What a treat! Without warning, without fanfare, Namco Bandai released over the weekend a dedicated iPhone version of the evergreen Katamari Damacy. So what's it like?
I'll tell you what it's like. There's a reason I Love Katamari slipped out without fanfare.
It's Katamari: Like the recent 360 version, I Love Katamari was developed without the loving hand of series creator Keita Takahashi. So it lacks a lot of the bizarre charm of the earlier games. Still, it's enough of a Katamari experience to bring a smile to the face of a die-hard fan. The soothing piano intro, the squeaky sound effects, the square dogs, the frantic rolling as the timer ticks down, it's all there.
Controls: Oh dear. Like Super Monkey Ball, you control your Katamari ball by tilting the iPhone. Sounds great in theory, is just awful in practice. The first 1-2 minutes of a stage are fine, and the game responds well to the gentlest of nudges, but as you progress, things just fall apart. The game forgets the positioning of the phone after a few minutes, meaning by the end of a game you'll have the phone tilted almost 90 degrees away from you just to maintain a slow forwards roll, making the game both hard to see and ridiculous to play.
Framerate: The game's performance is completely unpredictable. Some stages run fine, others are super-slow. The game nearly locks up every time your Katamari levels up, such is the slow-down. And by the time you've leveled up 3-4 times in a single stage, the Katamari becomes so slow and cumbersome to roll around (thanks mostly to the framerate) you'll reach for the Home button in anger.
You may see other reviews be more kind to this game. Forget them. Those people may want to love this game, and that's overriding their common sense, because I Love Katamari is broken. And that's a damn shame. The iPhone needs ports of popular franchises like this if it's going to gain traction as a gaming platform. Then again, when it gets ports like this, you wonder if the machine's ever going to be up to the task.
Hopefully the game's crippling issues are the result of sloppy programming, not the limitations of the iPhone itself, and Namco Bandai can issue an update to fix the thing. Until they do, there are far cheaper ways to frustrate the crap out of yourself than to try and play this mess of a game.
I Love Katamari was developed and published by Namco Bandai. Released on December 13 for Apple iPhone, retails for $8. Played story mode to completion.
Confused by our reviews? Read our review FAQ.
UPDATE - Namco Bandai have speedily released an upgrade for the game that goes a long way towards fixing both of the above issues.