Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me
Among the Vita’s launch titles is a little gem of a game that cranks the quirkiness factor up to 11 (and maybe even beyond). I speak, of course, of Touch My Katamari, the next entry in NAMCO Bandai’s strange little Katamari series. The premise is simple: You must roll a ball, which collects various items it comes into contact with and expands, sort of like a magnetic snowball.
Well, hold on. Let me back up. Why are you rolling these balls (called Katamaris) in the first place? The King of All Cosmos has overheard a conversation between a man and his son, where the man tells the boy that his school principle is probably as cool as The King. The King is understandably offended, and decides he must prove to the world that he is much cooler than some lame principal. To do this, he has his son, The Prince, roll up some brand new Katamaris so he can make new stars out of them, proving that he is, indeed, still an awesome and powerful King.
Yes, it’s an absurd plot, but if you can’t handle a bit of wackiness, you’re probably not ready for a Katamari game. Touch My Katamari is incredibly and unapologetically bizarre, insane, and Japanese. You’ll just have to get used to it.
For those not hung up on the silliness of the plot, Touch My Katamari offers some of the most addicting gameplay on the Vita so far. You will start with a small ball, which you can roll around collecting new environmental objects. As the ball grows, it can pick up larger and larger items. Eventually you’ll be rolling up cats, dogs, squids, and even people into your Katamari (which I don’t think will ever stop being hilarious to me.) It may sound a bit lame on paper, but believe me, Touch My Katamari could easily swallow you up for hours at a time. It has an almost Tetris-like addictive quality to it; once you start rolling, it’s hard to stop.
Throughout the game, you’ll be thrown into several stages where you have to roll a Katamari to a specific size in a set amount of time. There is generally a secondary objective as well. For example, one stage has you attempt to roll as many expensive things as you can into your Katamari, making a Katamari of immeasurable wealth. Another stage has you try to roll up as many workers as you can. The term “workers” here is actually used pretty loosely, as you’ll begin by rolling up things like spades and flashlights (which count as workers) before you get the Katamari large enough to pick up actual construction workers, as well as cars and things.
There are other stages, however, where you won’t have a timer, but you’ll have a certain stipulation you must adhere to. For example, one stage is composed of nothing but food, and you have a limit to how many calories your Katamari can include. Once you hit the calorie limit, the stage is over. Obviously, the strategy here is to roll up as many healthy food items as possible, while skimping on the desserts.
Touch My Katamari expands the traditional Katamari toolset by allowing players to distort the ball. You can pinch it using the rear touch panel to make it narrower or shorter, which will help you roll your Katamari into low-clearance areas or squeeze into tight places. The weird thing, though, is that the game doesn’t give you many scenarios where you actually need to use this feature, so it winds up feeling a bit tacked on. Then again, in the few instances where I actually found myself distorting the ball, I didn’t care for the feature all that much. And when I didn’t need it, I found myself accidentally bumping the touchpad and warping my ball into a weird shape when I just wanted a normal ball. To mold it back into its original shape, I needed to swipe and pinch to get it right, and this usually caused me to lose precious seconds while my thumbs had to migrate away from the analog sticks.
Yes, there is a traditional analog-stick control scheme for those who prefer this. In fact, I found this to be the easiest way to play. The touchscreen controls feel awkward, and I never got myself to a place where I felt comfortable using them over the analog sticks. Yet even with the analog sticks, I found myself wrestling with the camera far more often than I feel I should in a modern game.
Another thing that caught me as being completely weird is the graphical look. Now, the cutscenes have this intentionally tacky look to them, and that’s all fine and good once you condition your brain to actually process what you’re seeing. However, the gameplay graphics are just bland. The polygon count is far too low for a modern game, and the textures are incredibly low-res. In fact, there’s one area where the ground looks like it was made in Minecraft. This sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not; the grass texture is literally as low-res as a Minecraft texture. But even with the excruciatingly low polygon count and texture fidelity, the edges look incredibly smooth. It’s definitely cranking out HD imagery, only the game doesn’t even attempt to take advantage of this.
Then again, Katamari isn’t really about fancy graphics. It’s pretty much about insanely random humor and rolling things up into gigantic balls. The music fits this theme perfectly, as it’s a ridiculous mix of J-pop tunes that only serves to highlight the absurdity of the whole thing.
If you absolutely need to look at the fanciest graphics, or if you just simply hate weird Japanese humor, Touch My Katamari is not for you. However, for anyone who can handle it, this title offers gameplay so addictive you’ll struggle to put it down, despite its flaws. And really, when a game comes along that’s simply this much fun, graphics and story are allowed to take a back seat, no?
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.2 Graphics
Touch My Katamari is an HD game, but it has texture resolutions and polygon counts so low that they wouldn’t have impressed many people fifteen years ago. 3.8 Control
The traditional controls feel okay minus some awkward camera issues, but the touch controls are a disaster. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The best word to describe the game’s soundtrack is “insane.” It’s actually a perfect fit for a Katamari title. 4.8 Play Value
This game is highly addictive. Stages are almost infinitely replayable as you try to keep beating your high scores and rolling even bigger Katamaris. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best