Thursday, March 12, 2009

Me & My Katamari (PSP) Review

Noby Noby Boy from the creator of the Katamari Damacy series hit PSN not too long ago. Rolling with that idea, here is a review from the first portable edition of the Katamari franchise, Me & My Katamari.

Or My Katamari and I.

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In 2004 Katamari Damacy came out for the Playstation 2 with little fanfare. This unforeseen sleeper hit from the kooky minds of Japanese game developers rolled over critics and wowed players open-minded enough to partake in the game's quirky charm and fresh gameplay. If you're a successful company and you want to make money, what do you do? Why, milk that fresh idea until it's dry, of course! Our subject today is Me and My Katamari, an all-new adventure shrunken down to fit inside one teensy-weensy UMD. Rest assured, all the zany and kitschy touches from Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari are present and accounted for, but is the formula beginning to wear thin or is the series rolling up new ideas to make it as fresh as the original?

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You'll notice that I use the word "roll"
or variations of it a lot in this review.

A problem poses when you try to take a Playstation 2 console game and translate it to the the Playstation Portable. There's less buttons to work with and no analog sticks. Seeing as the original Katamari Damacy utilized both analog sticks to move the katamari (or ball) around, this could be an interesting dilemma for the developers. However, instead of using non-existent analog sticks on the PSP, Namco decided to use the directional pad/analog nub and the face buttons. Holding up on either the directional pad or nub in conjunction with the triangle button rolls your katamari forward. Conversely holding down and the X button rolls the katamari backward. Left and right and square and circle are used to stroll sideways. The buttons used in combination with the L and R shoulder buttons guide your katamari into turns. To perform a boost, alternate between up and triangle. This control set-up may seem strange at first, and well, quite frankly, that's because it is. After a couple levels and/or twenty minutes you'll have it down but not to the extent you'd have with two analog sticks. Also, using the directional pad to roll around can cause cramping as you're holding the buttons to move. The analog nub, though shoddy, is recommended for players.

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If I find myself at a difficult juncture in my life, I ask myself,
"What would the King of All Cosmos do?"

The King of All Cosmos (who identifies himself as "We") whose omniscient tone and grandeur has taken his family on a vacation on the ocean. Compared to the King's large size, the being you control, the Prince, is nothing more than a pint-sized speck. The vacation turns into a task party as various animals come by wishing for islands of there own made out of various materials. Your job is to build a katamari large enough to suit their desires and wishes. However, you won't have all day and night to accomplish the numerous tasks. You'll be under a progressively stricter time limit for each task. By walking around the overworld hub of Prince Island, you can listen to music, look at a record of all your rolling, take up the many animal requests available, and view all of the treasures, items you've rolled, and cousins you've discovered.

The world of Me and My Katamari is for you to roll up. Nearly everything is available to be rolled up and stuck to your katamari. Although you can only roll up items that are lesser in size than your katamari. By rolling up more items your katamari will grow in size allowing you to pick up even larger objects. Make your katamari a certain size and you'll be able to access a new portion of the current level. The world is a mess filled with bottles and cans strewn about able to be rolled up by your katamari. Items range from small knickknacks like fruits and vegetables to people, furniture, automobiles, trees, houses, buildings, skyscrapers, clouds, sea monsters, and even whole land masses. There's a staggering total of 2,434 different items that are able to be rolled up. The same cannot be said for the amount of levels. While there are over twenty tasks to complete until you complete the game, you'll find yourself traversing across the same areas with the exact same objects over and over again. Unacceptable as there are hardly any changes between the tasks besides katamari size standards.

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Now we're getting into the big time.

The aim of the game is not only to meet the size requirements that the King of All Cosmos gives you, but also to make you katamari as large as possible to make the best island possible. The King of All Cosmos will turn your rolled katamari into an island for the animal you are assisting. You're scored for how fast you completed your task to how sizable your katamari actually is.

There's more to do than just simply rolling everything up you possibly can. Scattered throughout the levels are present-shaped gifts that can be grabbed. These unlock accessories for your character to wear from armor and masks to hats and cloaks. Additionally, you'll come across one of many cousins that can be rolled up. These will enable you to choose a different character to play as.

The world of The King of All Cosmos and loyal followers is full of interesting sights and sounds. The game retains its simply graphical style, and it looks quite good for PSP standards. A favorite part of many in the Katamari Damacy series is the music, and many themes from past Katamari games return for an encore as well as brand-new songs. Objects you gather make their own sounds as you roll them up. Radios blast music and civilians scream with either delight or fear. It's all good though! Katamari makes everyone happy!

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What's she looking at?!

Me and My Katamari won't win any innovation awards as its older brother did, but it's still a competent addition to the series. However, the formula is starting to wear thin, and the upcoming Xbox 360 addition, Beautiful Katamari, doesn't seem to assist this besides the ability to play against others online. Those jonesing for a quick fix of Katamari on the go will most certainly find a lot fun to be had. Just don't expect to be blown away like you did with the original. However, if you're a newcomer to the series, step up, and begin rolling your katamari around for a good time. Even though many level locales repeat, rolling up objects is incredibly addicting.

The Recap

Story: The Prince, Queen, and King of All Cosmos are on a well-deserved vacation, but there's still work to do in the form of helping out stray animals without an island of their own.

Graphics: Simple but not to the point of being drab, the visuals are colorful and pleasing to the eye in motion.

Gameplay: Rolling, rolling, rolling up many objects from bowling balls to city halls. Complete tasks to unlock new challenges. How big can your katamari muster?

Sound: Many familiar tunes return as well as new ones. Most are all interesting as are the abundance of sound effects.

Replay Value: Getting high scores on the various tasks is always an option to see if you can get a perfect 100 on each task. There's also the many cousins and presents to gather, plus there over 2,000 different objects able to be rolled up. Are you up to that challenge?

Overall: 6.5/10
- The fun is still there, but the freshness the series once had has rolled away.

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