Me and My Katamari Review

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Developer: Namco Publisher: Namco
Release Date: March 21, 2006 Also On: None

The 2004 PlayStation 2 sleeper Katamari Damacy and its 2005 sequel, We Love Katamari, spurred an interesting reaction from American gamers. “What’s this? A trippy game where you roll around a sticky ball and pick stuff up?” Admit it, you’ve done it before with a Post-It note or a piece of tape, picking up little pieces of dust or dirt around the office. The strange Japanese concept has been put to use for two games already. Does this not-so-novel, not-so-creative-anymore idea hold up well for the PSP edition, Me and My Katamari?

The answer is yes and no. I had actually never played a Katamari game before this, at least beyond an extent of five or ten minutes, and it’s safe to say that the concept would have grown very old to me if I had been a fan since the first game. Katamari is, in all honesty, a very stupid and repetitive but strangely addictive game with the same concept every playing session. But for the series fans, Me and My Katamari is more of the same in a portable fashion. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, if you are into the idea. You’re still the Prince, the son of the King of all Cosmos. The inhabitants of your Katamari world, cute little animals, ask you to find items for them scattered through a few different levels. These items would be used by the King to create islands where the animals can live in peace and happiness.

Of course, you get these items by rolling around and picking them up. This is where the difficulty and the charm of Me and My Katamari comes into play. Where the PlayStation 2 version asked you to roll over everything, some of the PSP’s challenges ask you to pick up specific items. These items are fitted into different categories, like “cool” and “soft” and “hard”. Depending on the sort of island an animal asks you to create, you’re supposed to try and decide which items to roll into your katamari ball. Though it’s not necessary to pick up these specific items, doing so will ensure a happy animal and a “better” island for the animal to live on and a higher score for your records.

Unfortunately, the PSP version of Katamari isn’t nearly as easy to control as the PS2 games. I actually had to struggle with the control scheme. The directional pad (or analog nub) controls your ball’s direction of movement, while the L and R triggers control the camera’s turning. The circle and square buttons cause your ball to strafe, and pressing some of these buttons in a combination will send you flying forward with boost ability. Though the controls sound easy on paper, actually controlling the katamari on sloped geometry and in tight corridors is extremely frustrating, especially when the camera gets caught on things or even behind walls.

The visuals, though crisp and clean on the PSP’s 4.3 inches of pretty high-definition, are hampered by an awful frame rate that drops when your katamari starts getting larger and larger. Rolling over huge amounts of items causes the game’s frame rate to drop considerably, even to the point that controlling the katamari is impossible. Of course, the art style is still as crazy as ever, and the items you pick up are admittedly cute. C’mon, how can you not giggle at the thought of picking up a blocky little kitten? The music is also pretty repetitive but also as catchy and trippy as it has ever been.

Me and My Katamari is a great handheld Katamari fix for fans of the series, but newcomers might want to check out the PS2 versions instead. Katamari PSP features ad hoc multiplayer, but the console versions offer it in a more traditional split-screen form. Also, the difficult controls and smaller scope make it hard for me to recommend it, being $40, over the $30 We Love Katamari or even the budget-priced original. Still, and I have said it a few times now: fans will find and appreciate more stuff to do and the same great concept they have loved all along.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7
Written by Cliff Review Guide

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