There are so many games out there we couldn't possibly review them all. Welcome to Snapshot, where we tell you about games that might fall outside our usual coverage but are still something we think you should know about. Today: Touch My Katamari for the PlayStation Vita.
Playing Katamari Damacy on a handheld system feels ... so right. I can roll around in a surreal, fantasyland Japan for two minutes, pause the system, and get back to what I'm doing. I can absentmindedly amass darumas, cow pylons and automobiles while I'm watching TV.
Even putting aside the portability, Touch My Katamari is a legitimately good Katamari game. Not the best Katamari game -- Namco can never top the work of creator Keita Takahashi, especially if it continually reuses old levels -- but a good one.
Yes, this is another greatest hits compilation. You'll clean up a room again, you'll try to pick up the biggest cow or bear you can get again, and you'll roll up as many items as you can within a calorie limit, again.
But if you've been away for a couple of years (or even if you haven't, really) the levels still feel fun, and the graphics look fantastic on the Vita's screen. Objects were never terribly detailed, but there were a lot of them, and the Vita's display resolution is more than sufficient for you to identify all of them in the environment -- which is beautifully hyper-colorful.
The rolling works mechanically with the canonically correct controls -- but you have the option of using the front touch panel as well. Surprisingly, this isn't such an abomination; you can completely get around without too much trouble by scooting the Prince with gestural touch controls. You probably won't want to, but you can.
Touch also provides the basis for the truly new innovation. Using the rear touch pad, you can stretch your katamari out at any time, making it wider or taller. Namco has inserted specific areas into the stages to require this -- narrow passages and wide, rotating arrays of small objects -- but I like this feature even without the gimmicky level design. The versatility lends an element of strategy to your haphazard rolling, as you can now choose to squeeze the katamari together to increase its height and grab a raised object, or flatten out and pick up a bunch of small things on the floor at once. Most importantly, it looks and feels incredibly weird, and thus true to the series.
I'm happy to say that the King of All Cosmos is at his most self-destructively capricious here. The whole game is predicated on fans (perched on his weird cylindrical hat thing) complaining about qualities of the King ("The King looks flabby these days," the king is not as cute as a child), and the King freaking out and making the Prince roll up certain things to prove otherwise. For your performance, you'll earn "candies," which can be redeemed for dressup items for the Prince and King. Of course, the King occasionally demands a particular item of clothing, and then gives you no discernable reward for it.
In fact, my favorite thing about this game is the King. His new face is the creepiest thing that has ever happened, and he makes this bizarre pose when he creates a star that, when combined with the one-word descriptor for that star, makes for the best out-of-context screenshots (see above).
This is my new hobby.
This review is based on the final Vita version of Touch My Katamari, provided by Namco Bandai.