Keep on rollin'.
Surrealism is not a new concept in videogames; Super Mario Bros is perhaps the greatest piece of surrealism in history. But then there are games that shatter the boundaries of comprehension, such as Katamari Damacy – a game where you are tasked with rolling up random objects to appease a king. However, as time flows by, what is once alien becomes part of everyday life. Mario is now a household name because of the evolution, whereas Katamari has been stuck in the same spot since its inception. Touch My Katamari then marks an opportunity to bring the series up to date on new hardware.
While previous games in the series have focused on the King of All Cosmos wiping out the universe by either going on a binge drinking spree or creating a black hole with a rather powerful hit of a tennis ball, in Touch My Katamari, the King of All Cosmos has lost touch with the people, who now think he is no longer cool. Obviously, the king’s downfall is the fault of the Prince, who must roll up random objects to satisfy the people. If you have experienced the series before, you know what to expect. If you haven’t, expect verbal abuse from a disgruntled king and even more disgruntled “fans”. There is a side story that takes place with the subject matter being a stereotypical Japanese Otaku trying to turn his life around, but like the main story it fails to really amount to much beyond nonsense and is wearisome overall.
Touch My Katamari controls in a remarkably similar way as console versions, primarily using the analogue sticks to roll around the land. While most Katamari games have been criticised for not introducing something new, the PlayStation Vita hardware allows for the new ability to stretch and squeeze your Katamari into different shapes. You have the option to do this using the touch screen, but the rear touch pad feels more natural in comparison and it doesn’t restrict your view of the game. Being able to reshape your Katamari adds a level of depth that allows for easier gameplay than previously seen, so its inclusion seems natural.
Each stage tasks you with rolling a Katamari of a certain height within a time limit, though on occasion you can also be tasked with rolling the most items within a calorie limit or rolling the largest Bear or Cow you can. When you sum it all up though, each level involves the same trial which must be completed to progress, and this gets tedious very quickly. What doesn’t help is that if you somehow fail in your current task, the king takes you out of the level and gives you an absolute scolding. As the Katamari grows bigger though, the actual gameplay feels more satisfying as you begin rolling over skyscrapers rather than tiny pins. But nothing really escapes from the fact that the gameplay is limited to rolling the Katamari over stuff.
“If you can’t get enough of the King of All Cosmos, then Touch My Katamari provides more of the same.”
After completing a stage, you are given a certain amount of candies depending on how well you’ve done. Occasionally the king will give you the ability to sweet talk your way into getting more. The purpose of these is to get many accessories and game modes, which expand the lifespan somewhat. You can also pick up new avatars for the Prince and “Curios” during the levels and use the online shop and Near to get a little more out of the game. Ultimately though, once you have played through the levels on offer, the appeal of Touch My Katamari dries up almost instantly.
Newcomers will more than likely see that the game is utterly bizarre in visual detail. Items are represented by rudimentary shapes that give the game an abstract feel. This style isn’t new to the series, but it looks okay on the PlayStation Vita. Camera controls will sometimes hamper the experience, especially when cornered up against the wall. Music is certainly an entourage of J-Pop which only has a limited appeal, but at least having the ability to play DJ in the main menu with the touch screen is a nice touch.
In a way, Touch My Katamari was exactly how I anticipated it would turn out. By using the PlayStation Vita to its fullest, the game succeeds in updating its control scheme to make the experience more acceptable than ever before. But alas just like every other Katamari game, the lifespan is severely limited by its structure, and the look and feel of the game is stagnated by remaining parallel to previous games in the franchise. If you can’t get enough of the King of All Cosmos, then Touch My Katamari provides more of the same, but I can’t help but feel the deep sense of irony that a game that jokes about the series getting stuck in a rut would be just as stale as the rest.