Giant Bomb Review

26 Comments

Touch My Katamari Review

3
  • VITA

Touch My Katamari offers up one distinctly cool new idea for the series while more or less surrounding that idea with the same stuff we've already played to death.

The franchising and subsequent beating into the ground of Katamari Damacy is sort of inexplicable, if you stop to think about it. For starters, it's kind of crazy that Namco Bandai was even able to turn this hyperactively Japanese game of world-consuming ball-rolling into something people would buy over and over again. Not because the original games weren't fun, but because, well, let's face it: this series is kinda bonkers. With its cubic art style and cheerful obliteration of the world around you, all at the whim of a gigantic, self-obsessed royal dandy, nothing about Katamari Damacy screams "mass audience appeal."

If you like Katamari Damacy, guess what? This is totally more Katamari Damacy.

Maybe that's why Namco Bandai has been so reluctant to really futz with the formula in all the years since Keita Takahashi invented the thing. Year after year, we've gotten sequel after remake after compilation of new-ish levels, new-ish bonus stages, new-ish cutscenes, and new-ish craziness. It's all just variations on a singular theme. The art never really changes, the gameplay never really changes, and the characters never really change. In fact, short of the soundtrack and the layout of the usual objects to roll up, nothing really changes at all. It's like Namco is terrified that making even the slightest alterations to the formula will suddenly snap America awake to how completely ludicrous this thing they've been rebuying over and over again is, and the whole franchise will come to a deadly, screeching halt.

Touch My Katamari for the PlayStation Vita represents the biggest alteration to the Katamari formula in basically forever. It's the closest thing Namco has come to creating something significant within the already existing framework of what Katamari Damacy is. Within the scope of this series, it's practically earth-shattering. Are you ready for this? You might want to sit down...

You can use the rear touch screen to scrunch and flatten your Katamari.

Look, it's not that this isn't a useful idea. In fact, it's minor brilliance. Now all those nooks and crannies you couldn't otherwise access because they were too narrow or too low are easily accessible by quick swipes of your fingers across the back touch screen. It's functional, responsive, and makes the act of playing Touch My Katamari just a bit more fun.

Which is great, really, except for the part where you're doing it in levels that, while purportedly new, feel exactly like the same levels we've already played time and time and time and time and time again. Sure, some of the layouts are different, but the core conceit here is functionally unchanged. You'll start out in someone's house, rolling up tiny objects. You will grow bigger, rolling up larger stuff, then eventually people. Then houses. Then large pieces of landscape. Then skyscrapers. Then Godzillas. And so on and so forth.

It's not that the Katamari formula needs drastic change to be fun, but it could use a few tweaks to the formula to combat the generalized feeling of déjà vu one gets while playing Touch My Katamari. It's extremely telling that the eight or so main levels, which supposedly are new, feel just like every other Katamari level in existence. Even the bonus levels pretty much just riff on the same themes already used in previous sequels.

The touch screen scrunching/flattening of the Katamari is a neat idea.

For some, perhaps that's quite enough. The mere act of rolling a Katamari book-ended by lengthy record-scratched monologues from the King of All Cosmos is enough to get you on board with yet another game in this series. If so, then Touch My Katamari is by all means something worth your while. Thanks to the additional analog stick on the Vita, the game controls as well, if not slightly better than its console counterparts. The art style is the same as ever, but the game runs well, only losing framerate toward the end of the game where you're rolling up giant swaths of scenery. Those sections do get quite chunky, but that's nothing new for this series.

Beyond the lack of newness, the only other major issue with Touch My Katamari is that there just isn't that much of it. With only a handful of levels and some leaderboards to play around with (along with a few of the usual dressing-up accouterments), you'll be done with Touch My Katamari in just a few hours. Sure, there are bonus items to hunt for in each stage, and those leaderboards are a fun enough way to show your friends how easily you've bested their biggest roll, but even if that doubles the amount of play time you'd get otherwise, that's still not very much content.

