Back in the depths of 2008, we had our hearts broken by I Love Katamari. The controls were problematic, there were performance issues, it was Katamari, but it was a mess. Now Namco is taking another shot at winning our love with Katamari Amore [Free].

Full disclosure: I'm a Katamari fan from way back. I got in on the ground floor with Katamari Damacy on PS2 and I've played every console release since. Over the years the formula has become a little stale, the craziness has started to feel a little forced, but I'm still a person who loves to roll things up. Sushi, cats, Ultraman, I'm not picky. So it's with a heavy heart that I tell you that Katamari Amore is a loveless thing.

Yes, yes, it's Katamari! On iOS! But that's not enough. The framerate gets choppy at times, especially on my 3GS. The controls are improved over the last outing, now offering one virtual pad, two virtual pads or tilt. The two-stick method is essentially the same as the console controls, if a bit stiff. The method for switching controls is awkward and confusing, but whatever. Technically this game is pretty much fine. It's just completely and utterly joyless.

The level design is the worst offender. One of the joys of the Katamari series is exploration. Strange scenarios can be found if you pay attention. You might find bears corralling humans at a campfire, or a hidden shrine to sashimi. It doesn't often make sense, but it rewards curiosity. In Katamari Amore, you'll find whatever random items are needed to make you bigger, strewn appropriately to allow you to progress. The most interesting thing I found in my travels was a space dog with an astronaut, and I guess the game thought it was interesting too because I got an achievement for rolling it up.

And that's emblematic of the whole problem with Katamari Amore. Nothing is there just for fun. To clear most of the Story Mode levels you'll need to roll up nearly every item available. This turns the game from a frantic size race to a tedious exercise in hunting down the one item you need to get just big enough to get the next batch of items. It's a bare-minimum philosophy that permeates everything -- the King of All Cosmos's dialogue, the levels, the items and the entertainment value.

We mentioned that this game would have a special Pac-Man themed level, and it does. But don't get too excited. It's basically one level of the classic game, but with terrible controls and an obnoxious camera angle. There are better ways to play Pac-Man.

If none of this concerns you and you just want to get your Katamari on, here's what you need to know. The game is free to download, and contains one level of Time Attack mode. With an in-app purchase of $3.99, you can unlock all six currently available levels. Each has a Story Mode (in which the King asks you to roll up a specific item that always happens to be the largest item in the level), time attack, an exact size challenge and eternal mode. There are more packs on their way, but there's a reasonable amount of content here to start with.

It's not that Katamari Amore is completely terrible. There are a few technical speedbumps, but it's competent on the whole. Some of our forum users have decried the graphics, but simple art is a series staple. And it's a functional game, with plenty to do. It's just that it could be so much more.

Most of the things Namco has left out aren't the things that would push the limits of the platform - they're the humor and the spirit of the series. iOS games can be made with love and joy, they can be funny and charming. Those are things the Katamari series has had in spades, and it's a shame they're missing here.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Anonymous

    Got this today and so far I have to admit, once again, I agree with the review.  Katamari Amore isn't bad.  It's just that it isn't a patch on even the old PS2 version.  Think tiny, stunted levels with such short time limits that you don't even get to really take in the scenery, except there isn't really any scenery.   The sense of scale and the exploration factor is gone.  Also the awesomesauce soundtrack isn't here either. On the plus side, at least the controls are decent in this version.

    Still though if you want a taste of Katamari portable, go for it.  Like everything on iOS, as the rule goes, for $4 it isn't bad.  Just don't expect a lot.  (The levels in here IMO don't even compare to the opening levels on the original ps2 version).  

    By the way, even on my ipad 2 there is some serious slowdowns at points.  For example when an object runs into you and all the stuff starts flying off your katamari, the frame rate often grinds to a halt, making it irritating as opposed to humorous.

    Really, my major complaint though is with the myopic level design. I hope that the expansion packs to come will fix this.

  • Mike

    Lol at this topic guys:
    http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/946850-iphone-ipod/60470547

    Read all the replies or comments and laugh. Lol at the guy who claims iOS games arent as cative or fun as Nintendo's.

    Also read this:

  • Anonymous

    I've just played the demo level and I have to agree with you.  A house in the console Katamari games looks like a house, with tables and chairs and shelves with things on them, this level is just a big box with rows of different-sized objects in it (that need to be rolled up in one particular order, turning the levels into disorganised racetracks)
    The dual-thumb controls are way better than the last iphone Katamari, but it still doesn't feel right.  How hard would it have been to just copy the level layouts from the PS2 games?

  • http://twitter.com/manufracture David Schutz

    the original Katamari Damacy was by Keita Takahashi. a lot of the imagination and whimsy found in it was from his direction. he wasn't terribly interested in making sequels and left Namco last year. but as is typical these days of large companies, Namco wants to squeeze as much out of the franchise as possible until it's burnt out. these "loveless" sequels are a product of this.

    from his comments to Kotaku Japan: "I made Katamari Damacy as an antithesis to games that were nothing but sequels, so when I was told 'Make a sequel' I declined. But the company was coldhearted, so if I didn't do it, they'd make someone else do it."

    • https://twitter.com/#!/NissaCam Nissa Campbell

      Absolutely. Though Namco has done a better job imitating the charm of the original in the console sequels than they have here.

      As an aside, Keita Takhashi is currently working with a North American studio, Tiny Speck, on their browser MMO Glitch (which I adore). It's not iOS so it's kind of off topic, but fans of Katamari Damacy might want to check it out if they're looking for something similarly imaginative.

KATAMARI Amore Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 3