Katamari Damacy is one of the quirkiest Japanese games ever made. Its unique style of gameplay is one of a kind, and the music is something otherworldly and beautiful. I played most of the games in the series and really enjoyed them, so when a suggestion for Tap My Katamari popped up on my phone’s app store, I was immediately thrilled, especially since it was free.
After downloading and starting the game up, I was pretty disappointed in what I saw. This game was not the Katamari I knew and loved. Instead, it was one of those endless clicker games that I hadn’t even been aware existed (there’s apparently a lot of these time sink games out there). All you have to do is mindlessly tap the screen to advance, so surely I would have stopped after a minute or two of realizing that this was all there was to it.
Before I knew it, two hours had passed. I had leveled up The Prince and unlocked a few of his cousins who help your progress along. I went from making one coin per item rolled up to several million per item. I thought I was doing so well, when in reality I was going nowhere. This game is very good at making you think you’re making significant progress when nothing actually changes.
The way the game works is that you’re given a certain distance you need to travel in order to roll up an item and make your katamari bigger. You achieve this by tapping the screen, and each tap will take you a certain length until you lower the distance bar and move on to the next stage. But as you roll up each item, the distance between the next item gets bigger, prompting you to tap even more. You can relieve how much you need to tap by leveling up The Prince and his cousins. You need coins in order to level them up, and you obtain coins by rolling up items. This is where the game tricks you. You aren’t really making it as far as you think since the distance bar and the levels of The Prince and his cousins are all relative. When it looks like you’re making a billion coins for each item, it really doesn’t matter because the cost of leveling up everything evens out with the amount you’re making. Where the game really gets people, though, is with the candy. You can use candy to unlock special cousins, power-ups, and buy more coins, but obtaining the candy is very difficult, which brings you to the shopping cart icon in the bottom right-hand corner. For some little to large microtransactions, you can purchase candy to help you along with your progress. This game was obviously and evilly designed to prey on people with addictive personalities and obsessive compulsive disorder.
When I first started playing, I became obsessed with making it to the end — so much so that I would tap my phone for hours at a time. This incessant tapping could soon be felt in both my hands. I began to worry that if I didn’t stop that I would develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Despite this great risk, I continued to play endlessly. My life became Tap My Katamari. Every single day I would open it up, see how many coins my cousins collected for me while I wasn’t playing, and continue onward to the final stage, whenever that may be. Even when my fingers hurt, I couldn’t stop. And who could possibly stop tapping their screen when that infectious music is always playing in the background? It also started affecting my personal life. I would hang out with some friends and not pay attention to most of what they were saying because I was busy with this game. I had watched some videos where people hacked their way to the end, but I insisted on doing it on my own.
Whenever I would hit a wall with my progress, I could ‘make a star’ for star tokens, which unlock presents. The presents help you cover greater distance easily but at the cost of starting over from stage one and resetting all of your progress. The Prince goes back to level one, and you must unlock all of the cousins again. This was so infuriating but so satisfying at the same time. Unlocking new presents and watching how effortlessly you can make it back to the stage you were at in a fraction of the time felt good. But you have to do this an absurd amount of times before making it to the end. It soon became clear to me that this game would easily consume the next couple years of my life. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care that my hands ached for days at a time. I didn’t care that other people mocked me for playing something so stupid. I was obsessed. Whenever I wanted to do something else like watch a movie or play another game, I couldn’t. I would just sit somewhere and tap for hours because I was sure I could make it to the end.
Eventually I became distressed. I knew I had a problem, but I couldn’t stop. After almost three months, I had had enough. I discovered a glitch that allows you to obtain endless candy by changing the time on your phone’s clock. I hesitated at first because I wanted to make it on my own, but after cashing in my star tokens and seeing how pitifully they helped this time around, I knew this game would consume my life for the next couple of years if I didn’t start cheating.
I had to cheat — every waking moment of my life was involved with Tap My Katamari, even if I wasn’t playing. I would think about how many coins my cousins would collect and how I would spend them. I would think about which presents to upgrade the next time I rolled a star. I realize how pathetic and sad this sounds, but hopefully it can help others who suffer from an obsession with this absolutely pointless waste of time. After cheating my way to stage 3,000, I could finally set myself free. I could still upgrade presents, and the OCD in me strongly advised me to do so. But there was no point. The game caps off at stage 3,000, so there was no reason to upgrade anything anymore. It also would have taken weeks to max everything out, so I bravely cleared the game’s data in my phone’s settings, checked to make sure that my entire game was reset, and deleted the thing once and for all. As soon as I did this, a feeling of freedom swept over me. Suddenly I could think clearly again. I decided I wanted to watch a movie and actually did it without tapping my phone in the background. My life was saved.