First Impressions: Katamuku + Action: Katamuction
Posted by Sean Aaron
More camera-motion mini-game madness
It seems a number of developers have been taken with the idea of using the DSi's cameras to simulate motion-based gameplay, but unfortunately many of these games end up feeling like gimmicky tech-demos more than actually fun games. HI Games & Publishing's latest attempt makes for an uneven experience with one of the four games in Katamuction providing a truly entertaining experience, whilst the others range from okay to frustrating due to their implementation of the camera-based controls.
Like Genki Mobile's biplane game Katamuction uses the DSi's cameras to establish some kind of base level of orientation against which it measures the system's physical movement within the game and, like Geki Tsui Ō, this doesn't always work in the games that rely upon it. This is most noticeable in the first game that sees you controlling a man running from a dinosaur, and in the third game where you're moving a helicopter as it makes package deliveries.
In the "run away from T-Rex" game you'll see on-screen prompts to tilt your DSi in four directions, but getting the timing right is a real pain. If you tilt too quickly the game doesn't seem to be able to cope with the image shift and simply ignores it, but if you do it too slowly, well, that's also a fail. If you're hit by dino's attacks three times it's game over. There's a couple of additional variations on this, the second of which sees your tilts controlling the dino as he attempts to gobble up cavemen, but it uses the same interface and is equally unimpressive and difficult to play.
Chopper package delivery works a bit better since you only need to move up and down to avoid obstacles and collect clocks (or hearts in the second variant) to add to your remaining time as you fly along towards a goal through a 2D cityscape. Again, deliberate motions are required, so you won't be able to make successful last-minute course adjustments to get an item, and manoeuvring through tight spaces can become a chore.
The remaining games control a bit better, though the bear fishing game is frustrating just because of what's being asked of the player rather than the controls themselves. In this game you're given a bear's-eye view of a river in the lower screen: using the D-Pad for left paw and A button for right, players are tasked with scooping up various fish and crabs to feed the hungry bear cubs shown on the riverbank in the top screen. Getting a qualifying score is extremely difficult: we were unable to manage more than a C due to the coordination required in moving the DSi to pan the camera over the river and hitting a button at the right moment to scoop up a fish, though it is a concept that works pretty well and feels less gimmicky than the previous games mentioned.
The final game is the most successful in terms of execution and gameplay. Your camera is used to provide the backdrop and ghosts appear that look much like a ball with a handkerchief wrapped about it with the face of an evil spirit right out of Ju-On drawn on. A radar display in the lower screen will show you where the ghosts are in relation to your current facing and you'll actually need to turn around at times to get the nasties in your sights to blast them into oblivion. At first we didn't understand what was happening until we recognised the room we were in as the background; seeing ghosts floating about in familiar surroundings is weird and novel, making for a fun take on the light gun shooter.
As with many mini-game collections, Katamuction is something of a mixed bag. It offers pretty decent value in that achieving a B-rank or better on normal difficulty in the basic games indicated above unlocks additional variations on them for a total of 12 different games to play, using four sets of play mechanics and themes. We're sure many people will enjoy at least one or two of the games on offer, though the appeal will obviously be limited to those who like mini-games, availability of decent lighting conditions and tolerance of sometimes wonky camera controls. It only makes us more curious to see what games featuring true motion control (assuming that's included in the upcoming 3DS) will be like on Nintendo's handheld devices.