Touch My Katamari Review

Developer: Namco Bandai Games / Publisher: Namco Bandai Games / Played on: PlayStation Vita / Price: $29.99 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Comic Mischief, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes]

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You know that one song that just brings joy to your soul whenever you hear it? You know what I’m talking about, that favorite song that makes you want to dance and jump around the room when it graces your ears? Try to imagine that joy, layer it with some ridiculously cute humor and a wacky sense of style, and that’s the combined feeling you get when you play Touch My Katamari.

Though the premise has stayed largely the same since the first Katamari Damacy back in the PlayStation 2 days, the series has slogged through a pile of not-so-great games that have been bogged down by frustrating difficulty and lack of replayability. Thankfully, Touch My Katamari is a true return to form, bringing back what made the original so magical, and running with it.

With spot on controls, a familiar zany and quirky cast, and a grin-inducing little story packed with laugh out loud humor, Touch My Katamari and the PlayStation Vita is a match made in heaven.

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Story

As is standard with the Katamari games, the story is a small supplement to gameplay. It’s short and simple, and there to put a smile on your face.

In short though, the game is based around the eccentric King of All Cosmos and his quiet son, The Prince. The King is content with all that’s been accomplished over the past few games, but when people in the game begin to question how “awesome” he still is, a state of apparent depression washes over him.

You’ll notice early on that this “decline in awesomeness” is blatant acknowledgement of the many complaints gamers have had with the past few Katamari iterations. It’s a brilliant and humorous way for the developer to let you know that this game is all about the fun factor this time around – and it’s going to prove it to you.

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Along the way, the additional generic characters you meet will pale in comparison to the personality of the King of All Cosmos – but that’s essentially the point. The King is so eccentric, over the top, and funny that taking the spotlight off of him would be an injustice.

You’ll find that he blames you for his failures, and takes all credit for your success through the game (a theme that’s been followed since the original Damacy). Any and all insults towards him are deflected and passed onto you. While this should upset you, I actually enjoyed every minute that the King spoke. The level of naivete he has is absolutely charming, matching the sense of style the original Katamari Damacy projected.

As the Prince, it’s your job to get the King out of his slump by showing the people of earth how awesome he still is. To do this, you’re going to have to roll a lot of Katamaris to please people and bring back a sense of glory and respect to the royal family.

In addition to the “main” quest, there’s a hilarious five-part animated story that takes place as you progress through the game. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s easily the cutest, most enjoyable mini-story I’ve seen in a very long time, and it’s impossible to fight back the grins and laughs you’ll get from it.

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Gameplay

In Touch My Katamari, it’s all about The Prince rolling Katamaris – sticky balls that increase in size as you roll up random objects like pencils, chairs, house pets, people, trees, cars, houses, giant gorillas, elephants, windmills and eventually… entire cities. Where the first game has you rolling up massive Katamaris that were turned into livable stars and planets, this time around has you rolling them up purely to regain the respect of the people of earth.

The gameplay is simple in concept, but outrageously fun in practice. As you roll up items, your Katamari will grow larger and larger, allowing you to pick up bigger items. You start with a small Katamari rolling up little items like notebooks and food, work your way to rolling up bookshelves and tables, and end up a few minutes later rolling up houses and frantic townspeople.

Yes, it’s all a bit nonsensical, but that’s the point.

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The biggest gameplay addition is the ability to stretch and squish your Katamari, allowing you to reach new heights and cover more ground. This is done through both the touchscreen and rear touch pad on the Vita. Using either, you can pinch and stretch the Katamari vertically and horizontally on the fly, no matter where or what you’re rolling. It works seamlessly and can be done without ever having to relinquish total control of your Katamari.

The game is based in a hub world with a number of levels to unlock and choose from – each with a single Katamari request from a wackily-dressed earthling. All of them will require you to make a certain size Katamari (typically huge), but each of them has a bonus objective to complete. For example, one person may ask you to roll up a five-meter Katamari that’s composed of mostly “spicy foods”.

So long as you complete the size requirement within the frantic time limit, you’ll pass the level. However, if you do well in collecting the optional objective, you’ll net more points (in the form of candies, which you can spend on more missions and outfits for the King and yourself).

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A good example is the “children” level, in which your goal is to reach a certain size Katamari, but roll up as many screaming school children as you can. Seeing the characters wiggle and kick while stuck to a fast moving mass of random items is side-splittingly hilarious. It’s twisted, non-violent fun that’ll slap a smile on your face in a heartbeat.

When a level is completed, you’ll be scored on your performance on a scale of five stars. While there isn’t a star requirement for going on to the next level, it does leave the opportunity open to go back and perfect the level – which in my play through, never once stopped being fun.

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Visuals

Touch My Katamari is a simple game with visuals to match. As realism and immersion wouldn’t suit, it decided to follow the theme of the past Katamaris – blocky, cartoony and off the wall.

Levels are colorful, populated with items, and saturated with Japanese overtones. You’ll come across static, blocky characters that look more like cutouts of what they’re representing than the real thing.

There’s just something inherently charming about it all – the way people, animals, and cars slide along the world without the slightest concern for friction, as well as the way they wackily flip into the air when viciously smacked aside by your fast rolling Katamari.

While it feels visually simplistic considering the horsepower the PlayStation Vita boasts, you can’t help but appreciate how quirky and downright adorable the game looks. Touch My Katamari’s aesthetic is truly its soul.

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Sound

Remember when I mentioned that playing this game is like hearing your favorite song? As it turns out, the music in Touch My Katamari is fantastic too.

Just like the main tune “Katamari On the Stage”, the music is completely centered on absurdity, fun, and humor. If you’re not hearing random choruses from young Japanese girls, then you’re hearing loud trumpets and crazy piano solos with the word “Katamari” overlaying the music.

There’s a good dozen or so tracks in the game, all of which were quirky and fitting for any and all levels of Katamari rolling madness.

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Bottom Line

From the silly banter to the hyper Katamari rolling fun, this game is absolutely bonkers. While the game is considerably short on actual levels to play, all of them are instantly replayable without worry of repetition, due to the sheer enjoyment from rolling up anything and everything in your path.

If I have a complaint, it’s the lack of scope that the game suffers from. In previous games, you could unlock eternal modes that allow you to roll bigger than cities – usually continents and, over time, the entire planet. Unfortunately, Touch My Katamari doesn’t let you go much larger than a region of four or so cities. While the game does offer eternal rolling modes, you’re pretty much done when you’ve rolled up everything in the area. This is an odd limitation, as the Vita is undeniably more powerful than the PlayStation 2, which featured these larger play areas.

Is it disappointing? A little bit. Is it a reason to avoid the game? Absolutely not, because the game is still an absolute blast all around.

Touch My Katamari is FUN — fast-paced, zany fun.

With hours and hours of replayability out of the box, plenty of collectibles and tons of free DLC readily available on the PlayStation store, it’s one of the best games available for the PlayStation Vita.

If you own a Vita and don’t own Touch My Katamari, you should.

9 / 10

 

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