"Oh, another Katamari game?," I quipped as I saw the PlayStation Vita demo station equipped with Touch My Katamari. It's hard to get excited for a Katamari game, especially after countless sequels have failed to reignite the spark that made the original PS2 games so charming. Perhaps rolling an ever-growing ball o' stuff is just a one-trick pony.
Touch My Katamari still doesn't feel "new" or "fresh" to me, but it does add a number of key features that make it one of the most novel Katamari games I've seen in a long time.
The title should make it evident that touch is the biggest twist to the game. Although Vita comes equipped with gyroscopic sensors, Namco Bandai has opted not to use motion controls for this portable iteration. Instead, the game offers two control methods: an entirely touch-based method, and a more traditional control scheme that takes advantage of both analog sticks.
Katamari was designed with two analog sticks in mind, and that's arguably the best way of playing the game. It didn't take long for me to navigate the world, collecting a number of doodads. It felt like classic Katamari all over again. There is a novel Vita-exclusive twist, however. Touch My Katamari takes advantage of the Vita rear touch panel--and it actually works! (Unlike most other titles I've played so far...)
The rear touch panel, used in conjunction with the front touch screen lets you "pinch" the Katamari, letting you flatten the Katamari and pick up more objects. You can also squeeze the Katamari vertically, making you less capable of picking up objects, but faster. By manipulating the size and shape of the Katamari, you'll be able to navigate the environment in new ways, and try to discover secret areas. This mechanic added an extra layer of depth that's easy to appreciate.
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While Namco Bandai has expanded the gameplay in this latest iteration, ultimately the game involves you rolling a ball. While I Love Katamari is downloadable for $6.99 on iOS, Touch My Katamari is a full retail release on Vita. Namco Bandai argues that this is the biggest Katamari game to date, and with a number of psychedelic videos included on the cartridge, it's easy to see the production values behind the title. But, do people really want that much Katamari? Especially since--in spite of Namco Bandai's best efforts--Touch My Katamari doesn't feel like an entirely "new" experience.