Me & My Katamari Review
That's great news for people that can't get enough of Namco's clump-rolling franchise, as well as for anyone that hasn't yet played either of the first two games on the PS2, but it's bad news for those of you that came away from We Love Katamari feeling like you experienced everything the franchise has to offer.
Once again, players have to maneuver a giant sticky-ball around, coming into contact with objects, people, and animals in the environment that subsequently attach to the ball and cause it to grow ever-larger.
The game's easygoing gameplay is what makes it enjoyable. There are no weapons or power-ups. It's just you and the katamari.
It also doesn't hurt that there's a certain bent appeal inherent to seeing people, cows, and sea monsters get caught up in a massive rolling clump of stuff.
This is one of those games that you can relax with and play over and over again.
Once you get used to the controls, anyway.
The digital pad and buttons just aren't as intuitive as the dual analog sticks on a PlayStation 2 controller are, and they're not quite as responsive either, which means most people will experience an initial period of adjustment as they acclimate to the unique nuances of the PSP game's control setup. After an hour or two, the katamari is definitely much easier to handle.
Assuming you warm up to the controls, there's a decent amount of replay value in store. There are 16 unique stages, which are shuffled and organized into roughly 40 different missions. The majority of missions generally involve building the largest katamari possible, although there are a handful of collect-a-thon missions that challenge players to collect specific types of objects. Hidden inside every stage are multiple presents and cousins that, once found, allow you to change the prince's body and bling.
One especially wonderful aspect of Me & My Katamari is that every single stage offers an "eternal" option, which means you can turn off the time clock and just roll things up at a relaxed pace. We Love Katamari, the PS2's second Katamari game, didn't have any eternal stages, which was a bit of a letdown.
A local WiFi mode also allows up to 4 players to compete to see who can roll the biggest katamari.
The stages in the PSP game are brand new, and the story offers a hilarious change of pace from the space-oriented plots of the two PS2 games. This time around, the King of All Cosmos has destroyed all of Earth's islands while enjoying a swim in the oceans, leaving it up to the young prince to replace those islands with his custom katamaris.
Still, it's tough to escape the feeling that we've done this before.
Gameplay and graphics are unchanged from We Love Katamari. So too, the PSP game incorporates nearly all of the music and sound effects from both of the PS2 games. That's not necessary bad, however, considering that it means that all of the catchy Japan-o-centric jazz tracks that were split between the two PS2 games are now included on a single PSP disc.
As was the case with the PS2 games, the graphics in Me & My Katamari are deceptively simple. Overall, everything has a crisp, clean look. The terrain has a pseudo-cel shaded appearance, while people and objects are made up of boxy polygonal shapes.
Though simplistic in style, the game definitely pushes the PSP to its limits in terms of the number of objects that are visible at any given time. It's not uncommon to see an island packed with houses, large buildings, and vehicles, not to mention hundreds of people and animals moving about. There are periods of slowdown here and there, but nothing too terrible.
Of course, the PSP game does trump its PS2 counterparts in one very important way. It's portable.
Not just portable in the "take with you" sense, but portable in the sense that the game has been fine-tuned for quick bursts of play. Cinematic scenes and speech balloons can be skipped by pressing the start button. Timed missions rarely last longer than 5 minutes. Load times in and out of levels clock-in under 10 seconds. Best of all, the in-game memorial includes a movie viewer and music player, so that you can listen to the game's tunes and watch cinematic scenes anytime you want.
Ultimately, portability is the game's strongest sale point. Deep down, Me & My Katamari may be the same old Katamari Damacy you've played on the PS2, but now you can play it anywhere.
3/23/2006 Frank Provo