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Me & My Katamari PSP

Published by Namco Bandai
Developed by Namco Bandai
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

Me & My Katamari, an introduction.

When Namco created Katamari Damacy they showed the gaming world two things. First of all they showed that originality isn't a thing of the past and secondly they showed that games that keep things simple have more chance of being accepted and cherished by the masses. Katamari Damacy was surprisingly simple. How much simpler could it have been? The very idea of having a game where you push a ball like object (known as a Katamari) around that picks up things and gets progressively bigger (enabling it to pick up bigger objects etc.) would probably have seemed like a bad idea. However Namco gave us a game that was as addictive as it was simple. The sequel, We Love Katamari, proved to be another success (even if it was more of the same) and it's no surprise that the series has made its way onto the PSP to give gamers on the go some Katamari rolling fun whilst they're on the move.

What's the game about?

The King of All Cosmos has decided to take his family to a tropical holiday to get away from it all little knowing that his help would soon be called for. Close to where the royal family are relaxing, on the Isles of Paradise, a disaster has just occurred. A small community of animals who were living on there have just had their homes washed away by a huge tidal wave and the animals have drifted out to see. Desperate for help the animals have requested help from the King and being the kind hearted monarch that he his he's agreed to help. The Prince and his cousins have been ordered to go on a Katamari-rolling mission with the finished Katamaris thrown into the sea to give each of the animals a new home.

What's good about the game?

Those looking for a portable Katamari Damacy experience will find Me & My Katamari to their liking even taking into account the problems we'll mention in the next paragraph. Essentially the game plays the same as it always has. Sure there's  a change of story and  such like but the basics of the game are the same and if you've played the previous games in the series you'll find it a similar experience. You might be given  3 minutes to roll a Katamari of 1.5m for instance. You'll roll your Katamari down the road picking up small items and eventually it will grow to a point where the camera pulls out a little and you can then roll up bigger things. Eventually you'll come to a barrier that says 75cm so you'll roll your Katamari until it reaches that size and then a loading screen will appear and you'll sit there reading the King's comments about how terrible it is to have to wait before finally being able to roll past the aforementioned barrier and go on to roll up bigger objects. In later levels you'll get your Katamari to an incredible size and you'll roll up people, vehicles, buildings and just about everything imaginable. It's exciting stuff but as we'll now find out it's not  as enjoyable as it was on the PlayStation 2.

What's not so good about the game?

The biggest problem with bringing the Katamari Damacy experience to the PSP is that the tried and tested control scheme had to be altered due to the PSP not having two analogue sticks.  How did Namco get around this problem?  Well essentially the directional buttons replaced the left analogue stick whilst the primary face buttons (the X, triangle, square and circle buttons) replaced the right analogue stick. Basically you'll press the up directional button and the triangle button to move  forward the right directional button and the circle button to move to the right and so forth. Manoeuvres such as quick turns can still be performed but these require button combinations rather than intuitive actions. Overall the controls are passable and they get the job done but they aren't as comfortable as those found in the PlayStation 2 versions.

If you've played the PlayStation 2 games you'll notice that the PSP version is rather lacking when it comes to the amount of levels on offer. Basically it feels like there are a handful of levels in the game and these are reused frequently. The larger levels are cut down into smaller segments and you'll have to endure frequent loading times during the challenges which is quite disappointing (although understandable to a degree). Rather more disappointing are the frame rate dips you'll experience from time to time. They never spoil the flow of the game as such but nevertheless it's a shame that the game hasn't been fully optimised to take account of the PSP's limitations.  

Me & My Katamari comes with a multiplayer mode (using the Ad Hoc connection) for  2-4 players but it's disappointing. Essentially the idea is that you'll all roll around picking up objects within a given time limit. Each object is worth a certain amount of points. When the time is up the winner is the one with the most points for the objects they've collected. During a multiplayer game you can bump into your rivals' Katamaris to make them drop things which adds a competitive edge to the whole thing. The problem is that there's only one level to play on and every single person playing will need a copy of Me & My Katamari in order to play.

How does it look?

Me & My Katamari manages to retain the wacky look of the previous  Katamari games. The King of All Cosmos looks as zany as ever. People and animals  you'll literally bump into during the levels all look rather squarish in nature. Vehicles look like something from a young child's toy box and the same can be said for the buildings too. The game uses a bright colour palette,  which is really noticeable as the textures in the game are quite basic. When you mix all of this together  it makes for one heck of a visual experience that really can't be put into words adequately enough. Me & My Katamari is definitely one of the more eye-popping experiences you can have on the PSP.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

As with the previous games in the series deaf gamers will have no problems with Me & My Katamari. There's no real speech in the  game and all dialogue is text only which means deaf gamers will have no problems. All instructions are text only too, so you'll have no problems understanding what your exact requirements are in any given level.  The levels you'll play are time limited and the time you have left is always displayed. You'll also receive a visual warning from the King when there is only one minute remaining. In fact deaf gamers won't miss out on anything.

Final thoughts.

Ultimately Me & My Katamari isn't quite the Katamari Damacy experience as you'll find on the PlayStation 2. Whilst there are a few areas the game is deficient in when comparing it to the PlayStation 2 games, the overriding problem is that the control scheme just isn't as good. I've found that my hands begin to suffer from cramp after 30 minutes play or so and that's disappointing especially when you consider that I've sat for hours on end playing through We Love Katamari with no problems at all.  That's not to say it's a bad game though, far from it, but the comfort of the control scheme is everything in a game such as this and the PSP just doesn't do the game justice (and I doubt any current handheld could). Still control niggles aside it's a shame load times pepper levels and that frame drops are noticeable. If you can live with the control scheme you'll find a game that's just as wacky as the first two titles in the series. If you haven't played a game in the series though, and you own a PlayStation 2, you would be better advised purchasing We Love Katamari as it's better in just about every respect.

Overall Game Rating: 6.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Me & My Katamari is a decent attempt at bringing the crazy Katamari Damacy experience to the PSP. However the awkward control scheme, the frequency of the loading screens and the frame rate dips all dampen the enthusiasm for the game.