aka Boku no Watashi no Katamari Damacy in Japan.
The Katamari series is easily one of the best gaming franchises in along time. Easy to learn gameplay, a rocking soundtrack and rolling over buildings in order to make a better sun scored well with Playstation 2 owners. A portable rendition of Katamari Damacy was inevitable. Instead of going for the DS’ touch screen controls Namco chose visual prowess of the PSP to showcase rolling on the go.
Katamari Damacy and its sequel We Love Katamari’s success was based largely on the game’s control setup. There were no button combinations to master, just simple gliding with the two analog sticks to direct your Katamari. Since the PSP is lacking a second analog stick you’ll be rolling with the D-pad and the face buttons. The dual d-pad control scheme is similarly as intuitive as the dual analog stick scheme. Press up on the d-pad and triangle to roll forward, left plus circle to move left. Complex moves like the 180 degree quick turn can be executed by pressing left and circle. It takes a little bit of adjustment if you’re familiar with the analog controls, but in about fifteen minutes you’ll be rolling just as well as you would on your PS2. There is a major problem with the controls though, some serious hand cramping. Let’s face it when you are constantly pressing down one direction with your thumbs you’re asking for a cramp. The problem gets worse when you’re trying to roll up hill or make a small hop. Normally you would tilt the analog sticks harder, but instead you’re jamming the buttons down as hard as you can, hoping to roll up a stair. Because of the cramps you’re bound to only play Me and My Katamari in short half hour bursts instead of long sessions.
Now that the Earth has gotten the stars back and the Prince has already helped out Katamari fans, it’s time for the animals to get help from the little guy. Animals like a lone turtle are looking for a place they can call home and of course the pint sized Prince can’t turn them down. To help create islands for each animal you head back to Earth where you can roll up junk to make a huge island. Once you’re on Earth you’ll appear in one of a few different pre-set locations, instead of original levels like in We Love Katamari. When you’re tiny you’ll roll around inside a house, when you’re growing around town, become larger and then the world is your playground. There’s one negative about the level set up, even when different animals give you a mission you’ll be sent back to the same areas with the same level layouts. So once you know the specific path to roll up a bunch of orange drinks or know where there’s a stack of newspapers in the corner you’ll go right back to the same area. This takes away some of the challenge and the exploration seen in the PS2 games.
Since the game is designed with the portable gamer in mind most levels are only a five minutes long. Although you’re really only given enough time to roll up enough junk to get the katamari large enough to complete your mission. Often times you’ll barely make the mission goal. Since there is a sense of time pressure it becomes hard to pay attention to all the quirky humor in the game like a flying Pegasus or the group of Godzilla clones terrorizing a town. Later on you’ll play longer missions, which are broken in parts. For instance the first goal might place you in the town, requesting that you grow ten meters. Once you reach that mark you’ll be whisked away to the city where the mission changes for you to grow even larger. There are some alternative missions to the “get your katamari as big as X before time runs out” on the volcanic island, which you can access from the main island by jumping in the cup. One mini game has your roll up items requested by a chameleon, but he gives you only a couple of seconds to complete the request. Or help out an ant on the island collect sweets for his gingerbread house.
In each level there are plenty of items to roll up to add to your collection. The usual stuff like mahjong tiles, handcuffs and Ferris wheels are plentiful. You’ll also find a bunch of unique one shot to roll up items like a savage t-rex and the Eiffel tower. There’s also the hidden presents from the King scattered on each level. Compared to any of the other Katamari titles there are more presents and cousins to be found. However, since time is so limited it’s more difficult to scout out locations like on top of a car before time runs out. If you really want fill up your item collection and net all the secrets Me and My Katamari will keep you busy for a long time.
While the control scheme might have been better if Namco chose the DS as the platform of choice, you couldn’t have had the same in game presentation. Me and My Katamari retains the same visual quality as the PS2 games, which might not have been technically advanced but it sure is stylish. If you compare the two games side by side you’ll be hard pressed to notice and edge problems. The world in Me and My Katamari is just as colorful as any of the other games, just with smaller areas to explore. Overall the game looks great on the PSP’s sharp screen. The soundtrack sounds crisp on the PSP’s speakers and even better if you put on a pair of headphones. Unfortunately, Namco opted not to create a new soundtrack for Me and My Katamari. Instead they picked out favorites from the two PS2 games and crammed them into the handheld game. You’ll get to enjoy hearing Everlasting Love and Disco Prince from We Love Katamari again. However most of the songs come from Katamari Damacy’s beloved soundtrack. The Moon and the Prince, You are Smart, Katamarintaino, and Katamari mambo can be selected for your listening pleasure while chasing down sumo wrestlers to add to your katamari.
New to the series is the 2D retro Katamari mini game. Fans got excited about this, but it isn’t anything to write home about. You won’t get to play it until you help out the last animal and it’s about the same length as the country rolling up mini game at the end of the original title. If you loved the other two Katamari games and can’t wait to roll up more junk then pick up Me and My Katamari. However, don’t expect anything new besides a handful of items, this isn’t the game to revolutionize the series. Instead Me and My Katamari comes off as Katamari Damacy 1.5.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 2
Once you pick up the controls you’ll be off and rolling without any gameplay problems. However, you’ll miss out on one of the hallmarks of the Katamari series, the humor, if you can’t understand Japanese. On top of that the game uses katakana when hiragana would be more commonly used (i.e. neko for cat is written in katakana instead of hiragana), which can be confusing if you’re still learning Japanese.
Namco is bound to bring this to the US in 2006, we just don’t know when yet.
+ Pros: Katamari on the PSP with wireless LAN support and a 2D mini game is a good deal
– Cons: The soundtrack is reused from previous games and the abysmal controls don’t make the Katamari easier to roll around.
Overall: If you’re willing to relearn how to roll a Katamari and put up with some thumb strain Me and My Katamari brings everything you love about the series on the PSP.
< Screenshots >