Most disappointing is the game's conclusion, which lacks the kind of all-encompassing, universe devouring qualities of some of the series' best entries, switching instead to a sort of Rainbow Road-esque fantasy land that just tosses a bunch of random giant things from the other games together into a technicolor slurry. The supreme irony of that conclusion is that it ties up the game's storyline--which plays as something of a meta-commentary on the series as a whole, with the King of All Cosmos suddenly slovenly, lazy, and in need of inspiration--with an all-too-knowing comment about how the King (perhaps standing in for Namco itself) will work hard for the fans and never be lazy again. That it does this in a game that, quite frankly, feels only slightly less lazy than the last half-dozen or so entries in the franchise is maybe just a tad ironic. Hopefully, it isn't an indicator of what's to come for all things Katamari.

Alex Navarro on Google+
26 Comments
Posted by cyraxible

Katamari can still charm my pants off.

Posted by msavo

This will be my first Katamari.

Posted by Hot_Karl

@msavo said:

This will be my first Katamari.

Then it'll probably the the best Katamari!

Posted by Little_Socrates

Until you pointed out the lack of length and the disappointing finale, I was on board to pick this up in case I ever got a Vita. I haven't actually played a Katamari game through since the original PS2 entry, so it really might be time for me to come back home, but I'll wait till there's an entry that doesn't have outright negatives.

Posted by ParamedicFoetus

Aside from the 2 for PS2 there's only been one release on each respective platform since. I feel the idea of the franchise being milked is a little extreme compared to some of the more bloated franchises around now, particularly as there's nothing that fills quite the same gap.
Maybe its not progressed enough but a new Katamari game is as good an excuse as any for me to take it easy for a while and roll some stuff up, and I am fine with that.

Posted by megalowho

First Katamari is best Katamari. It's an evergreen concept, but a different approach is long overdue. The time is right for Katamari Damacy 2.

Edited by SpaceRunaway

The Katamari series is my equivalent of gaming Zen.  I am excited for portable rolling, on a system that has the controls for it.
 
Do you want me to get the biggest cow? I will get the biggest cow.

Posted by Video_Game_King

And that makes it a bad thing? What, pray tell, am I to do with this information if this is my first Katamari game? This pet peeve of mine strikes yet again, and from a writer I deeply admire, no less!

Posted by Alex

@Video_Game_King: That this is a fun, very functional representation of a game that's been around for a long time?

Staff
Posted by Video_Game_King

@Alex:

Fair enough, but it still seems unfair to criticize the game for being similar to other games that we're admitting are good. Something about that just seems strange to me.

Posted by Alex

@Video_Game_King: Diminishing returns, and all that.

Staff
Posted by Video_Game_King

@Alex:

Never completely applicable to those who purchase this game and whatnot. *puffs on 19th century Holmes-esque pipe*

Posted by Winsord

I haven't played any Katamari games since Damacy so I'd probably be fine playing through this, but I don't see myself getting a Vita in the near future, if ever.

Edited by Mento

I'm with VGK somewhat, in that I always got the impression that the reviews on Giant Bomb are for people unfamiliar with a game or its series, and thus in most need of consumer advice. But then it's perfectly valid to dismiss a game to some extent for not daring to ever leave its comfort zone ever as well.

Either way, I'm not going to complain about your score or anything, because I'm not an idiot (at least not in this specific way). It just seems like a raw deal to try and fairly rate a new Katamari game with that huge spherical shadow of its half-dozen identical forebears looming overhead like the Majora's Mask moon.

Moderator
Posted by ZZoMBiE13

I would give anything to be able to walk into a Katamari game for the first time again. Sadly though, that is not the case. I've played most of them, and I have enjoyed all of them to a degree. They may never change much, but in this one instance I'm kinda fine with that.

If they someday decide to do something radically different and new with Katamari, I'll totally be on board. But I don't mind that it's the same basic concept over and over as much as I probably should. It's kinda like Lumines in a way. It's just plain fun to trance out and dig on it for what it is rather than what it isn't. Admittedly though, I have not seen the final level yet and as Alex described it, I can see how that would leave a defeated feeling when compared to the more stellar entries in the franchise, particularly the second PS2 Katamari which had the best final level of all of them (in my personal opinion).

