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Touch My Katamari Review

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On 03/01/2012 at 10:45 PM by Chessa DiMola

A portable Katamari game that controls great, but could desperately use some more variety.

For Katamari fans.

The last time the Katamari series came to a handheld console, it was a lesson in frustration to say the least. Without two joysticks to properly control the Katamari, things quickly fell apart; an unfortunate truth for fans dying to roll on the go. Well, six years and a brand new handheld system later, Katamari fans have finally gotten what they’ve been waiting so long for: a good looking Katamari experience loaded with all of the integral character and humor the series is known for, that – most importantly – controls like a dream. Unfortunately, its lack of variety and content cast a dark shadow over what could have been the ultimate handheld Katamari game.

Being a long time Katamari fan, I was quite surprised at how smoothly Touch My Katamari controlled. Thanks to the Vita’s new dual joysticks, rolling is extremely fluid, but that’s not the only control improvement. You can now quick turn with the push of a single button, rather than pushing down both joysticks at the same time (over and over until it decides to work). Needless to say, this was immensely helpful.

The Vita’s hardware also allows Katamari fans to do something completely new and exciting: squish and stretch the Katamari. Using the back touch pad, players simply have to slide their fingers out or in to warp the Katamari’s shape. It’s a very responsive mechanic that only becomes iffy when resting your fingers on the back. This occasionally leads to the Vita falsely identifying player input and altering the Katamari undesirably. While new and entertaining, the mechanic is sadly never truly utilized. Although objects are set up in such a way to encourage players to use the new feature, not using it won’t impede success.

With only a few much appreciated tweaks to the core gameplay, any Katamari fan will undoubtedly feel right at home straight from the get-go. The King of All Cosmos, in all of his shiny-gold-leotard-wearing glory will treat players to his classic snark and charm that inevitably leads to his criticism and ordering around of his pint-sized son, The Prince. While not particularly relevant to the game itself, it appears as though the King of All Cosmos has opted for a more realistic facial presentation this time, which is a bit…unsettling.

Although the King’s new face gave me several bouts of goosebumps, the rest of Touch My Katamari looks great on the Vita screens. When seen up close, the game just explodes with bright vivid hues in nearly every section, from the menus to the Royal Rainbows; however, one thing really bothered me. While the rest of the game features crisp visuals, the Katamari itself on the judging screen was a pixelated mess. It just doesn’t makes sense to me; of all the things to be lackadaisical about, why the finished Katamari?

It seems as though that’s the general motive of Touch My Katamari: do mostly everything better than last time, but mess up some really simple things.

To start off, while Touch My Katamari offers a decent number of levels, the variety of locations to roll in initially is disappointingly small. Though being on a handheld system makes it a bit forgivable to feature a very small variety of levels, the bigger issue is that the majority are the same levels we’ve been playing for over a decade - with a few minor tweaks.  But even dismissing all of that, the biggest disappointment by far is the lack of grand levels. Sure, rolling up random items is fun, but nothing ever compared to the joy of rolling up buildings, landmarks, big chunks of land, and the stars themselves. With one exception, players will do none of that in Touch My Katamari, and even in that one level, the rolling ends once every building has been picked up. I attempted that last level over, and over, and over again, trying to pick up every single item for every size stage thinking that maybe I missed too many items to get big enough to rip up the land. When I finally realized this wasn’t the case, and that there were no more levels after it, I was incredibly disappointed.

Fortunately, I can say that just because Touch My Katamari doesn’t feature such levels from the get-go, doesn’t mean that it never will. See, Namco will periodically be releasing new levels via DLC, two of which are already available. Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Before release, Namco announced that all DLC will be able to be unlocked without any cost to players, and technically this is true; true, but very unrealistic. The only way to purchase the DLC is with items known as Fan Damacies. Now, on a player’s first playthrough, they will undoubtedly encounter a few of these creatures, which the King will point out after his ramblings at the beginning of each level. Basically, a Fan Damacy is a creature of some sort that wanders around a level, and their presence in any level seems to be random. I acquired three of these during my first complete playthrough, and although I’ve put in three days and countless hours of additional play with Touch My Katamari, I have yet to encounter another.

Like I already said, the only way to unlock the DLC is with Fan Damacies, ten to be exact; a tiresome, lengthy, and extremely unreliable method. Conveniently, players have the option of simply purchasing these Fan Damacies, which come in quantities of one, three, or five. Five will run players $1.99, costing them four dollars for every single level they wish to unlock. This sort of thing is absolutely detestable to me; force players to endure gratuitous amounts of gameplay just to unlock a level that isn’t a rehash, or charge them an unreasonable amount of money once they’ve been worn down.

Cheating players out of unique levels isn’t the only disappointing thing Touch My Katamari does. The soundtrack is the weakest featured in any prior installments within the series. Every Katamari fan knows that the music is an integral part of the experience and is just as important as every other facet of the game. Once again though, players are generously given the opportunity to buy a number of different song packages which range from $2.49 to $5.99 for all the songs they offer.

All of the nickel and diming for variety and quality that I expect to be there from the get-go is extremely off-putting to me. Katamari fans have been supporting this series for almost a decade and it’s very disappointing to see them being taken advantage of. As mad as want to be by all of the attempts to take more money from consumers, I can’t say that Touch My Katamari doesn’t implement some great new elements.

The new experience is really all about keeping players coming back for more. Now, every time players complete a Katamari and have it judged, they will earn a number of candies (in-game money) depending on their performance, and it’s used for two main purposes: rank and items. A player’s rank influences their candy multiplier, so as the multiplier goes up, they will in turn earn more candy every time they complete a level. With their candy earned, players can purchase clothes to dress up the King with, soundtrack songs, and unlock Drive Mode and Eternal Mode for certain levels.

Because Touch My Katamari is really the only proper way to play the series on the go, I’m willing to forgive many of its faults. For most people, being backhandedly cheated out of a few bucks to unlock content that should have come standard probably won’t be a big deal, but it’s still disappointing nonetheless. If you can look past all of that, Touch My Katamari has everything fans have been waiting for in a handheld Katamari experience.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Our Take

Esteban Cuevas Staff Alumnus

03/02/2012 at 02:22 AM

Despite the asinine micro transactions being implemented with the DLC, this looks like a fun Katamari game. I haven't played one since We Love Katamari and this looks like a real solid entry in the series. The stretching of the Katamari ball looks real cool and the timed levels seems perfect on a handheld.

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