SONY PSP REVIEW: ME & MY KATAMARI

It's missing a second analog stick, but it manages to be fun without missing too much in the functionality dept. by Colin Thames

March 23, 2006 - Me and My Katamari is a bizarre and unique game that is new to the PSP. The Katamari series has graced the PS2 with two releases so far. That quirky and entertaining brand of gaming is now available in a portable version. There are some compromises to be sure, but the trade off for a portable, handheld version of this instant classic is worth it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a Katamari, allow me to relate this simple, yet brilliant, concept. The Katamari is a tool of sorts. It collects things when it's rolled over them, much like a snowball rolling down a hill increasing in size as it picks up more snow. The more mass the Katamari collects, the bigger it gets and thus, the bigger objects it will be able to collect. That's what a Katamari does. How it's used in the game will be discussed in the following paragraphs. I'm not letting you off the hook that easy, you're going to have to do some reading. I get paid by the word y'know.

One of the first things you'll be introduced to in this game are the oddball, but endearing, characters. The King of all Cosmos, not to be confused with Howard Stern - the King of all Media, is a very powerful but eccentric ruler that enjoys a good drink among the stars and has an ego that must be stroked by his subjects. Maybe he is fashioned after Stern after all. In order to feel loved, the King must please his subjects. He will go to great lengths to accomplish this by even replacing the stars in the skies with his son's Katamaris in the last PS2 version entitled, We Love Katamari. It seems the population can't get enough of these magical devices and the King loves to please.

In this version, the King takes the Royal Family on a vacation to romp in the sea of stars. It's the cosmos equivalent to a beach resort. After much frolicking the family accidentally creates tremendously destructive tidal waves that obliterate a series of islands that are home to many different species of animals. To make amends and save these homeless creatures, The King attempts to create new islands for them. But he needs to collect huge amounts of mass to do so. So he calls in his boy, The Prince, to use him Katamaris to collect tons of mass by rolling over as many things as possible.

After the story has been established, there are not very many cutscenes to propel it further which is disappointing since the King's antics are tremendously perplexing and amusing. Overall the game is very short in length, with a minimal amount of replay value added by the multi-player mode. Even the locations are reused over and over as we revisit them at different seasons and at different times of day. If you're used to any of the PS2 versions you'll have to learn to come to grips with the control system. It's not at all as smooth or intuitive but considering what you've got to work with, it's a wonder it works at all.

The first thing you have to deal with is the time limit. You will have to collect a certain amount of objects and reach a specific size before the time runs out. You'll start with small items lying around the house such as pencils, batteries and toy figures eventually progressing to people, vehicles and entire city blocks, until you begin rolling up entire cities. The Katamari keeps expanding the more you collect but unlike the PS2 version you'll experience a load time about half way through the level in which the imagines of previously collected material will disappear to make room for more to be displayed. This is only to keep graphic processing under control and doesn't affect the size or power of the Katamari although it does interrupt the gameplay.

Subjects will demand that you capture specific items for them. Some of these items may be described as cold, sweet or nice to look at. This requires that you keep your eye out for these items and steer the Katamari in their direction. These tasks are never particularly difficult as the items always seem to be within reach.

Controlling the Katamari requires some practice. Whereas you used the two analog sticks to control the Katamari on the PS2, the PSP relegates the face buttons to take the place of one stick and the D-pad to act as the other. By moving these control systems independently you can drive the Katamari like a bulldozer with each system controlling one track. The L and R buttons gradually turn the Katamari to the corresponding direction - left or right. It's a slightly awkward control system but it doesn't take long to get used to, but even when you're used to it your hands will eventually cramp. It's not very comfortable position to hold for a long time but the game is not really intended to be played for hours on end.

For more replay value you can search for Royal gifts hidden by the King. These include outfits and accessories for the Prince such as hats and sunglasses. Some of the Prince's playable cousins are also unlockable. You can even unlock all of the tunes in the game and play them whenever you want. The multi-player mode accommodates up to four players but all participants have to have a copy of the game. This competitive mode lets players scramble to see who can collect the most items with their Katamari. To keep things a little more interesting than a generic race, you can knock things off of your competitors' Katamari which will keep them from expanding. Through the Wi Fi link you can also trade Royal gifts with other players.

Me and My Katamari is a fun game when played in small doses. It's not very long and even the multi-player mode won't garner a lot of replay value. The entire game is a fun and unique package that is sure to keep even the most hardcore of gamers fascinated for a couple of hours. It may not make a great purchase but if you rent it for a few days you can extract most of the fun out of it.

Features:

  • Creative gameplay and art style returns: Old-time fans and newcomers to the series will rejoice as they see the all new interface that features an island setting where you can choose your options and stages represented by animals in need of a place to flourish.
  • Brand new tropical levels: Roll throughout different locations and environments, the Prince can enter buildings then roll into aquariums, and more in all new Katamari worlds.
  • Ever expanding cast of characters: New Cousins created specifically for the PSP make their premier appearance. Customize your cousins with new masks headgear and more… you can dress the Prince and cousins wearing items on their head, face and torso, all at the same time!
  • We brought world peace with co-op play - now it's time for a battle: Battle up to 3 of your friends through wireless Ad Hoc play as you compete to roll up as many objects as possible!

By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Me & My Katamari (PSP)
4.2
Graphics
Excellent 3D environments. Shapes may be a little low-res but at least they are easy to distinguish. There are some mid-level load times that disrupt the gameplay.
3.3
Control
With no dual analog stick controls, the face buttons and D-pad will be used in their stead. It's awkward and uncomfortable but it works.
3.4
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Not much in the way of cutscenes. Needs a lot more of the King's presence.
2.7
Play Value
The game is short but there are some unlockables to find. The multi-player mode is very simple and won't see a lot of replay value.
3.8
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Namco
Pub: Namco
Release: Mar 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Colin

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best