Touch my Katamari Review

Reviewed on Sony PS Vita

Also available on Sony PS Vita

Playing a Katamari game for the first time is an interesting experience. My first run-in with The King was on the Xbox 360 a few years ago, which ended in an enjoyable, if short-lived, distraction from some other more established titles that were vying for my attention at the time.

Fast forward a few years and the Katamari series is ready to roll for the PS Vita launch - a title that will no doubt be overlooked by many for the same reason as above. Few could argue that the launch of Sony’s handheld came with some big releases for the new device, so does Touch My Katamari deserve to be on the same shelf or is it an also-ran that will do well to grab your attention for longer than the journey to work in the morning?

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Launching the game confirmed two things: the Katamari series is very Japanese and very surreal. The object of the game is simple in principle - roll your Katamari around the various stages that have been beautifully crafted out of what appears to be cardboard, and pick up as many items as you can. You start small by picking up coins, pins and other small objects, and as your Katamari grows in size you can move onto more exotic things, such as TVs and animals. Yes, animals. Each stage has a target Katamari size that you need to achieve within a set time limit by collecting random items scattered on the floor, shelves and tables. That’s it.

Touch My Katamari is enjoyable to play, much like its console counterpart. You can’t help but smile as you aimlessly roll around scooping up everything in your path. If you come across an item that is too big to stick, you almost have a personal vendetta against that item, and you can be sure you’ll come back to it when your Katamari has reached ample size. Smiling you might be, but you can’t help but feel like once you’ve completed a stage, there is little here to keep you on the edge of your seat to encourage you to move onto the next. You know that it’ll be the same thing but in a different room, picking up different objects. The saving grace is that sometimes, that’s okay when it comes to portable gaming. Occasionally you only want to pick up your PS Vita for the ten minute journey on the train to work. In this case, you could argue that Touch My Katamari is the perfect distraction. However, it is fair that handheld gaming has come a long way in the last five years. You play an iPhone game for a distraction. PS Vita games should be more than that.

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Progression in the world of Touch My Katamari revolves around the candy rewards that you get from completion of each stage. Candies are rewarded based on the size of your Katamari and also the type of items that you collected. Some levels require you to collect a set number of themed items, which will grant you extra rewards. When your candies are being handed out at the end of each stage, you get the option to “bribe” your judge to increase your candy levels. The first couple of times that you do this cost nothing, but after that you have to buy these opportunities from the PS Store to allow you the option to bribe on future stages. Cheeky, and certainly a worrying trend that looks like porting over from the iPhone game world. Not something you’d really want to see happen regularly on all PS Vita games as that will never truly utilise the power of the Vita.

The PS Vita has a wealth of control options and the majority of launch titles have attempted to use all of the control inputs available. Touch My Katamari is one of the few that only strays from the analogue control method when it is sensible and feels right to do so - with great effect. Using the rear touch pad to stretch or squash your Katamari feels natural and doesn’t require any unnecessary effort. It feels really nice to play and you have to give the developers credit for not getting carried away with touch or motion controls - choosing only to use them to enhance the experience rather than shoehorn them in as an after thought.

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If it wasn’t for the excellent controls, I worry that Katamari wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience at all after the first few goes. That says a lot about how much effort has been put into making sure the player input is second nature and shouldn’t be overlooked. I keep talking about the “first few goes” because anything beyond that does become somewhat of a chore. Not exactly the sort of flagship title that you’d want to use to show off your shiny new console.

Ultimately this means that for die hard fans of the series, what you’re getting here is a well polished version of a good game which you can now play anywhere. For commuters looking for their ten minute fix of mindless gaming, I’d also say that it’s worth a go if you can’t find a suitable 69p iPhone alternative. For anyone else, this just isn’t going to cut it. Yes, it is enjoyable when you first start playing but once the charm wears off, the game quickly turns into a flat experience with little replay value. For that reason alone, it’s difficult to recommend as a full priced video-game.

Review by James Harvey

Overall

6

out of 10

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