Touch My Katamari

August 11, 2013

Touch My Katamari probably has the most blatantly provocative title in this bizarre series so far, as it references both its own brand of ‘random’ Japanese humour and one of the most obscure euphemisms stuck on game packaging since Alone in the Dark. That said, it’s more of the same sticking-and-rolling action that fans have come to expect from the uniquely quirky franchise, except now on the PS Vita’s 5 inches of glossy glory. With dual analogue sticks finally enabling a proper Katamari experience on the go, is this a launch title that even the King of All Cosmos would feel compelled to snap up?

If you’re a fan to whom the premise of these games actually makes a difference(nice to meet you! I’m the other one), you may be interested to learn that Touch My Katamari‘s story makes the least sense yet. The King of All Cosmos’ colossal ego is shattered as the ordinary citizens of Earth start showing some doubt in his all-awesomeness. His self-esteem in the balance, he once again enlists the Prince’s help to roll up katamaris that he can turn into stars – except this time he eats them as part of his all-fusion diet to get a little trimmer. There’s also a side story that proves to be quite amusing regarding a slacker named Goro, who is facing the difficult task of prying himself away from girlie magazines and video games and making something of himself. The two stories do kind of intersect, but you only ever see Goro in short cutscenes that are shown after every couple of levels. Ultimately, it’s all pretty much just an excuse to get rolling once again, but what’s here is entertaining enough.

Touch My Katamari‘s main single player mode is centered around listening to various people slightly criticise the King, before being sent off by his Royal Jumpsuitedness to roll up a katamari (basically, sticky balls that can collect anything smaller than themselves). The requests are pretty standard if you’ve played anyKatamari game before, and mostly involve rolling up as much as you can in a certain time frame while keeping an eye out for a certain types of objects (such as ‘royal’ or ‘power’ related things). Some levels deviate from the standard format, although some prove to be more annoying than inventive. One requires you to roll up as much as possible before finishing with the largest bear or cow you can find. If you roll up any cow or bear before then, it’s all over, and the level starts you off right in front of two toy bears and cow-coloured safety cones (which count and finish the level). You might think this would be frustrating, but since this finishes the level, it counts as a proper completion and you can carry on with the game, making it potentially a five-second level. This is kind of a problem considering the game as whole is only about four to five hours long, and probably much less for Katamari veterans.

However, the additions to Touch My Katamari‘s gameplay make it really fun to play when you are rolling up. The jump mechanic from Katamari Forever is retained, and the PS Vita’s dual analogue set-up works wonderfully with Katamari’s traditional rolling controls. However, the big inclusion is the use of the touch screen (and rear touch pad) to stretch and smoosh your katamari. Pulling your fingers outwards allows you to stretch the katamari into a rolling pin shape that covers a lot more ground, enabling you to pick up more objects faster. Bringing your fingers together allows you to crush the katamari into a vertical disc-like shape, to navigate through tight spaces. The stretching mechanic isn’t often required by the level design, and you’ll find yourself mainly using the rolling pin shape unless you’re in a really tight corner, but it’s a sensible inclusion to the Katamari formula that works well on the Vita. My only compaint is that the visual effect of the warping katamari could be better, as it looks kind of trippy as it stretches every object attached to the katamari as well, rather than properly reshaping the ball.

Other new inclusions include an unlockable system using candies, which you are rewarded with at the end of every level. If you have a special candy ticket (awarded occasionally by the King), you can sweet talk your way into earning double the amount of rewards, which adds a mild element of strategy into the proceedings, although candies are mainly used for unlocking new costumes for the King and music in the soundtrack. There’s also plenty of collectibles, known as ‘curios’, which the King annoyingly informs you of every time you roll over one (his dialogue taking up most of the screen). A ‘buddy’ system using the PS Vita’s ‘near’ service has also been implemented, that allows you to receive gifts and compete with their records.

Katamari is also well-known for the series’ strong soundtracks with bizarre J-pop tunes and cool remixes of the devastatingly catchy theme tune, and Touch My Katamari is no exception. The soundtrack is full of catchy and very odd tunes, although altogether it’s perhaps not quite as strong as previous incarnations, and ‘Katamari on the Stage’ doesn’t rank up with the best of the series’ theme tunes. However, most disappointingly some of the best songs, including a jazz rendition of ‘Katamari on the Rocks’ and a great remix of ‘Katamari on the Funk’,  are only available through DLC purchases.

The game’s visual style remains virtually unchanged from previous games, consisting of blocky humanoids and basic textures. That said, the colours are bright and vivid and show off the Vita’s lovely screen very well. The King of All Cosmos has received a ‘realistic’ facelift that brings him finally into the third dimension and the results are… shall we say ‘fruity’. Now able to strike all manner of manly poses and lip sync with the best of them, the King continues to be the most fabulous game character in the medium, his only contender perhaps being Jean Armstrong from Phoenix Wright.

Touch My Katamari is another very fun update of the admittedly ageing formula, and the Vita’s control scheme and new shape shifting abilities make it a joy to play. The humour still strikes a chord with me, and even though it’s obvious they’re pushing the whole Japanese ‘random’ aspect a little too much, I found this game more amusing than a couple of the previous incarnations. It’s just a really brief experience, and just as you start getting addicted to the game, it all ends. There is some incentive to go back and replay old levels, but there’s not enough variety in the locations, except for the psychedelic final mission,  to hold your interest for very long. If you can’t get enough Katamari and you own a Vita, then it’s an essential purchase, and if you’ve never tried one before it’s not a bad place to start. Just try not to get too distracted by the King of All Cosmos’ shining yellow codpiece.


Great controls | Bizarre humour | Cool music


Very short | Some of the best music is DLC

Overall Score: