Usually at Pocket Gamer we like to start our reviews with some gentle pop culture references and maybe sprinkle over some witty, perspicacious observations on how gaming so often mirrors real life. We try to ease you into the cogs of our critical machinations, warmly welcoming and comfortably recognisable on the outside, disarmingly incisive and furiously intellectual on the inside. We're Stephen Hawking in a Mickey Mouse costume.
With Me & My Katamari (or My Katamari and I as we like to call it, what with having been to school and everything), this is tough. After all, who of us can really identify with the plight of a six-inch high green alien prince, the son of the galaxy-tall King of All Cosmos, as a lead character?
Nor indeed does the game's premise offer much in the way of common ground experience. After all, even if you've holidayed on a tropical island before, it probably wasn't in the company of a royal family and it almost certainly didn't result in your having to build new islands with your cousins. And in the unlikely case that it did, then it categorically wasn't for the purpose of providing homeless animals with somewhere to live.
I mean, even if you are a unique-type of charity worker tirelessly campaigning for furry and abandoned flora and fauna, I doubt your average day requires you to roll a sticky ball around town picking up any of Creation's debris not nailed to the floor until your ball of life's refuse is tall and wide enough to be plunked into the ocean as impromptu sheltered housing for estranged mammals.
So cut me some slack here and let's get on with it, okay?
Control of your sticky rubber ball, or Katamari, is handled with the left-hand D-pad and the four right-hand face buttons, which act as a second D-pad. Pushing up on both moves you forward while back on one and forward on the other will turn you. It's simple, intuitive and a child could quickly pick it up. Delightfully, these are the only buttons used throughout the game, which puts the emphasis firmly on traversing each of the unique 3D environments, picking up as many household and man-made items as possible within the time allotted.
To begin with, only the smallest of items will stick to your Katamari so you'll have to collect enough drawing pins and paper clips before your accumulated size enables you to pick up radios and televisions. Eventually, you can affix people, cows and ships to your ball's bumpy surface.
Each level is as simple as the game dynamic and consists of a play environment, a time limit and a minimum size requirement. Stages begin in a tiny Japanese apartment and, level by level, balloon until you're carving lines of tidiness through a sprawling mess of a metropolis.
Additionally, islanders will give you specific requirements, such as to pick up just cold items, sweet items or beautiful items and so on, and your success in doing so affects your final score.
With 16 stages to explore, a wonderfully bonkers story, psychedelic cast, delicious soundtrack, unlockable new masks and headgear for the prince and his cousins to wear as you control them – not to mention 2,434 different items to collect on your sticky ball – there's plenty plenty to keep you going.
There's also wireless play for up to four people, enabling the exchange of gifts and collected objects with your friends and competition through versus battles (with the player that earns the most points through size and variety of collection winning the battle).
All that said, if you're familiar with the PlayStation 2 Katamari games you'll be disappointed if you're hoping for anything really new, beyond portability of course. On the other hand, if you've never Katamari-d before you'll find it all entirely novel.
It may have little grounding in reality, but Me & My Katamari is so unique and delightful – from the very germ of the idea through to its jaw-dropping, coherent and bursting-with-character execution – that it's one of those games you simply must play.Me & My Katamari is out now – click here to buy.