Groovy, Great, and Genius
Pon-Pon-Pata-Pon…That’s the mantra you won’t forget once you play Patapon for the first time. Let me start by saying this is a unique title every PSP owner should play, as long as everyone’s willing to sacrifice their mental harmony for a bunch of army chants! The creators of the highly-praised LocoRoco are back with a new exceptional adventure. The two games are not all that similar, but you’ll probably find a few reminders when you play Patapon. The game is a mix of very basic real time strategy, RPG, and music games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero.
The whole premise of the game is to follow the rhythm in order to meet the goals of each quest. Your PSP will become a very slick instrument with four buttons that will double as drums. Each of the drums (X, circle, square, and triangle) will make different sounds, and specific button combinations will lead the army to perform different actions like advance, attack, charge, defend, etc. If you manage to perform nine combos and keep your cool, the Patapon army will enter Fever mode; your soldiers’ attacks will be much more powerful.
The Patapons are a cute tribe of eyeballs with spears, helmets, and more. They were exiled to other lands and now they’re back to reclaim what’s theirs with the help of yourself, the “Mighty One.” The evil Zigoton army will do its best to keep the Patapons away, but nothing can stop them now from reaching Earthbend, where they’ll find the mysterious “IT” they keep talking about. The Patapons are led by the Hatapon, a brave warrior who protects the Pata-Drum. He’s also the standard bearer. The rest of the army is made up of different Patapons of your choice. You’ll start with the basic Yaripons, strong spearmen. Later on you’ll obtain Yumipons, who can shoot arrows at great distances with their arches. There’s also Tatepons, who wield shields, axes, etc. The game will surprise you with amazing Patapon combinations and looks; the basic ones are all black and white, but when you build up your army a little more, they’ll show up in new colors and shapes.
Everything starts at the home base, Patapolis, which acts as the main menu. Here you’ll see the Patapons dancing around the fire in the Festival Plaza, and then scrolling towards the right or the left with the shoulder buttons you’ll see the Tree of Life (it combines the different ingredients you provide and creates new Patapons), the Treasure Room Altar (your inventory), the Stone Obelisk (where you select your missions), and a few mini-games. These mini-games help you obtain food and treasures. Ubobon Tree, a tree with an itchy head, dances to the rhythm of the trumpet; if you hit the right notes at the right time he’ll drop presents for you. The Rumbling Kettle is where Ra the Gashapon cooks delicious meals; here the knife will chop the food when you follow the rhythm. There are five mini-games in total that allow you to earn gear upgrades and bonuses.
Patapon’s main gameplay is found in the actual missions you’ll select by going to the Obelisk. In the Patapon World Map, you’ll see a list of the quests with icons representing the mission and the current weather. If it’s raining in the hunting ground, animals can’t smell you, so it’s your best chance to hunt and come back home with a bunch of meat/kill. In other levels, weather conditions may turn against you. That’s why later on you’ll pick up (one by one) the weather miracles, which you activate when in fever mode. For example, you can cause rain to help you go through the burning dessert or stop the wind so the arrows and spears reach the enemies appropriately.
Ultimately, you decide what kind of formation will be more effective for each quest, so you’ll have to keep in mind the kind of enemies you’ll be fighting and the weather conditions. The simplest quest happens in the Patata Plains hunting ground. You can easily get through this one and obtain plenty of ka-ching (the game’s currency) and meat that you can later trade in for new soldiers or you can also have the chef Gashapon cook you a hearty meal. You can go back to the hunting ground at anytime, which is good for collecting resources you may need.
Other levels involve intense battles against the Zigoton army and once you beat them you can’t go back to them. The boss levels are really fun and inventive. You can replay them whenever you want, but they get tougher and tougher each time you fight them. As you would expect from a boss, you’ll have to study their attack patterns before you can plan your strikes and counterattacks. The bosses look even more original than the Patapons themselves, including cool fire-breathing dragons, giant crustaceans, worms, and other reptile-looking creatures that weren’t as easy to identify. The game includes a total of thirty different levels full of ingenious characters and magical environments. If you were to throw imagination in a bottle and shake it, Patapon is what you’d get.
Certainly the graphics stand out the most. Not many games look as vibrant and imaginative as Patapon, which proves reality doesn’t always win. The French artist Rolito is the creator of the game’s addictive look. The comical 2D visuals will be hard to forget. The cute eyeball-looking characters are very simple yet full of detail, especially when you gear them up with upgrades. Each level was made with a good dose of imagination, and it will add new elements and vibrant colors to the formula. However, don’t think of it as a Katamari kind of game; instead, you’ll find perfect harmony in each scenario you visit.
Since the game is based entirely on music and rhythm, every player should be a good listener and have decent hand-eye coordination (or should I say hand-ear?). The troops’ actions will depend on your abilities to match their hilarious “chaka-chaka-pata-pon” kind of chants. They sound cute and funny, and at the same time almost mystical; they’re completely captivating and will turn you into a rhythm-robot. But beware! They do get repetitive. The background music is just as dramatic and engaging, and it plays an important role in the gameplay, as its beats will help you execute the proper commands at the right time. Funny enough, the background music will end up confusing you in further stages, which seems like it was done on purpose. All in all, the sound of the trumpets, drums, windpipes, etc. are the perfect formula to trap you inside the little world of Patapon. Just make sure to wear your headphones or pump up the volume of your PSP whenever you play the game; otherwise it will be almost unplayable.
Patapon is very revolutionary and inventive; it’s a one-of-a-kind game no one should miss. Even people who don’t usually play RPGs and RTSs will find this game to be a gem. Also, the more than acceptable price point of $20 makes it an unregretful purchase (unless you broke your sister’s piggy bank to go buy it!). There isn’t much to lose if you decide to jump into the game, except for the terribly catchy army chants, which are tough to get rid of once they stick in your head! Play Patapon, and see by yourself!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Vibrant and slick visuals make this game entirely unique. The characters are very cute and there’s a lot of detail within the apparently simple look. 3.8 Control
A little forgiveness would have made this game more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. It can be tough for those with less coordination. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The background music is very dramatic and engaging. You’ll hear trumpets, drums, windpipes, etc. The army chants are charming and funny, although sometimes repetitive. 4.4 Play Value
Love Guitar Hero and RPGs? You have to play this one! Collect cool items, battle the Zigoton army, defeat powerful monsters, cook up a hearty meal, etc. There’s a whole lot to do in this adventure! 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.