Like an ever faithful steam engine, good ol’ PlayStation Plus keeps chugging along. Passengers get a delectable buffet cart of free titles every month and like the Grade A hoarder that I am, I have yet to get through them all. So, every so often I take on a PS Plus title and test its mettle and this month’s challenger is…Touch My Katamari.
The man ascends from seemingly out of nothing. All 200 foot of him is chiselled, I can see as much through his far too tight yellow spandex suit. His giant head sings along to a tune that I can’t make sense of and I’m invited to ‘Touch My Katamari’. Whose Katamari is it? Mine? His? Or is it all just a bizarre fever dream? I didn’t know the answer but I knew that the game wanted me to use my digits to roll a ball around and collect miscellaneous items and I, with my PS Vita in hand, had never been more ready.
Katamari: A Beautiful, Fun-Filled History
Maybe it’s my bizarre desire to populate the galaxy with balls of random bits of trash/animals/gibbering people/garden furniture (mother always said I was a weird one) or the fact that its concept is based on tearing down polygons instead of drooling and celebrating top notch graphics, but I think that Touch My Katamari’s fundamental premise of rolling around and sticking to ‘stuff’ is brilliant.
Some background on this weird and wonderful title; the Katamari series has been around since 2004, starting with Katamari Damacy for PS2 (yes, that old relic) where it became a cult classic and everyone was happy except for those who got rolled over in or Katamari rampage, obviously. It was subsequently followed by the aptly titled We Love Katamari (2005) for PS2, Me & My Katamari (2006) for PSP and Katamari Forever (2009) for PS3, except Katamari wasn’t really forever as it dropped off the PlayStation map for while reappearing on PS Vita in 2012 with Touch My Katamari, the very game that I am about to praise. A lot.
The Katamari Controller Currently Known as The Prince
As The Prince, a noble green-clad man, small in stature yet large in title, Touch My Katamari gets you to do your Dad’s bidding work, but this is no clearing leaves out of gutter, your father in the game is The King of the Cosmos who is worried about three things and three things only: what his people think about him, what his people think about the world’s he’s created and what his people think about his body, which he admits has become more than a little on the chunky thunder side. So off you go, as The Prince, following the orders of The King and his subjects to collect themed balls of his trash for pops to digest and spit out and make new worlds, which I promise you is not as gross as it sounds.
Katamari in the Sky With Orcas, Lions, Humans, Houses, Bears…
Far from grossness, Touch My Katamari is one of the most fun times I’ve had playing any game since 2004, when I first got my hands on a controller to play Katamari in the first place. In 12 levels of the game I’ve rolled up giant octopuses, sumo wrestlers, special Katamari onesies, children, cars, skyscrapers, giant diving orcas, sharks, coins, clouds, slices of cake and various other things that would have the average person cart me off to the hospital to check for concussion if I told them this. All of the weird, nonsense collecting is boosted by an episodic story (which comes in 2 minute video chapters and is as funny as it is easy to follow) and some intuitive, simple to learn controls; the Vita’s left analogue stick is used to roll the Katamari (the name of the balls you use to collect things) backwards and forwards, the right analogue stick is used to control the camera and change direction and the Vita’s rear touchpad is used to control the size and shape of the ball, allowing you to choose between a Ferris wheel of bizarre crap, a giant sausage shape of rolling, sticky nonsense and just about every squidgeable length, height and width variation in between.
And even on the PS Vita’s tiny touchscreen are things half decent to look at, although admittedly if you’re looking for super visuals that show you every pixel of what you’ve collected like a BBC One hoarders special then you’re going to be let down but again, if your focus is on anything other than what’s in front of you (that you’ll be whizzing forward to hoover up) then you’re probably playing Touch My Katamari wrong. Where the graphics of the game do show their middling strengths, however, is in the scale of maps as even the smallest dust bunny collecting quest which puts The Prince on the floor, to a ginormous depiction of Tokyo, complete with giant monsters, it all holds up rather well, which really is a credit to the designers. In fact, the responsiveness of the scale is one of two issues I had with Touch My Katamari as sometimes, a giant 50 metre high Katamari meant that sometimes the littlest items got rolled over and left there, thus thwarting my mottos of ‘no piece of trash gets left behind’ and ‘go big Katamari or go home’.
The Best Damn Thing (on PS Vita)
Touch My Katamari is one of the best cases I’ve seen made to buy a PS Vita in the first place, and the fact that Sony were happy to offer it up for free as part of PlayStation Plus says a lot. They clearly want people to play the game on their touch-enable d console and so realistically, you’d expect more backing behind a title that not only is a great example of gaming in general, but one that also makes a very good case for the PS Vita’s touch controls over iOS’ ones (Katamari Amore was released on iOS in 2011). It even keeps perfectly in line with other great Vita titles such as Frobisher Says, as Touch My Katamari’s dialogue is hilarious and irreverent (it even references the long wait to play the game by PlayStation fans), offers fantastic replayability (the game offers extra challenges, scores to beat and music and outfits to collect) and offers experiences that you can’t really find anywhere else so my only other problem with Touch My Katamari is that it doesn’t yet have a sequel.
Head over to the Girl vs Game tag to read more articles in the series.
Editor’s Note: Today is the 10th anniversary of Katamari Damacy! The fact that I’m publishing this feature now is just a coincidence, honest. But if you have any thoughts on the words above/the series in general please leave them below in the comments!