Me and My Katamari
Review By: Joe

Ah, goodness. So the game that I was hoping to use as a justification of my purchase of a PSP has come about and is my justification...justified? Well, yes, in the sense that I'm such a mindless Katamari follower that if I didn't own a PSP, I would spend far too much of my life questioning whether or not I should and probably never feeling truly complete until I did get one and a copy of the game. Well! I've filled THAT hole, but, oh, there are so many other holes to fill... This last sentence doubles as both a lyric to a nu-metal song and a lead-in line to the climactic scene of a porno.

Anyway, if I were at all a logical, reasonable person, this game wouldn't justify shit.

The last time we got a new Katamari it was kind of like a sip of water after a long drought of not playing Katamari. This time, it really hasn't been all that long since the last Katamari game. As such, it wasn't nearly as much like "OH GOD I HAVE TO PLAY!!!" as it was the time before. Plus, it's on the PSP, which should have it's name changed to "Design Flaw 2005."

Right, well, I, of course, had to get the game anyway. I've only got one other PSP game worth a damn and, I mean, it is Katamari. So, the overall verdict on this? Adequate. I think that about sums it up!

It's adequate in the sense that you still get to roll a ball around and stuff sticks to it and you roll stuff up until the ball gets bigger so you can roll up bigger things. Yes. Fairly standard. But, beyond that, there are problems, children. PROBLEM CHILD THE MOVIE AND ITS SUBSEQUENT EVEN WORSE SEQUELS, CHILDREN!!

First, and most obviously, is the control. The other Katamari games were on the PS2 and utilized both analog sticks almost exclusively, offering SUBLIME and intuitive control. The PSP, on the other hand, is a gigantic turd with a D-pad, some face buttons, and some kind of analog nub that almost hangs off the bottom left corner of the thing, pretending like it's actually usuable in some capacity. WHICH IT ISN'T.

Well, kudos to Namco for being bright enough to essentially ignore the analog sucknub and instruct players to emulate the dual-analog control by using the D-pad and face buttons in tandem (you can use the nub and face buttons together but the nub gives you cancer so, I mean, who would bother?). Still, this is never going to be as nice as the dual analog control. It's just plain not as fluid and not as good. The ease of control in Katamari games is part of what makes them so fun to play so this difference in control literally decreases the FUN LEVEL of the game. It doesn't ruin the game, but it's just less cool. Also, your fingers will hurt after awhile. THANKS, SONY!!!

What also decreases the fun is the fact that, for some reason, the engine seems to have regressed a bit back to the days of the very first game or, maybe, even further than that (paradox?!) because getting stuck on things is, I do believe, an even more common occurence than it has ever been in the past. You can, also, again get stuck in a spot where crap just starts flying off of your katamari (that's the ball you roll for those of you just tuning in), something that you ran into kind of often in the original game. This isn't THAT frequent though, but getting stuck in general is and it's annoying. Plus, it seems to be a lot harder than it's ever been before to climb obstacles and inclines of any kind. Again, ease of maneuverability decreased = less fun to play. Doody. Just thought I'd remind everybody that I'm here to bring comedy.

Oh the other good thing to mention is that the graphics are, in a way, the best they've ever been in a Katamari game, probably just because the smallness of the images and the crispness of the PSP's unnecessarily large screen makes the simple graphics look snazzier than they truly are. Plus, this game's BIG BIG SELLING POINT WOWZA is that the levels change seasons and times of day (at certain points, real time doesn't come into play in any way), as though this is something I'm supposed to care about. Well, when you enter a level and you're really big and it's a nighttime level, the buildings all light up and it does look very pretty, so, hey, there's that. Also, it it's much rarer that the camera gets obstructed in this game, which is, for this series, a bit of an achievement.

Oh, yes, one thing about this niceness is that the game does have a fair share of slowdown. It's not REALLY frequent but it's also not "almost never" and while it doesn't hurt the gameplay too badly, it's definitely noticeable. There are also load times that breakup the gameplay mid-level. I keep seeing reviewers mention this, but, honestly, this happened in the second game too (they tried a little harder to cover it up though) so it's not like it's a big deal. Plus, if I'm not mistaken (and I don't think I am) these are the quickest load times a Katamari game has ever had, so I'm really not bugged by it, especially considering this is a game on the PSP, the long-ass loadtimes belle of the ball.

