Now, as any Katamari fan knows, just like a classic 70s childrens TV programme, half the pleasure here is in the repetition of elements. In We Love Katamari the king would be swayed by his fan’s sycophantic pleadings, The Prince would be sent off to build a katamari, and the king would turn the resulting ball into a new planet. It’s basically the same deal here, except the katamari is turned into an island at the end. Along the way, The Prince might pick up visiting cousins or new items to augment his costume, and while these seem to have precious little bearing on gameplay, they remain very much part of the charm. In short, Me and My Katamari is going to seem very familiar to existing Katamari addicts, but only in the best sort of way.
And that familiarity extends to the levels, which cover such favourite Katamari stamping grounds as the home, the small town, the zoo and – eventually – whole continents. The environments are teaming with things to pick up, and pets or people who impede your progress (at least until they too can be picked up). As your katamari gets bigger, the world opens up, insurmountable barriers become surmountable, and just about everything becomes grist to your rolling mill. Again, there’s a pleasure in the ever-growing sense of scale. At the start, you’re rolling up pencils and getting kicked around by a grumpy canine. Halfway through, the maleficent mutt is stuffed in your katamari, it’s legs waving comically in the air, and your moving on to collecting people, cars and trees. Later on, you’re working your way through major cities and rolling up international landmarks. There’s a feeling that, whatever Me and My Katamari throws at you, you’re going to be ready to tackle it sooner or later.
But while this latest roll-‘em-up seems perfect from the viewpoint of an onlooker, actually playing it reveals a problem that extends to the game’s very core, and as with so many PSP games it’s one of control. We Love Katamari was one of those games where the control system was of paramount importance; it might have been tricky at first, but using both analogue sticks in concert, you soon learnt to execute subtle curves and sweeping turns with ease. Now, Namco has smartly resisted the urge to map the PSP version’s control to the one analogue nub, but its alternative – to replace the twin sticks with the D-pad and face buttons – is itself not totally effective. These digital controls just don’t have the range or flexibility of the analogue originals, and the result is a less responsive katamari. It’s both much harder to navigate some openings and corners, and – worse – much easier to get stuck behind a piece of scenery. When some of the time limits involved are still quite stringent, this introduces a sour note of stress into the otherwise blissful Katamari mix. The sad thing is that this almost – though only almost – wrecks the game.