|By Zach Patterson||Wednesday, 26 Nov 2008|
Me & My Katamari is the third game in the Katamari series, this time for PSP. I think I have been sitting on reviewing this game for about 2 months simply because it’s so incredibly similar to the first two games. This is in some ways a very good thing, but it also ends up being a not so good thing. While you get essentially a new Katamari game on the go, you also get a troublesome control scheme that takes the “anyone can play” aspect out of it and horribly repetitive levels that seemingly have no rhyme or reason to them.
Me & My Katamari’s most glaring problem is that they didn’t seem to adapt well enough to the hardware. Most everyone knows that the reason the original and its sequel are so well-loved is because all you needed to do was pick up the controller and start wiggling the analog sticks and you could get the hang of picking up things and rolling the katamari in seconds. Well, the PSP has one analog stick, so this isn’t going to work (further, it’s missing two trigger buttons too that were also used and the R3/L3 buttons). Now, Namco did an okay job of mapping the controls onto the directional pad and action buttons to mimic the analogs, but this just isn’t that intuitive. It took me a couple playthroughs of the tutorial just to get comfortable with the new controls and to stop rolling sideways (which is still occasionally a problem). My girlfriend loved the original games and couldn’t wait to play this one. Well, a few tries and failures later, she just couldn’t get into this and absolutely hated the controls. This I see is the biggest single failure of the game. They lost the casual gamer, and frankly, more experienced gamers are gonna wrestle with the clumsy controls and strange move designations as well.
But moving past this, I finally was able to get into a decent groove and start blazing through the levels. For probably a good hour of game time, I was really digging this and was willing to give Namco the benefit of the doubt on the controls and accept that they had at least given me a solid game experience. But quickly you realize more problems. The first one being that this game has no sense of progression. The predecessors were built on the premise of starting very small in early levels, and then gradually going to new areas and reaching new gigantic and ridiculous heights. Well, Me & My Katamari eschews that in favor of random size goals. One level, you are aiming to be bigger than cities and tearing the clouds and rainbows from the sky, and the next level, you goal is to get about as big as a mouse. It just kind of takes the sense of accomplishment out of that.
But even more irritating is that this game only has a handful of levels that they recycle over and over again for slightly different objectives. Now, I realize it’s portable and there’s less room for as many levels as the PS2 games, but you can’t help but feel that they really padded this game by making you play the same levels so many times. Eventually, it just becomes really boring, which is decidedly unKatamari-like. It doesn’t help that once you understand the controls well enough, the game offers very little challenge. So, you essentially end up replaying 10-15 min levels with altered objectives and not really struggling to beat any of them.
Another big problem is that there’s so little new music. Come on! Katamari games and fun new music go hand in hand. Why is there so many recycled tunes? The new songs are actually pretty great, but there’s literally a handful.
On the plus side, the hub world for this game is just as neat, if not better than, We Love Katamari. This one is a tropical island theme, where you can hop in a boat and swim around to various islands to switch cousins, talk to animals to go into levels, change your accessories, etc. Also, the game looks just like the originals and doesn’t really suffer any graphical downgrade. The only noticeable problem is that there is more loading than the original, and when you get bigger, many small items will frequently disappear to likely save memory. Not a huge deal though. Additionally, the beautiful screen of the PSP makes a lot of parts just look beautiful. The King’s royal rainbow is luminous and colorful, and the prerendered stuff is high quality and looks wonderful.
The game is a Katamari game, no doubt. You can still get quite a bit of fun out of it, and essentially it’s just like the console ones. The problem is that a lot of the fun is sucked out of it when you lose the original control scheme, and then just shoehorn one that doesn’t work that well onto it and then give the player a small handful of levels with no innovations at all. It’s a decent product that feels a little bit soulless. You may enjoy it, but you likely won’t love it like the first two.