We're digging into some quick-hit offerings this week, headlined by the long-awaited native iPad appearance of the Katamari Damacy franchise, along with Monsters Ate My Condo, a wild match-three puzzler from Adult Swim Games. And on the second page, we've got the awesome asteroid-dodging affair, Bit Pilot, as well as a blaze-battling, family-friendly physics puzzler called Sprinkle. Plus, in a rare showing for this feature, every single app this week is playable on both iPad and iPhone, with three of those apps priced at just a buck apiece. Take note, thrifty gamers.
It's hard to believe it took this long for Namco Bandai to bring Katamari to the iPad. I Love Katamari dropped on iPhone a couple years back, and while the app launched with framerate and control issues, it was a serviceable portable option for fans of the enduringly bizarre item-rolling franchise. Yet despite the publisher's ever-growing presence on the App Store, it never expanded out into a universal app, or received a standalone HD iteration. Katamari Amore not only works on both iPad and iPhone, but it's also a much smoother experience than its iOS predecessor.
The shine has faded from the series, due to recent entries rehashing the same levels and ideas and creator Keita Takahashi off to new projects, but we can't fight the urge to dig in for a couple hours when the opportunity presents itself. That said, Namco Bandai's misguided App Store pricing policies rear their head here again, with Katamari Amore weighing in as a "free" app that actually requires a $3.99 in-app purchase to access more than a tiny sliver of content, nd it's not even the full game – the purchase earns you just six stages, with additional forthcoming level packs teased within. Just put a decent price tag on the entire package and cut the hassle and hijinks, please.
But $3.99 isn't a bad deal for six levels with story, time attack, exact size challenge, and eternal mode options, with a mix of new and old environments. The controls sadly lose a step in the transition from analog sticks to virtual versions, but the dual-stick option here is serviceable, and the game runs very well on the iPad, with all the expected nonsensical ramblings from the King of All Cosmos flanked by charmingly drab visuals. Plus, there's a Pac-Man bonus stage that lets you wind through an iconic series maze in 3D. Amore isn't an excellent Katamari experience, but it's a solid one – and for a few bucks, that'll do the trick.
Adult Swim's mission statement on the App Store seems to be making distinctive games. Whether it's the brutally comedic Trauma Center knock-off Amateur Surgeon or the hysterical fever dream Robot Unicorn Attack, the experiences tread a fine line between engaging play mechanics and baffling silliness. Monsters Ate My Condo fits perfectly within that mold, blending a match-three puzzler with elements of Jenga, along with schizophrenic visuals that we assume are the developer's exaggerated take on Japanese kids' shows. We're not sure – all we know is we’re entertained.
Monsters Ate My Condo brings in so many distinct gameplay bits it's a wonder it all works. You line up three or more like-colored floors to clear them from a tower, but flicking unneeded floors out of the tower shakes the foundation in a Jenga-like balancing act - plus you'll encounter bombs and concrete floors that won’t budge unless cleared by a nearby color match. Monsters on either side of the tower can be appeased by being fed the right color floors, but utterly irritated with the wrong ones. Angering the beasts makes them stomp and shake, which brings the tower balance equation back into play once more.
It seems like a lot to keep in mind, but this fast-paced puzzler is reasonably managed – just keep matching floors and varying the colors you fling to each monster and you'll do well in the endless mode. A two-minute time attack option expectedly amps up the intensity by throwing you into the thick of the action with little time to spare. Monsters Ate My Condo delivers an amusing new take on a well-worn genre, and this single app works perfectly on both iPad and iPhone, making this a worthy pick for anyone with a semi-recent iDevice.