What once was new and fresh can so quickly become old and tired. When Katamari Damacy burst onto the scene in 2004, it was insane, surreal, and — above all — fun and engaging. To an extent, there wasn’t really any other game like it.
And then came the sequels — the sequels that barely iterated on the original premise, instead choosing to try and clone the same whimsy. The results were, predictably, significantly less fresh. And that brings us to the latest sequel, this time for the Vita, and this time called Touch My Katamari. Does it try anything new? Well, sort of... but then again, not really.
Once again, the King of All Cosmos has summoned you to roll up a multitude of new katamari that can then be turned into stars, so that the people of the galaxy can begin thinking the King is amazing again. It’s the usual mad and off-kilter storyline you’ve come to expect from the series — perhaps a little tiring if you’ve played a few of the games before, but actually quite fun if you’re a newcomer.
Regardless, once you’ve sat through annoyingly long-winded (and unskippable) tutorial sequences, the game itself has barely changed in eight years. You use both analog sticks to push, pull and roll around an ever-growing ball of… stuff. Any objects smaller than your ball that you touch get attached, causing your sphere to grow and grow. This in turn allows you to roll over ever-larger objects, and so on.
It’s still a surprisingly effective mechanic — the desire to make your sphere as huge as possible is a strong one, as is working out which objects you can actually roll over at any given time. Levels are presented as discrete arenas full of insane and nonsensical collections of objects. Generally you’re given a time limit to get your sphere to a certain size — and that certain size can get very, very, large.
So far, I could have been describing the first game in the series. The main difference is the ability to stretch out or squash up their katamari sphere by swiping on either the front or rear touchscreens. Stretching it makes the sphere much flatter and wider, allowing you to collect more objects horizontally. Squashing it, meanwhile, does the opposite, making the sphere tall and skinny. Both modes can be useful when trying to squeeze through gaps or collect certain formations of objects.
That, however, is about it for Vita-specific improvements to the core gameplay. There are, at least, a healthy number of unlockable items to keep you motivated, from new (and crazy) costumes for the King of All Cosmos, to new songs and other miscellaneous goodies.
Whether you’re new to the series or a veteran, you may find the later levels to be pretty challenging — and by challenging I mean annoying. Unlike other games in the series, Touch My Katamari seems to have a problem with the actual size of objects, and what size they think they are. I started to find that even though I had a very large katamari, I would inexplicably get caught out on objects that definitely should have been rolled up. The last levels also require a level of precision that can get frustrating, which will turn off a number of people who get that far.
I mentioned earlier that the story will seem fresh and fun to new players, but a bit tired to longtime fans. That’s the case for the game as a whole. Have you got a Vita and are casting around for something a bit off-kilter to play? Then take a look at Touch My Katamari — just be sure to try before you buy. But if you’ve played these games before, then you should know that you won’t find anything much that’s new here. Whether that’s a problem is ultimately up to you.