Explaining what Katamari is all about is pretty tricky without extravagant use of wild gesticulation and powerful hallucinogens... but its rolling, sticking, technicolour brand of craziness has cemented Namco Bandai's franchise as a beloved staple of Japanese gaming. Sadly, the mobile versions have been utter cack.
However, Katamari Amore is here for another run at the title - and our hearts - with improved controls and an in-app payment model.
Once again, the King Of All Cosmos (an omniscient deity with a penchant for rampant insanity and incredibly tight trousers) has tasked his under-appreciated Prince to return to Earth and collect items using the trademark Katamari. It's essentially a sticky ball that you'll roll around and gradually glue items to; increasing in size as you do so. The bigger your Katamari, the bigger the items it can pick up - and the aim of each stage is to get big enough to grab the item you need.
Tight time limits and objectives mean that you'll need to pick the most efficient routes around the stages; selecting the quickest way to grow your Katamari from a petit poit into a staggering apocalyptic juggernaut that rips buildings out of their foundations and makes a living shell out of the terrified populace.
It's all a bit disturbing if you think about it logically, but luckily you'll likely be too busy revelling in all the crazy. Series veterans may find the formula to be a bit wearing, but there's still lots of inexplicable dialogue, bright colours and cheerful music to enjoy while you set about your bizarre task.
So far, so I Love Katamari, the previous mobile version that was basically unplayable thanks to hopeless tilt controls. This makes an unwelcome return, but it bolstered by alternate virtual icons that emulate either one or two thumbsticks. Fans of the console versions will feel right at home.
It's still not quite the control revolution we've been hoping for. Sorry fanboys, but it's really about time that the Katamari series adopts the industry standard for dual stick inputs: movement mapped to the left stick and camera on the right. Until then, I'm afraid that steering the prince is going to be an absolute mare. Fighting the time limits is hard enough without needing to fight the controls as well.
Finally, the base game is absolutely free... but you'll only have access to a single mode of a single level. It makes for a useful demo, and subsequent content packs can be unlocked with a £2.49 in-app purchase. There's a significant amount of content to be found here - six levels and four distinct modes for each - and new content will be unleashed over the coming weeks and months.
- Classic Katamari japes
- Improved controls
- Colourful, funky craziness
- Controls are still a bit clunky
- Frequently frustrating
- The King Of All Cosmos will haunt your every waking moment
Summary: Katamari Amore isn't quite the return to form that the series deserves, but it's still a whole heap of riotous, tricky and satisfying fun.
Developer: Namco Bandai
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation) and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.
Price: Free (in-app purchases £2.49) - App Store