The App: Under the cover of night this weekend, the Katamari series landed in the App Store with I Love Katamari—bringing the venerable roll-up-a-bunch-of-shit-in-a-ball gameplay many love so dearly to Apple's mobile platform.
The Cost: $8
A thrill, but slooooow. With releases for the Wii and PS3 still in the deep rumor stages, this is the first installment to add any type of accelerometer-based motion control to a Katamari game—something that feels totally natural.
For those not familiar, the object of Katamari is to push a sticky ball around various worlds, picking up various delicious-looking Japanese foods, household items, houses themselves, countries, etc—the more objects you pick up, the fatter your katamari gets, and the bigger the objects you can then pick up in turn (Katamari Damacy, the original's title, means "clump spirit" in Japanese—love that). It sounds simple, but log a few hours on any othe other editions (two for PS2, one for PSP and Xbox 360) and you will not be able to stop. This time, there are four stages, each with modes for unlimited-time rolling, time attack, specific size targets and specific item scavenger hunts.
You will also realize that the series was born for motion-control. I Love Katamari has among the best tilt-based controls I personally have played with, using a hybrid touch/tilt system: tilt forward and to the sides to roll in those directions, while at the same time tap your Katamari repeatedly to dash, tap the sides of the screens to move laterally, etc. It's pretty easy to roll around and pick things up with some modicum of precision, although obviously not as much as a dual analog stick would provide. And it blows Monkey Ball out of the water.
But things would be a lot better if the game wasn't constantly, constantly glitching up. Whenever you graduate to a new size level of Katamari, the framerate drops heavily to the point where you can barely tell what's going on. That, there, will very likely be a dealbreaker for a lot of folks on an $8 game. But, for lovers of the series, that same, unique satisfaction of rolling up the cat's food and then the cat itself is still in there. Let's hope they iron out the performance in an update. [I Love Katamari - iTunes]