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CONSOLE: PSP DEVELOPER: Namco PUBLISHER: Namco
RELEASE DATE (NA): March 21, 2006 GENRE: Action/Puzzle
// review by Jeff

Should be "My Katamari & I".

Another day, another dollar, another version of Katamari, but this is the first time you can take the Prince on the road and roll on the go. Unfortunately, it's also the first time a Katamari game was developed without the input of its concept creator, Keita Takahashi. Perhaps as a result from this, Me & My Katamari feels like a by-the-numbers iteration with very little added in terms of innovation. Still, it's a fairly satisfying Katamari experience that lets us do what we love best: picking up stuff.

As the game is set on a portable system, the scope is also smaller. During a trip to Earth for summer vacation, the King of All Cosmos gets a bit too rowdy and causes a tsunami that completely devours Paradise Commonwealth Island. The guy's as irresponsible as it gets, but when you're the leader of the universe, the impeachment process is a bit of a fuss. The now water-dwelling local animals now all require the Prince's assistance to restore their home islands. Being a grand thinker, the King decrees that newer and better islands shall be created instead, and that's your mission. The Prince is sent to the Sunflower Continent, where all items necessary to form giant islands with a sticky gooey ball can be found.

Me & My Katamari doesn't take any risks. It is exactly as you would expect out of a Katamari game: rolling a large sticky ball around, picking up as much stuff as you possibly can to make it as large and as pleasing to the King of All Cosmos as possible. This is the goal of pretty much all missions: to roll up as much as you can with a limited timeframe. And, should you roll up some of the Prince's many cousins in your travels, you can switch and play as them instead, useful only if you tire of the Prince's green physique. It's all conventional Katamari.

Whereas the PS2 entry of the series, We ♥ Katamari, which was released earlier that same year, dared to try new types of challenges, such as keeping your katamari aflame or rolling a giant sumo wrestler until he was adequately plumpened, Me & My Katamari mostly defers you to standard Rita Repulsa-esque "make my Katamari growwwww"-style stages. The only variations can be found on Volcano Island, accessed by pressing L or R from the mainland, which makes the Prince immediately hop into a rowboat and steer his way over. There, some animals offer new challenges, such as gathering enough fuel to make a rocket blast off or grabbing as many sugary treats as possible.


You can now roll on the road.

But my biggest issue with Me & My Katamari isn't its complete carefree carbon-copy lifestyle. No, it lies in the controls. The original Katamari Damacy was originally intended to be played with the two analog sticks of a PlayStation 2 controller. It was designed to have a simplicity that could be picked up by even the most inept of individuals (see also: me). With analog sticks, it was easy to turn around, take corners, and perform a nice charge 'n roll to get to distant places more quickly. But alas, the PSP doesn't have two analog sticks; it has only one, and barely one at that. It's more like a flattened nub. So the PSP version has to take on the controls a different way: by using pretty much every button on the damn console to compensate.

Want to move forward? It's no longer just pushing the sticks forward; it's Up and Triangle. Backwards? Down and X. Want to turn right? Up and Circle. Turn left? Push Left and Triangle. If you want to order a pizza, Down + X + L + stand on your head and make the call of the Cisticolid warbler. I may sound fickle, but it simply doesn't feel natural to play the Katamari series this way, having to memorize a Street Fighter II-style move list just to roll a ball around on the beach. It's non-intuitive and feels awkward to play, especially after having experienced the console titles. The game is doable for sure — I saw the ending, oh yes — but for the casual console Katamari crowd, it's a major shift, and many players just won't bother learning all the moves. They aren't really necessary to finish the game anyhow. Be like me and follow the ABRF mantra: Always. Be. Rolling. Forward.

The unusual controls are a bitter shame because otherwise, Me & My Katamari can be a real treat. Having a portable Katamari game that more or less looks the same as its console counterparts sounds like a dream to fans of the series. It even sounds the same, borrowing heavily from the quirky soundtrack libraries of the past. (Only a few songs are genuinely new here, which is a bit disheartening.) Even having the ability to play ad hoc multiplayer games with the PSP is ideal for fans on the go that want to have a jolly good roll with their best mates.

Me & My Katamari isn't a terrible game by any means; the bare basics of what makes a Katamari game so enjoyable is still there. But, marred by less-intuitive controls as a result of hardware limitations and a lack of innovation (creating islands instead of planets doesn't qualify as "innovative") or bursts of creativity, something falls flat. Fans of the series will still get a kick out of this entry, but there are more favourable options to roll with.


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