All that said, I was happy to plunk down another wad of cash for another entry in the franchise to go along with my Vita. The stretchy Katamari is a blast and it's more functional than you might expect. I haven't used the squeezy version as much as the stretchy version, but both have their uses and they can make levels decidedly less awkward to navigate in many cases.

All in all, if I were scoring it, I'd give it a 4 rather than a 3. But that is not to say that I disagree with the Giant Bomb score. If you're a Katamari regular and malaise has set in, this one will seem like a waste. Better to warn people off who might be in that position than to encourage them and have it lead to buyer remorse.

Just my 2 cents. Great read as always Alex! :)

Edited by Peanut

Why the fuck do people keep acting like this is the 20th game in the series? There have been 4 actual Katamari games, 5 if you count the PSP game and 6 if you count the iPad game, which I don't know why you would. How is it possible for this to feel "slightly less lazy than the last half-dozen or so entries in the franchise" when there are barely that many games in the series!?

I get that there has been little to no change from the first game on, but can we please stop acting like we've played two dozen of these in the last 5 years as opposed to 4 in the last 8?

Posted by WickedCobra03

Ugh, kind of disappointed... I want to get a PSVita, and I would probably even pick up this game with like 2-3 others that I have my eye on at the moment, but man, that price for the system itself, the cost of the memory cards and then Sony not actually "really" giving any discounts on Digital Distribution games is a total bummer!

Posted by Hot_Karl
@Peanut There's just a feeling of malaise out there for the series. That first game came out of nowhere & blew people away. That second game stuck with the "if it ain't broke" approach, and while I totally dug We Love Katamari, I was already getting sick of the formula. The games from then on where just about the same, with little to no innovation, but with shinier (though not necessarily better) graphics. It's the same reason why Mario Kart is somehow always fun but WAY too familiar these days. There's no real innovation & it shows. You can have fun core gameplay but if you've played one game, you've played them all. With a game that has simple core mechanics, it's only a matter of time until the law of diminishing returns hits.
Posted by JesusHammer

While I love the Katimari series I don't think this game and the few others I want warrant the purchase of a PS VIta. The tech's solid, but the price is too high for what they have.

Posted by Hosstile17

@ParamedicFoetus:

The franchise hasn't been drove into the ground. But, their lack of innovation, combined with direct level and object recycling throughout the series has been a pretty big bummer. That is why everyone like Katamari Forever on the PS3 so much. It added more new content than had been present in a while. Plus, it included all of those graphical filters that even made the old stuff look new.

Posted by Peanut

@VinceNotVance: I fully agree with everything you said. My point is that people act like there are a million Katamari games when there aren't. The QL for this game is a perfect example of how over-exaggerated the whole thing is.

Posted by CountRockula

I'm pretty sure the only Katamari product I want anymore is an HD re-release of the first two games.

Posted by agentboolen

@Peanut: Well there are 2 on the PS2, 1 on the PSP, 1 on the Xbox 360, and 1 on the PS3 and now 1 on the VITA. So there are 6 and that isn't a small number (when they all feel like there recycling stuff from the other games).

With that said I'm guilty of buying all of them except the Vita one, I actually just picked up the PS3 game recently for $20 and getting ready to play it sometime this week. Even after playing all the games before the PS3 game, you gotta admit there does seem to be a lack of interest in really making the game feel very new. Thats the only flaw about this series that I see.

Kinect support could be interesting, even though I think the kinect camera might have trouble telling which direction your rolling in. I still don't own Kinect but this game seems like it could possibly work well with it.

Posted by CJduke

Something about the cover just gets to me. It must be all the colors because it looks awesome.

Posted by MrPilkington

I almost want to get this game, purely because there isn't much else out there for my Vita.

Posted by Spintzel

I really wish they had not milked this franchise to death so badly. The original Damacy and We Love Katamari were both amazingly fun, but with each new game it seems to slowly decay the franchise.