The other thing I see mentioned is that after these load times, the game STEALTHILY LIKE A SNEAK-MAGICIAN removes a bunch of the crap you've collected from your ball because, evidently, the PSP can't store all the information of each little thing you've grabbed. Again, I'm not too bothered by this. In fact, I probably wouldn't have even caught it unless I'd read about it first. So big whoop, brother.

Aside from the control issues, the biggest problems with this game all fall under the following oddity. The game totally feels like it was made with Katamari fans in mind specifically but, at the same time, a number of aspects are handled in a manner that are certain to do little but disappoint these same fans.

See, this game should in no way be a person's introduction into the sexy, sexy world that is Katamari, mostly because of the control scheme. As it's just not as good, a person will find it a fair bit more difficult to be sucked into the awesome, simplistic fun that is Katamari (I've sure said "Katamari" a lot in this review). Additionally, the game is considerably more challenging than the other two. Partially because of the control being less of ease, but also because the time limits for levels are much shorter (most levels are only four-six minutes in length, and it almost never goes above that) and the levels are much less open, making navigation more of a trial.

You're fucked!

Additionally, the game has a tutorial (essentially ripped straight from the last game) but, unlike the last two games, some of the finer points of Katamaring are never directly addressed (the King feeds you hints gradually as you play, but some mechanics feel as though they could be further fleshed-out for those not in the know). Plus, the game manual is the sparsest it's ever been, addressing probably even less than the game does.

I can't really blame the creators for gearing this game towards it's already established fanbase. I mean, honestly, who's going to go out of their way to buy a Katamari game for the PSP (and who the hell owns a PSP anyway?) unless they've experienced it before? I mean, you could buy that there SOCOM the kids like so much. And Daxter is supposed to be real great. What's all this Katamari about? You don't know! And why should you start knowing now?! You shouldn't! Play it on the PS2!

BUT! Like I said, for a game designed for fans, Namco sure FUCKED OUR VARIOUS CANALS.

First off, the challenge is nice for a seasoned Katamarier, I suppose, but I don't think I really appreciated it. I think I just found it more annoying. This is probably just because, yes, once again, it's not as fun to control. I'd probably be all over a Katamari for HARDCORE KATAMARI JERKS like myself if it were on the PS2, but here, blah, I am annoyed.

The other crap thing is the fact that there just aren't that many levels and the ones that are there feel a bit half-assed, in a manner of speaking. See, in the first game, it was really just a series of cities and houses and stuff but the gameplay was so novel that it was fun. In the second game, they didn't want to just replicate what they did last time so the levels were, by and large, themed. This was a cool variation on the Katamari formula. It's therefore a bit of a letdown that this new game has basically settled for the original game's approach and, in fact, does it worse!

In the first game, there were really only a few areas, but you got plopped down in different sections of them and the items you could pick up were exchanged for an entirely (or almost entirely) different setup from goal to goal. This time, you'll go through several goals IN A ROW that put you into the EXACT SAME LEVELS with the EXACT SAME ITEM SETUP. This is not very fun. It feels, and it is, very repetitious.

Plus, the game does this new thing where you actually play in three to four seperate areas just for one goal. You build up to one size in a few minutes in the first area, the game then loads a completely new area and you repeat the process for each subsequent area until you are done. In the later goals, you end up running the same areas in the same order multiple times. WOOOOO. LASTLY, as I mentioned before, areas are less open so you find yourself negotiating through little gulleys and through office buildings and stuff. It's more restrictive and, well, I don't like it as much. :(:(:(

So, especially considering that all us fans want is a bunch of new, fun areas, we didn't get much of that. In addition to this, we didn't get new music either. The music in this series started out great in the first game, probably being one of the best video game soundtracks ever. The quality sadly decreased in the second game, but there were still a few choice tracks. How many new songs do we get this time? Well, a couple for the various menu screens, some of which are nice (I do really love the collection screen music and the musicbox rendition of the end theme from the first game). But how about in-level tracks?

