PS Vita Review – Touch My Katamari

PlayStation Vita owners who’ve never rolled with Katamari before are definitely encouraged to do so with Namco Bandai’s Touch My Katamari.

Gameplay is the same good old fun it’s always been as players roll a giant ball called a “Katamari” around, usually trying to make it as big as possible within a time limit, but sometimes shooting for alternative goals, depending on the stage. There’s always been appeal to both casual and hardcore gamers in this series, and Touch My Katamari maintains the high level of accessible, fun play sessions. Rolling up the contents of a room, a house, or a whole town is fun and comical.

A change from past installments of the series is that time limits seem a little on the low end, perhaps in an effort to keep this portable game as travel-friendly as possible. Since the time limit can be seen from the selection menu, however, I don’t see why there couldn’t be at least a couple of longer levels, and I say this as someone who does a lot of PSP and Vita gaming on trains and buses. Even the final level — longest in the game — only comes with an eight-minute countdown, so exciting-yet-grueling tasks such as Katamari Damacy‘s 20-minute quest to make the moon will not be matched by anything in Touch My Katamari. Longtime fans will feel something lacking while newcomers won’t know what they’re missing.

In that way as well as others, Touch is better suited for first-time Katamari players than series veterans. While both can find something to enjoy, longtime fans will likely feel too much familiarity here, not just limited to the gameplay style. The stages look extremely familiar — good, but familiar. It’s fine, even expected, for some of them to look similar, but too many of these are dang near carbon copies of levels from the first pair of PS2 games; we’ve played these before. Mission objectives are similarly repetitive — not just within the game itself, but repeats of games past. Cleaning up the bedroom and getting as big as possible without rolling up a cow are just some levels that look and feel almost identical to their console forefathers. Including them is okay, but there should have been more new material than what we get in Touch My Katamari. The final level, fun as it may be, is unfortunately one of very few levels TMK can claim as its own.

Controls have been improved for the Vita, especially compared to the touchscreen-only iOS version and single-stick PSP game Me & My Katamari. The right stick now controls the camera exclusively, while the left stick rolls the Katamari. Proper touches of the either of the two screens can stretch it wide to pick up more things quickly in an open area, or make the Katamari tall and skinny so as to maneuver through tight spaces. A simple tap on the back panel can restore the ball to its regular shape, making this the best-handling Katamari game in the whole series, once you spend a level or two getting used to it. With those, plus the new ability to tap through dialogue and use of the R button to bounce up to higher elevations, it might even be tough to go back to older games after playing TMK. That’s one of few aspects that will please old fans more than new ones.

The Vita’s Katamari uses its system’s tech well without getting too crazy. While players can do the aforementioned stretching and tapping to make their lives easier, one could feasibly get by without using the feature. The end credits features a neat minigame that utilizes the PSV’s tilt capabilities wonderfully, making me wonder what other possibilities there could be for future games of this brand.

TMK features a candy collection system. Through playing the various stages, the Prince will collect pieces of candy which can be used to buy new music tracks and pieces of flair for the King of All Cosmos. I gave mine a top hat and monocle. The candy can be used to unlock Drive Mode (super speed) and Eternal Mode (no time limit) as well. These have to be purchased individually for each stage and can cost quite a bit. Collection is a nice addition, but getting anywhere with it will require a massive amount of replaying the same small number of stages over and over. You need to do a lot of replaying to up the replay value, which is something of a paradox.

Technical aspects are decent, not really adding to TMK or taking away from it in any major way. Visually, it’s about what one would expect of a Katamari title. It’s colorful, bright, cute, and very welcoming. This is the type of game that doesn’t need system-taxing visuals to achieve greatness, so with its familiar look, the game easily succeeds. Most of this game’s music is the type the series has been known for, but it’s taken a small step down in quality. There are a few good tracks and several that have that Katamari feel to them, but most of the music lacks the zip and memorability of the earlier games’ material.

In between successful missions, players will often be treated to rather amusing videos of Goro the Slacker, a hardcore otaku (super-introverted game/anime nerd) struggling to turn his life around and become a functional member of society. These are well animated and genuinely funny, and you just might find yourself looking forward to new ones with a pre-emptive smile.

To be clear, Touch My Katamari is a good game. The King of All Cosmos is still hilarious after all these years and the gameplay is satisfying overall. If you’ve never played a Katamari game before, Touch My Katamari comes highly recommended. Right along with Hot Shots Golf, it’s a low-risk Vita launch title that most newcomers would be pleasantly surprised with. I’ve enjoyed the Katamari franchise since the PS2 era and TMK is overall yet another good game. But with copied levels and the ability to be finished in a single day, TMK feels short, barely complete, and in some ways, more familiar than a sequel should. There’s just a little bit less of everything in comparison to most of the previous games. If you’ve never played one of these games in the past, start here for sure; if you’ve got experience, still consider it, but don’t set your expectations too high in the cosmos.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ That patented Katamari fun, now with better control than ever.

+/- Better for series newcomers than longtime fans.

– Katamari veterans have played many of these exact stages before.

6 out of 10