Once upon a time there was a wacky little PlayStation game called Katamari Damacy. In it, a drunken god-creature wearing a bright purple codpiece accidentally destroyed the universe. He enlisted the help of his five-centimeter-tall son to fix it, mostly by rolling balls of garbage around to electropop.
It was awesome and everybody loved it.
Roughly a half dozen sequels later, Katamari has become self aware to the point where it’s eating itself. The King of All Cosmos is a lazy, fat piece of crap and nobody likes him anymore, mostly because the public thinks he’s always rolling balls of garbage around to electropop. In a moment of clarity he once more summons the prince to roll balls of garbage around to electropop. I mean, what did you really expect?
That last paragraph wasn’t ironic, by the way. That’s the actual plot of the game. There’s a fairly lulzy subplot about a fat gamer geek named Goro and his quest to purchase a study-guide (animated by what I’m guessing was one of the last living Merry Pranksters), but it’s not clear why it’s there beyond the loose tie-in to gaining success in life. The main plot revolves around the king listening to people who hate him, then having the Prince impress those people by completing a level. After the level he eats the Katamari and farts out a planet. And not in a rhetorical way. Rinse and repeat.
At this point there’s not much to say about the gameplay. It’s Katamari. You use the twin stick controls or the touch screen to move your Katamari through, over and under stuff to get bigger. Then you roll up more stuff. Then the time runs out and the King gives you an awful score. You play through the level ten more times, memorize where everything is and get perfect 120’s every time thereafter.
The twin stick (or “classic” controls) work just fine. The touch screen (or “horrifying” controls) work kind of sort of well. There are some issues with turning and backing up that have cropped up a lot with the touch screen, but mostly it’s pretty neat. There are TWO WHOLE new functions for your Katamari, those being to squish and stretch using the front and back touch pads. I can say this with some clarity: only very advanced players trying to get a very high score will ever make complete use of these functions. Conceivably you can perfect every level without them, sometimes quite easily. If you’re in the calorie or bearcow level, however, morph that Katamari.
The levels are standard Katamari affairs. There’s the small room filled with toys, the house, the yard, the street, the city, and later the world (which, as always, goes rainbow crazy at the end). A lot of levels are recycled with different items and size limitations, so memorizing where everything is doesn’t have to be as much of a chore. Of course there are the hidden cousins and presents, so that adds a bit of replayability. There’s also a fairly basic multiplayer mode that, while vanilla, does what it says on the tin admirably.
The familiar gameplay is also backed up by an equally familiar embrace of the strange. You can dress up the King in a variety of ridiculous costumes that include techno, beekeeper and food. The dialogue is bizarre at best, the movies are crazy and there’s a maddeningly difficult end credits bonus level that gives no hint as to how you’re even supposed to play it.
Sound fun? It is. It’s the kind of portable Katamari that I have always dreamed of. I just wish there could be more.
A smattering of special levels that force you to count the calories of different food items or roll up the biggest bear and/or cow (quite a throwback, by the way) help to keep things fresh, but you can finish the entire game in under a day if you’re a seasoned roller. After that it degrades into a mad search for Fan Damacy and candy to purchase all the songs, clothing and DLC. After that you’re plumb outta luck, though it’s fun to zone out in endless mode while playing a sweet track for a while.
Ah yes, the music. It. Is. Incredible. Even if you hate Katamari, the soundtrack will blow your mind. It’s all original music created by an eclectic group of artists from around the world, and even the DLC surprises by throwing down two absolutely cracking house tracks that blew me away in my little swivel chair.
Let’s talk about the DLC for a minute. Katamari introduces a very new and very cool concept in terms of buying the DLC in that you can find in-game cash randomly inserted into stages. Which means that if you’re patient you never have to spend another dime on anything. Ever. It’s a very interesting take on the DLC marketplace that I hope to see mirrored in other ways going down the line, because damn that’s cool.
So, should you touch the Katamari? Yes, you should- but know that little innovation is being brought to the table. Touch My Katamari is a Katamari game, it plays like every other Katamari game, and it sounds like an ancient, benevolent deity gently pissing into your ear. I personally think it’s the bees knees, but I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time with it already due to reasons that I can’t explain.
No, really, I legally can’t explain them. My time playing Katamari is legally actionable.
GO Rating: 3.5/5