There will be those keenly awaiting the arrival of Nathan Drake in the palm of their hands when the Playstation Vita makes its arrival on these shores next February, so too those eager to play a gorgeous dual-stick shooter such as Resistance: Burning Skies whilst on a train, plane or bus. But although I'm excited for these things, not to mention the mouthwatering prospect of LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers coming to Sony's new handheld, after getting hands-on with it a few days ago there's one game that I want so badly it hurts.
That game is Touch My Katamari.
It's difficult to explain the Katamari series to people haven't seen it in action or played any of he titles for themselves. I asked one or two friends of mine to try and sum upthe central premise in a single sentence and here were some of the results:
'You roll around a sticky ball collecting pot plants, dogs and children.'
'Well...there's a sexy dance.'
'A crazy king sends you on a rolling spree to amass as big a collection of random junk as you can in a time limit.'
'I like it when people's legs stick out and waggle as you roll them up.'
'You play as a walking lime Tic-Tac, trying to roll up as much stuff as possible with a giant sticky ball thing as obscenely catchy J-rock tickles your ear drums.'
They actually covered most of the points fairly well. Quirky is a word that often gets ascribed to the Katamari series and, admittedly, that's not without cause. It's not every game that has missions dictated to you by a cosmic sovereign with a scratching DJ for a voice and a penchant for suggestive dancing. Once again some calamity has befallen the immaculately bearded King of All Cosmos, and once again his trusty emerald Prince is tasked with rolling up a bunch of stuff to fix the King's mess.
Controlling the Prince and his trusty Katamari will feel delightfully natural to anyone who ever played it on a console. Move about with the left stick and shift the camera about with the right. Of course, this being the Vita, you can trace paths with the touchscreen too, indulging in your ball-rolling via deft use of one's index finger or thumb. To be honest, though, the dual-stick approach feels so pleasingly natural that you'll probably just stick with that, using a simultaneous tap of the two shoulder bumpers to have the Prince backflip over his Katamari for swift changes in direction.
Using the sticks also allows you to more easily access the rear trackpad, which gives licence to explore Touch My Katamari's unique little gimmick. Push you fingers together at the back and the Katamari squashes itself into a tall and narrow shape, perfect for tight corridors. Drag your fingers apart and the Katamari becomes low and wide, useful for rolling over expansive areas. Again, it seems a little fiddly at first, particularly if, like me, you have large hands, but after a minute or two, it becomes second nature. It remains to be seen if the individual levels will offer up opportunities to really make the most of this feature, but it proved a useful little addition in the domestic setting we got to explore.
There'll be reams of unlockables, of course, with cousins to find, high scores and leaderboard accolades to chase too. The central menu, now located on the King of All Cosmos's rotating magic carpet roll of a neck ornament, also led us to an utterly bonkers sub menu where you can dress the King up in a wide variety of different outfits (unlockable through gameplay or a little extra cash), while he pops and locks doing his sexy dance.
We heard at the event how collectables will tie into the planned DLC fort he game, with andriasang reporting today that a feature in Famitsu has more details on this. According to the Japanese magazine each level will contain items called 'Fan Sprites', which may be exchanged upon collection for DLC. There'll be options to just buy the additional content ouright, but it adds a little extra incentive for advanced, eagle-eyed rolling.
Where the PSP title Me & My Katamari proved pretty frustrating in terms of controls, the Vita offers only delight, and that's important in a game such as this. The Katamari series has always excelled at offering short bursts of 'sunshine gaming' - a quirky, pastel-drenched blast of gaming built upon a simple premise. It's a game that immediately puts a smile on the face; a game for which the word 'whimsical' was invented. Make no mistake and don't be fooled by its cutesy exterior, though, it's still a challenging game, but now perfectly replicated in mobile form. We can't make overarching value judgements on the strength of a short twenty minute demo, but we can start getting excited now we have some idea of what to expect. It might be coming in a miniature package once more, but until the other portable versions, this will be a fully featured game that handles superbly. And you'd better believe the soundtrack will be brilliant too.