The Prince is making his final appearance this time around in Me & My Katamari for the PSP. While there were rumors that a new game in the series was to be announced, sadly, this will be the last title in the beloved series. However, you should turn that frown upside down because the King of Cosmos is back and better than ever. With hundreds of unlockable items, plenty of new challenges, and some downright zany environments, the Katamari series is surely going out on a good note.
While the Royal Family is on vacation, many other animals are in trouble because their islands have been destroyed, and being the nice guys that they are, the King and the Prince offer to help anybody in need by creating islands for them by building up katamaries. A katamari is some type of aggregated ball that grows as smaller objects are rolled into it. As a stage progresses, you can go from being too small to engulfing cars, and shortly thereafter, you can be rolling over entire cities without even thinking twice. This fantasy action-adventure title is really in a genre of its own, which is a good enough reason by itself to go and pick up a copy right away.
The game uses an island interface that allows you to view the islands you've created while also allowing you to see what needs to be done. Animals will start popping up on Prince Island asking you for help. Every mission you receive on said island has the same objective; you'll have X amount of time to get a katamari X meters wide. Even though it seems like this would get repetitive and boring, the diversified environments generally help the game stay fresh. The Prince can also travel to the Volcano Island, where creatures will present him with strange requests. Instead of constructing a katamari of a certain size, these missions require you to build a katamari containing the right products. For instance, one gorilla needs enough energy to fuel his rocket, so it makes much more sense to run over power plants than trees. Even so, it doesn't hurt to build up a large katamari simply because you'll be able to obtain more objects, which therefore adds a whole new element to the game. The final isle is the Beanstalk Island, which allows you to switch between characters you've collected throughout the levels. If you manage to roll over presents or members of the royal family, they will become selectable once the stage is completed.
People who have already played a Katamari title on the PS2 should be familiar with the dual analog setup that was fairly simple to become familiarized with, but unfortunately, the PSP only has one analog stick so a change was needed. Using a unique blend of the analog stick or D-pad with the face buttons, it takes a little more practice this time around to truly get an understanding of how to maneuver yourself. Pressing Up and Triangle will move you forward, pressing Down and X will move you backwards, pressing Left and Triangle will move you left, and pressing Up and Circle will move you right. In addition, the katamari can also strafe left and right, rotate using the shoulder buttons, and even perform a quick dash by alternately pressing Up and Triangle in rapid succession. A brief tutorial level is included, but it only lasts a few minutes, so you'll probably find yourself replaying it if youâ€™re new to the series. At first, I found myself strafing backwards when I simply wanted to turn right, but after playing for a while, I can now roam around with ease. Even though it isn't quite as easy to pick up as the PS2 iterations, the controls fit nicely on the PSP if you take the time to learn them properly.
The actual gameplay itself is loads of fun, whether you want to play for a few minutes or a few hours. Once you start off with a little ball, it's rewarding to see your katamari slowly evolve until objects that used to kick you around are being crushed. Starting as a little guy, the world around the Prince naturally feels large and intimidating; however, as certain volume benchmarks are reached, the camera will zoom out as the katamari moves higher up the food chain. Inanimate objects can help increase your size quickly and easily, but the living objects tend to give you most of the trouble. Horses, humans, and even gorillas can kick you across the playing field if you aren't massive enough to overtake them. Smaller existing objects will have an exclamation point appear over their head if they see that you can consume them. There are hundreds of different creatures you can pick up along the way, which is part of the reason why this game is so addicting.
Varied environments help any game feel original the whole way through, but Me & My Katamari recycles levels a little too often. Towards the earlier part of the game, levels include basic indoor settings, and as you move on, more outdoor environments become available. The terrain you're rolling on does impact how your katamari moves, so you should definitely be prepared if you're about to go skidding across an icy pond or if you're heading straight down a mountain. The only real problem with this game is that very little changes over the course of the last few missions. In fact, the final three or four challenges in the game use the same levels with roughly identical objectives, and by the final run-through, you'll probably have memorized some type of path to follow. The fun thing about trying out new levels is that you have no idea where to go, you aren't sure what objects you can pick up every step of the way, but the whole exploration aspect is taken out with repetitive environments. To make matters somewhat worse, it shouldn't take more than six hours or so to complete the entire game if you know what you're doing. The multiplayer segment can be played via Ad-Hoc for up to 4 players, in which gamers will compete to build the biggest katamari while simultaneously trying to sabotage their opponents, but unfortunately, game sharing isn't supported, so everybody needs to have their own copy. Still, there are plenty of unlockables to keep hardcore gamers coming back for more and there are enough levels to keep things interesting for the most part, but it would've been awesome to see even more stages.
Visually, this game isnâ€™t trying to blow you away with photorealism, but instead tries to create an embraceable cartoon-like atmosphere thatâ€™s appropriate for all ages. The Prince and his cousins are adorable little creatures with plenty of customizable accessories so their appearances never get old. The environments are filled with running animals, bumbling humans, and other colorful objects that really make the world come to life. The background music doesnâ€™t consist of anything youâ€™ll find on a Top 10 list, but that doesnâ€™t necessarily mean the tracks are bad. The soundtrack contains a bunch of catchy tunes that help fill in the brief moments of silence. To top it off, every object makes its own sound effect once you roll over it, which can be hilarious if you roll over a massive crowd of humans. When you combine these aspects with a few cut-scenes and even an 8-bit Katamari mode, Me & My Katamari certainly comes across as a professionally presented title.
As a whole, Me & My Katamari does a fantastic job at bringing this fabled series to the PSP. Despite the lack of level diversity towards the later part of the game, everything else fits nicely into place. The control scheme efficiently uses the PSP's solo analog setup, and there are plenty of different objects, unlockable characters, and presents just begging to be discovered. If you've never played a Katamari game before, you owe it to yourself to try this one out, and even if you already have the other titles for PS2, it's still a great game to enjoy on the go.