It’s been a long wait. Finally, the game I bought my PSP for is in my hands. I’m happy to report it was well worth the wait.
If you’ve never played a game from the Katamari Damacy series, you are in for a treat. If you have played, very little in the PSP version of this game has changed, and that is great news.
The story goes like this:
The King of All Cosmos got drunk and rowdy on his vacation and wiped out all the islands in the world, leaving many animals homeless. Plagued by guilt, he decides he must make things right by once again making his
son clean up his mess.
To rebuild the islands You must gather a set amount of material in a set amount of time. You perform this task by rolling your Katamari over anything you see. Your Katamari looks like the world’s largest jawbreaker. As your Katamari grows, you’re able to pick up larger and larger items. In some levels you start as small as a thumbtack and work your way up to islands, skyscrapers and even giant monsters resembling Godzilla. You are rewarded for clearing levels quickly.
The graphics in this game are toy-like, bright and colorful. It’s hard not to smile when rolling a giant jawbreaker through a world made of toys and lego-like blocks.
New to this edition of the game, scenes travel from day to night and in and out of different weather between levels. Some levels are bright and sunny, filled with crabs and beach scenes, and the next will be dark with buildings twinkling as if encrusted with jewels.
It may seem odd to give a game with low-res graphics such a high score. The graphics fit the game, Period. sure, many textures are pixelated, objects are low poly and low in detail, but they accomplish what is needed: giving you a stylistic reprentation of hundreds of objects on-screen at once. It’s all part of the playful, toy-like graphics. If every object on-screen was a faithful representation, I don’t think it would help the gameplay so in this regard the designers did the right thing: each object is small and colorful and easy to identify. Any more detail would make the already busy screen unusable.
The music in this game defies description. Ranging from sultry jazz songs about rolling giant snowballs to manic freakouts chanting “don’t worry…do your best”. I often find myself humming these catchy tunes, and worrying how insane I must appear for doing so.
The sound effects are equally enjoyable. When the Katamari passes over Cows moo, women scream, cats meow and car horns honk. One of my personal favorite sound effects is a kid on a scooter making “vra-bru-bru Vrooooom” sounds with his mouth when you run him over.
It is with a heavy heart and cramped, claw-like hands that I must condemn this game’s controls. I knew it was going to be a hard transition from dual analog sticks on the console versions to buttons and “the nub”. I did not really get a feel for the controls until the 6th level. After playing level 2 thirty seven times, I finally figured them out, but not before seriously considering throwing my PSP across the room.
There is a payoff to sticking with it though, later levels are much easier to control. When the Katamari starts off larger, it is able to pick up far more objects than the levels that start smaller. It is the precision control of the original games that allowed you to weave in and out of different sized objects with ease. The later levels, where you are rolling around mainly picking up cars, large buildings, houses and boats are fun, and for the first time I felt like I was playing a good game of portable Katamari.
While not ideal, I feel the best way for the developers to handle the controls on this game would have been to simplify the controls. rolling around with a single joystick could have been done, with the buttons used for modifiers such as quick-dashes and turnarounds.
My biggest concern when I heard about this game was that the developers would have to skimp on level design, music variety or graphics. I’m happy to report the graphics actually look better on the PSP. The small screen really helps showcase the vibrant, intense colors.
The game suffers very little as far as size of levels. Each level can be played in approximately 5 minutes: just right for portable gaming. Later levels are broken into stages, and the PSP’s sleep feature can easily be used to break these levels up into multiple sections if needed.
The levels do repeat. A lot. This really didn’t bother me as much as I suppose it should have. The time limits on these levels are so short that knowing the lay of the land helped immensely. The objects scattered around the levels are really what make them unique, and in this regard each level had its own unique blend of stacks of acrobats, piles of live chickens and sumo wrestlers dancing on the backs of turtles, and various other bizarre scenes.
I’m a bit torn about the lack of cutscenes. While they were a great addition to the original games, they really didn’t make sense and if anything had to be removed to save space, I’m happy to see them go.
The inclusion of “eternal mode” is actually my favorite addition. Racing the clock makes this a game, but removing the timer makes it a challenge. Most levels were never designed to be entirely cleared, but some can be. Hunting for the missing pieces that make your Katamari just big enough to pick up larger pieces can take quite a bit of time, but the payoff involved in picking up entire islands and cities is great. There is a certain thrill to rolling an entire city into a giant Katamari. There is also a satifying feeling with each meowing cat, screaming pedestrian or honking car that gets squished onto the ball.
Me and my Katamari contains many mini games and “collecting” activities. Hidden in each level are “Presents” from the king which include alternate clothing, masks and hats for the prince to modify his appearance.
With added gameplay modes such as “eternal Mode” it is now possible to play a level without a timer and collect all of the missing items, cousins, presents, and other bonuses.
The King of the Cosmos believes in high pressure parenting. It is rare I can make a Katamari big enough to please him. I’ve found you must overachieve and gather 60% more material than the minimum to get 100 points on a level, so practicing the same level over and over to increase times adds a lot to replay value. The variety of levels available also makes for a wide range of challenges.