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Me & My Katamari

When a game becomes a series, no matter how damn cool it was the first time around, it's bound to get stale. The faster it happens, the worse its chances. That's the challenge facing the Katamari Damacy series right now. Its third installment in two years is set to hit the PSP, and that's the main hook: the new game is simply exciting by virtue of being portable.

Me & My Katamari follows in the path cleared by its PS2 predecessors, which had you collecting everything from coins and children to elephants and airplanes with a magically adhesive ball. You rarely started small and got really big; it was more a gradual thing. A sort of reward for sticking with it. Not so in the PSP version; it's much more typical to start most levels tiny and end up huge. Though we haven't seen many of them yet, Namco hinted that most will be self-contained towns, each with multiple areas to explore, including sort-of hidden areas, such as a restaurant, where you can spend time bulking up and then return to the main part of the level.

The biggest problem facing Me & My Katamari is its control. On PS2, Katamari relies on the Dual Shock 2 controller and its two sticks. The PSP, as first person shooter fans love to gripe, lacks a second stick. Me & My Katamari moves the action to the buttons: left thumb on the digital pad and right on the four buttons, and index fingers extended onto the L and R buttons on top of the unit for tight turns. This setup works better than it sounds. After a run or two, you'll be performing almost as well as in the PS2 version.

Graphics and music are as vital to the Katamari series as its gameplay. If it weren’t for the fact that there are so many cool things to roll up, who'd want to run a ball over 'em in the first place? Thankfully, Me & My Katamari is just as chock-full of pastel-colored goodies as the previous games. The soundtrack isn't new, but has songs ripped from both previous PS2 titles to set the mood appropriately.

The other new feature is a wireless battle mode. Played locally over the PSP's Ad Hoc connection, it pits gamers against one another in a treasure hunt, uncovering items buried beneath tropical sands. As with the multiplayer modes in previous Katamari games, it doesn't appear to be robust enough on its own, but neither is it likely to be completely disposable.

In the end, Me & My Katamari should offer just enough interesting new content to be worth a purchase. And, hey, the fact that it's on PSP means you can be rolling while you're rolling up junk, which should make the miles melt away.

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