Me and My Katamari PSP Review - 

Me and My Katamari is the PSP game in the hotly received Katamari series. Before we�ve had I Love Katamari and Katamari Damacy from Namco, but finally it�s come to the Playstation Portable, and is the perfect game for pick up and play addictiveness.

We weren’t particularly experienced with this sort of Japanese fad before last week, but it’s won us over with ease, and it brings great pleasure to announce our love for the series at this late stage.

The premise for the game is a wacky one. You roll a knobbly ball, varying in colour depending on your character, around diverse levels, getting objects stuck onto it, making it bigger. The ball itself is the Katamari, and you control either the Prince, or one of his many cousins.

You can roll up pretty much anything. Depending on the challenge set to you, you’ll start with a certain sized Katamari. As you roll around the level, you can roll over things like food, pens, cutlery, coins, and all the small items you find on the floor of the messier parts of society. Once you’ve picked up a decent amount, you can roll bigger objects up, such as books, CDs and toys. The extreme sizes allow you to roll up pets, people and eventually buildings.

The great thing is that these items stick to the Katamari, and it forces the ball to react accordingly. Say you pick up a fork. You’ll be able to see it jutting out of the top of the Katamari, and whenever you roll there will be a bump or slant as the fork hits the ground. It sounds simple, but is really pleasant to see on the PSP. Roll up a cat, and you’ll hear it’s death defying meows as you squash it’s head into the leg of a passer by, and see it’s paws thrashing about in anguish.

In the previous two Katamari games (only I Love Katamari came to Europe), you met a huge range of weird and wonderful characters, fulfilling certain specifications before using the King of the Cosmos’ puff power to create a galaxy in the universe of space, for the characters to inhabit. In this PSP incarnation of the series, the King of the Cosmos and his family have gone on holiday to paradise. Whilst there, they meet a new bunch of animals who want various specifications for islands instead of the galaxies. Each island, once built, is personalised for that character, and you can take a hot air balloon ride over to them, to see how they’re doing.

Some want hard islands, some want shiny ones, some hot, and there’s a plethora of reasons and requests in the game. While it doesn’t affect your goal of creating as big a Katamari as possible, sometimes you will need to focus on specifically shiny objects, and get a high enough shiny score before the animal will be happy. In fact, the ungrateful bar-stewards will often have a go at you even when you do make the target. You’ll have to beat it considerably to keep them happy, and they’ll still urge you to improve every time you speak to them.

The game world is based around ‘Prince Island’. You can rename it to a suitable alternative (such as ‘Your Mum’s Island’) at the first chance, but it’s the content of the island which is most interesting. It acts as your options screen, with sound options, multiplayer and networking functionality, and is the place to meet most of the characters in the game. The game is all presented in cartoony, cel-shaded graphics, but while the actual levels have a realistic feel to them, the island is a utopia of bright colours, 2D animations and solid cel shading. It all gives it a distinct look, and is (we imagine) similar to how the world looks to a high drug addict.

Perhaps related, the multiplayer (Ad Hoc Mode) allows up to four people to game together. You all play at once on certain arenas and battle it out to get the most points. You can even use the dash feature to ram the other Katamaris and knock points off your opposition. You are also able to share presents that get picked up in the main game mid-roll, which is a nice feature.

In the single player a huge list of what items you have picked up is stored, and there’s a great assortment of things to collect. It certainly adds replay value, as the game is so fun to play anyway that you don’t really even need an excuse to get back and playing. Some are rarer than others, and often you have to get better at the game before you can collect the bigger items on the smaller levels.

Speaking of which, the design of each level is superb. There’s numerous ramps, heights and features to keep you amused, ranging from a plank of wood slanting upwards, to being able to open a door and explore interiors. It reminds me personally of Micro Machines when you’re inside a house, simply because of the perspective, and all the items around take on a similar sort of graphical appearance. It needs to be clarified that there aren’t just 2 or 3 items for every room, there’s hundreds. Every facet, each metre and all areas of the level are littered with collectibles, and you can barely move without picking something up.

While moving around the islands and ocean environments, you don’t push the Katamari, and can visit between ‘Your Mum’s Island’ (or alternative name), Volcano Island and Beanstalk Island. You use a boat to transport yourself between these, and on Beanstalk Island you can switch between characters to any cousins you may have rolled over on your escapades. You can also dress them up and customise them with some of the presents attained from the missions. Volcano Island is home to a select few of the characters, who have more specific requests than the others,

We would love to be able to visit the other islands up close, but it really wouldn’t be feasible on the PSP. Another slight niggle is that the levels repeat themselves in terms of textures and partially layouts. It makes the game run smoothly, but takes some of the diversity out of the game.

There are also various hazards on each level, such as humans walking, running or kicking at you. As you get bigger there’s a certain amount of pleasure to be gained by running the little buggers over, and teaching them not to mess with a misshapen Japanese midget and his Katamari.

The audio in the game is absolutely brilliant. It’s all Japanese orientated (but in English), and all songs are fantastically suited to the game, and the particular section of gameplay they’re matched to. Sound effects really portray the feeling that you’re running over a cat, and everything just blends together perfectly – probably the best PSP game for sound.

There are lots of little extras and secrets to find in the game, and you’ll undoubtedly find your own way of playing it. The controls are certainly tricky, but Namco have compensated for the lack of dual analogue pretty well, and by no means all of the controls are necessary, you can get by using only one combination out of the heap of options, and you get used to it.

The graphics are pretty detailed, and it all works very well on the small screen with no noticeable slowdown and so much available for your enjoyment. It’s gritty-cartoony, with the humans and animals sliding along and fleeing out of your way whenever possible, in their distinct squaresville style.

If you’re new to the series then we urge you to give this a go, and if you played the PS2 Katamari games, then you have no reason not to invest in this. The most addictive PSP game so far? It’s mighty close.