ONE. THAT IS ALL YOU GET. ONE NEW TRACK. Other than that, you get some good selections from the first two games. Is this really that big of a letdown? Well, maybe not. The first game's soundtrack was so great that it's nice to play some new Katamari to the original soundtrack (and pretty much all the best songs from the second). Considering that the soundtrack of the second game didn't improve on the first, I guess it's not that big a deal that we didn't get a whole new one here and, again, it's a damn PSP game. I don't expect them to make something all new, really. Still, ideally an all new soundtrack would probably be nice, and we do not get.

Another thing that will be minor to most people (who won't even play this), but crappy to dorky fans is that the game has gone back to the first game's style of not telling you how many presents or cousins you have left to grab in a level, so if you want to to be a dork completist and get everything, it's once again a pain in the ass. Technically speaking, you could troll the collection screens, figuring out which presents and cousins you are missing in some manner, but it requires a lot more thought than I care to put into it. It's really just an annoying thing to leave out because I can't imagine it to be such a hassle to include.

LASTLY! This is the most expensive Katamari game yet! The first was only twenty bucks and the second was thirty. This one is the price of your average new game at forty! And it's just some shoddy PSP knockoff! BLAH! This offends us. This offends us greatly.

Another thing that's weird for new and seasoned gamers alike is that the game primarily functions under a very odd premise. Most levels are, in actuality, not specifically about building your katamari to a certain size (although that is also necessary), but more about collecting a specific type of item. See, in this one you are fulfilling the goals of animals (instead of fans, like in the last game). Someone will, for example, tell you they want a katamari filled with SMART items. So! You are then tasked with rolling up mainly smart-centric items. I guess this is a different take on the gameplay, but it's also kind of retarded.

You still have to get to a certain size, so you have that to worry about and, also, these categorical terms are often quite vague. I guess you can make some kind of guess as to what items are supposed to be SOFT or CUTE, but it's still to a significant degree (considering all the weird shit available to you to pick up), a crapshoot. You could also spend your time in your item collection screen, memorizing what fits into where but, last I checked, that in no way sounded fun to me or anyone with a pint of logic in their heads. Simply put, this is just asking me to devote too much thought to my rolling. I just want to roll, man. I don't want to roll methodically. I ended up just playing the game like usual, rolling all willy-nilly. Sometimes it didn't matter, but, very often, I'd get a huge katamari, but not fulfill the goal as best I could because I didn't pick up the right amount of a specific type of item. BAH. NO GOOD.

Oh, there's also a multiplayer mode, but the chances of me running into someone with not only another PSP but a copy of this game are silm to nil so I doubt that I'll ever play it. I understand it's fairly sparse though and there's, in fact, only one area to play in. Just like the other games, it was nice for them to put it in, but it's hardly adds much to the overall package.

I done me far too much complaining here. Fact is, I still like this game. I mean of course I do. It's Katamari goddammit. It's still got the rolling. It's still got the getting bigger. The King is in top form with his insane commentry (perhaps some of his best, although there is a lot of repetition), as well as the fact that he now greets you in a spread eagle position before each level and, when you begin, your character is shot by slingshot towards his crotch, directly between his legs. Also, when you beat the game, you unlock three levels of a side-scrolling 8-bit-looking version of the game. This in itself is probably one of the main reasons for fans to play it.

Still, if you've never played a Katamari before, don't play this one. If you have a PSP and you like Katamari okay, don't bother. This is, simply put, just for people who could always use more Katamari. Even though it's a bit of a poop on us, we will still accept it with open mouths (ha HA!). If you are one of these people but do NOT own a PSP, I can't say it's worth buying one for it, but if you're as obssessed as I am, my warning means nothing to you (also, this is

It's not crap but, like it or not (and who would like it...some jerk?) the novelty of this series lessens with each iteration. I'll admit, I'd still play another one of these on PS2 or, dare I say?!?, PS3 but this series should perhaps be put to rest soon before it perverts my original infatuation with it any further. The only way I can think of to recapture my former Katamari glory would be that of introducing it to someone else who has never seen it before and reliving the joy sporadically through them.

Hopefully, she'd be hot.

Nah, that ain't happening.

Gosh, I'm a dork.

FINAL THOUGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was originally planning to pooh-pooh the fact that, after completing the game, it rewards you with the ability to take pictures of the level select screen as though this was a big deal in some way.

Then I remembered that the game lets you name the island hub whatever you want.

Then I realized that it lets you save the photos you take as .bmp files.

Then I realized I had a USB cable that would allow me to transfer said files to my computer.



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