We’ve been touched like this too many times before…
“We’ve shirked duties. A bit. We can admit it.”
So proclaims that madcap monarch with the bulge of gold, the King of All Cosmos, as Touch My Katamari’s wacked-out tale of introspection, self-improvement, and redemption begins. We all fell in love with Katamari Damacy back in 2004—who wasn’t charmed by the King’s bizarre stream-of-consciousness ramblings, the unforgettably goofy soundtrack, and the task of rolling up various Japanese household objects in order to craft new stars to ascend to the heavens above?
The problem is, Katamari’s served up nothing in terms of innovation since. Series creator Keita Takahashi admitted that he didn’t envision the original game as having any legs for a sequel; he had to be coaxed into participating in the 2005 PSP follow-up, We Love Katamari, and hasn’t been involved in the development of a Katamari game since.
Thus, Mr. Of All Cosmos is clearly the voice of the current Katamari developers by proxy, and Touch almost reads as an apology from Namco Bandai over the last seven years of playing it safe. The game interface revolves around the King’s fun-sized green son, the Prince, conversing with disaffected fans perched on His Majesty’s head who think the regal rainbow-spitter’s gotten fat and happy over the years—a claim that even the staunchest Katamari supporter would have to admit holds at least some truth.
But while the King talks up his quest for redemption, the gameplay consists of just one innovation: You can now expand and contract the katamari via the Vita’s front and reach touchscreens, which helps navigating the levels to some extent. But that’s it. Everything else might as well have been directly lifted from 2004. If anything, this is the least innovative Katamari we’ve ever seen; it plays absurdly close to the original game in both layouts and objectives.
It would be one thing if Touch My Katamari made no effort to point out the series’ lack of innovation over the years and simply slapped together a collection of derivative levels without comment. But the developers clearly know they’ve been phoning it in—the King of All Cosmos even says these specific words!—yet they did absolutely nothing to address that issue when it came to the actual gameplay.
I will say that if you’ve never played a Katamari game before, this is a decent one to start with, as the Vita control scheme makes this an easily portable game that’s playbable in short bursts. Longtime Katamari fans will certainly enjoy the game to varying extents, but if you’ve played any previous entry, you’ll breeze through the experience in a couple of hours. I love ya, King, but I’m sorry—you have gotten soft over the years. And Touch My Katamari does nothing to fix that problem.
SUMMARY: It’s great to finally have a portable Katamari as playable as the console versions, but we already saw this game seven years ago…and six years ago…and five years ago…and…
- THE GOOD: Rolling up a katamari’s still enjoyable and addictive—and now actually playable on a portable system; the King of All Cosmos is as bizarre, amusing, and well-written as ever.
- THE BAD: Nothing Katamari players didn’t already see in 2004 and every year since; the Vita’s controller layout makes for some cramped American-sized hands.
- THE UGLY: His Majesty’s fashion sense, even seven years on.
Touch My Katamari is available on PS VITA.