It’s a universal truth, commonly acknowledged, that the first Katamari Damacy game on the iOS platform was a big pile of pants.
By any other reckoning, I Love Katamari should have been a slam dunk; the psychedelic day-glo visuals, the irresistably giddy soundtrack, the frankly mental design of each stage... It all seemed a perfect fit for a portable device with an accelerometer. It couldn’t fail. It just couldn’t.
But it did.
Its fate was sealed with terrible controls, buggy software and an absurd pricetag; Namco had valiantly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Today, I Love Katamari is fondly remembered by no-one and none-such, except maybe the embittered games journalist who cries alone at night and wonders about what might have been.
But you know what? There’s enough goodwill left for the franchise that we’re super excited to see a fresh Katamari game on iPhone and iPad. Namco has clearly learned from the first debacle and taken steps to remedy it with Katamari Amore. The fact that, in the intervening years, the underlying hardware has moved forward in capability and processing power doesn’t hurt either.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a quick recap; you play a little prince from outer space who rolls a magnetic ball around various environments, the ball gathering in mass and momentum as it sucks objects into its field of gravity. It’s that simple, and it’s that addictive. And no, I haven’t been smoking anything funny, what are you insinuating exactly?
For this outing, there are six worlds to explore: John’s Room, the North African Streets, the South American Ruins, the Space Center, Western Europe, and East Asian Palace. There’s also a bonus Pac-Man world, which pays tribute to the vintage gobbler of gaming lore (who is also the Namco company mascot, if you were wondering).
Each world contains props and objects that are unique; in John’s Room, for example, you’ll be rolling up notepads, candy and schoolbooks. In the South American Ruins it’s llamas, gold masks, and ladies in traditional dress.
All in all, it’s exactly the kind of Katamari game we should have had the first time around, with a smoother framerate and graphics that can really shine on the iPad’s bigger screen.
There're two major points of difference from the first version. First off, there’s a new control scheme; the original tilting controls that use the iPhone and iPad’s accelerometer are still in place, but there’s also a pair of thumbstick controls overlaid onto the touchscreen. This is a welcome addition that eliminates any grumbling about the game’s responsiveness.
Secondly, Namco has adopted a “freeminum” model for the game, in which you can download the app for free (John’s Room and a time-attack mode come as standard), and unlock the full game for £2.99. Further levels and modes will become available in due course.
So, what are you waiting for? Roll up your sleeves (sorry, sorry) and get cracking with the NEW and IMPROVED Katamari. It goes a long way towards remedying the gaming disappointments of yesteryore.
Katamari Amore is a free download, available now on the iTunes App Store for iPad and iPhone. [iTunes]