims. This didn’t really bother me at first, but it did get annoying after a while, especially since most of the story sections felt way too long. The remaining sound effects were adequate, but unspectacular.
In the end, I enjoyed touching my Katamari. Though it probably isn’t for everyone, I found it to be a fun little title perfectly suited to mobile gaming. I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance if I hadn’t reviewed it and that would have been a shame. Katamari is a different experience and it should be played by anyone who enjoys the weird and quirky. Just don’t expect it to make any sense.