Features & News

Hands On: Touch My Katamari

January 24, 2012, Author: Diogo Miguel

Anyone trying to pitch a game to a Western publisher involving objects rolled into a ball would probably be laughed out of the room. Fortunately Japanese publishers are more open-minded or the brilliant Katamari games would never see the light of day. The latest sequel of the bizarre Japanese game, Touch My Katamari, is coming to the upcoming PlayStation Vita handheld.

Is it time for the King to retire, or is there still a need to go back to his colourful realm of magic?

The main attraction in Katamari games is that players roll Katamari spheres around the world collecting every item in its path and, as usual, players control a young prince on his quest to roll every item with his Katamari. I still find it unusual that a game like Touch My Katamari manages to keep getting releases in a world focused in cinematic gaming. However, it’s Katamari’s ability to charm players with its bizarre sense of humour that continues to make it relevant.

The plots for earlier Katamari games are flat-out bonkers but the plot for this latest game manages to top them all. The King of Cosmos manages to get himself into trouble yet again. It’s not a hole in the very fabric of reality but the King has put on a few pounds and it is up to the prince to help him get back into shape. Fortunately it’s a Katamari game and not the latest exercise fad to hit the market, so the prince must roll up the Katamari to help the king lose weight.

The King was shocked at how much weight he put on.

It’s not a surprise for a Katamari game to have such an odd plot or that there is barely any story to keep it going, but the fact is that it means that gamers can focus purely on rolling up lots of items and hitting those scores. Special items, like candy, are also cleverly hidden in each level. The candy will make it possible to buy new items from a store, which will probably mean new clothes for the characters and so on.

One of the best features in Touch My Katamari is the satisfying feeling that comes with getting the collectibles. It never fails to amuse me to see the likes of the King dressed up in ridiculous outfits. The lure of trying to get every item in each level is also a tempting proposition. It’s not an easy task either, with plenty of items of various shapes and sizes spread throughout levels.

One of the biggest let-downs in Katamari games has always been the controls. The usage of analogue sticks for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation Portable versions were rather erratic, which made for a frustrating experience at times thanks to the difficulty in efficiently controlling the direction of the Katamari sphere. This would make it a nightmare when trying to turn around, often getting you stuck in a corner or between a set of items. Surprisingly enough, Touch My Katamari manages to fix this issue, thanks to the manner in which it utilises the Vita’s analogue sticks and back touch area.

Another hard day of Katamari rolling.

Positioning of the analogue sticks means that it is very easy to roll the Katamari while being able to move the camera so that it is always behind the character. Some of the extra commands work really well too, like the forward thrust being easily executed by quickly moving both analogue sticks back and forth.

The Touch My Katamari team deserves a round of applause for using the touch capabilities of the Playstation Vita in a sensible way. In a rather unique move, touching the back touch screen will make it possible to stretch the Katamari. This makes it easier to get items from higher places or roll a group of items quickly. It’s a significant new feature in a game that hasn’t changed much since the original.

The Xbox 360 version of Katamari made it possible to go online and have rolling matches with other players. This version lets players send each other challenges, which seems like a good idea to enhance player online interaction.

A stretched Katamari makes for an efficient Katamari.

Katamari games are well-known for their colourful nature and Touch My Katamari is no exception. Each of the levels is full to the brim with colour. It’s a joy to explore and see all the bizarre colourful items found in the levels. It’s a perfect example of Japanese culture and its obsession with bright colours.

Touch My Katamari is not exactly a revolutionary new entry in the series. Those that played the previous games will probably not find a lot of changes, but it’s clear that the developers are trying hard to perfect the controls and other less noticeable issues that people found with the game. This is bound to be the launch game that gets the least amount of attention, but those that take a chance might be pleasantly surprised.