Do you sometimes look at people playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band and just laugh at how ridiculous they look? You’re about to join their exclusive club with the head-bobbing, foot-tapping, rhythmic hand motioning game, Patapon. Looking back to 1997 with the release of Parappa the Rapper from Sony, who would have thought that 11 years later, the rhythmic crazed genre would still be alive and booming like it is? With Sony’s latest offering into the genre, Patapon may very well be the greatest thing to hit the PlayStation Portable since Lumines.
Big things sometimes come in small packages and that has never held truer than it has for Patapon. With your army of pint-sized warriors teaming up against large dragons, gigantic crabs, and rival Zigotons you’ll be placed in the driver seat in order to determine their fate and future. With their God disappearing and ultimately causing the downfall of their fierce army, it is quite the stroke of luck that their Almighty (you) has returned to them to help lead them to glory. The only problem is your magical chants have been dispersed throughout the land and you must fight in order to retrieve them all.
The leader of the tribe, Hatapon, will take up the banner of the tribe and lead his people into war with the sound of your beating heroics. With the Zigotons causing more trouble than they’re worth, you’ll find yourself leading the Patapons and their tribal leader Hatapon in the adventure of recapturing their land. From this point forward, you’ll be faced with over 20 missions and a control scheme that makes the entire experience come together.
The control scheme is very basic, yet fulfilling once you get it down. With a simple rhythmic tapping of the face buttons you’ll be able to make your Patapon army move forward, attack, defend, create rain, etc. Though this does sound like an easy concept to pickup and learn it isn’t always the case. The game will give you the musical aid and beat to play to, but it isn’t always easy to tap the buttons in unison. This becomes especially hard when you try to make it rain while crossing the desert. For example, this mission will involve hitting X, XX, XX. After playing the entire game with a simple four-button step, it’ll throw you off a bit to get the double-beat pattern right away.
As you progress further into the Patapon world, you’ll come across new drum techniques that will allow your Patapon to perform the different tasks. Straight out of the gate you’re given the ability to move forward and then you’re taught how to attack. From that point forward, you’ll come across defense stances and other various beats. The ultimate objective to the drumming is to eventually hit FEVER mode. This will happen once you’ve strung 10 combos together in perfect unison. The timing of your drumbeats will also become less forgiving in FEVER mode. If you’re a moment too soon or too late in tapping the drum, FEVER mode will end and you’ll be forced to build it back up. Once in FEVER mode you’ll be able to increase the power of your attacks as well as perform miracles that’ll help you traverse difficult plains.
One of the downfalls of the game and a lot of people tend to agree with this, is the fact that the game has you go back to certain plains to pickup things that are now available. The reason this is such a downfall is because the game never really lets you know you need to do this you kind of just have to figure it out on your own. While this may be only a minor snag, it may cause some mass frustration amongst more impatient gamers. However, with gamers who love having 100% of everything, this game has a lot of extra content to offer.
Patapon can be completed very quickly if you choose to blow right through it; however, for those who love to collect, you’ll have the option to build your army up with a large variety of Patapons. Though the game starts you off with the Tatepon, you’ll eventually be able to have a total of six different types of Patapon, each with its own specific strength. The Tatepon are armed with small axes and are usually placed on your front line. You’ll then run into Yumipons and Yuripons. Both of these types use projectiles to attack. The Yumipons will utilize arrows they fire from bows while the Yuripons will rely more on their projectile spears.
The other three attainable Patapons are the Megapons, Dekapons, and Kibapons. These three Patapons are very strong and each have their own skill sets as well. We won’t go too into detail so you can enjoy the experience of discovering them on your own. One of the strategic properties of the game involves, troop deployment strategies. You’ll only be able to take out three different types of Patapon into battle with you. This means you will have to figure out which combination of troops works best with one another in order to create a more powerful army.
In order to create more Patapons of a certain type, you’ll have to have enough Ka-Ching (money) and enough items that are required in the creation process. Some Patapons cost money + tree branches + ore to create. Of course, don’t expect to make a thousand of one type, as each Patapon as a limit on how many you can have. You’ll also be responsible for equipping these newly spawned Patapons as well.
In order to gain control of stronger weapons for your Patapon, you’ll have to attack Zigotons in battle. Slain Zigotons usually drop weapons or armor for you to equip onto certain troops within your army. Though this does bring forth the question, “Why can’t I buy weapon upgrades?” It brings forth a sense of achievement when you finally have your Patapon all decked out and ready for the wars to come.
Outside of these basic principles of the Patapon universe, you’ll also be treated to a couple of mini-games as well. These mini-games are very addictive and are almost as much fun as the core gameplay itself. One mini-game involves making a tree, dance. You’ll blow your trumpet horn in unison with how the tree tells you to, and if you succeed, he’ll dance the night away while dropping supplies that help you create more Patapons.
The serious issue gamers may have with the title is the inability to pause during missions. Considering how important it is to follow the rhythm, it is highly annoying to have your concentration broken when someone is talking to you across the room. We understand that pausing would break the rhythm as well; however at least you wouldn’t be dying while the game is paused. On top of this issue, it’s surprising that there isn’t an in-mission save function either. You’ll be forced to play through without the thought of saving. Yes, you could utilize the handy sleep mode, but that will definitely screw you up when you turn it back on.
The look and feel of the game is incredibly well done. Patapon offers you a vibrant world that is full of beautiful vector designs and is very pleasant to your eyes. While the graphics may be simplistic, that does not hinder the game whatsoever, it almost increases the enjoyment you get from it. Along with this, the music for the title is also very addictive. It is filled with common and simple beats, yet the excitement your on-screen Patapons display with this music make it more than enjoyable. You’ll often find yourself humming the drum patterns to yourself.
Despite the couple of flaws the game has, nothing can truly take away from the complete enjoyment that the game will bring its user. Patapon is a refreshing feel in a world of games that seems to slowly be slanting towards the FPS/TPS genre. With a ton of PlayStation Portable games available, yet so few must-own titles, Patapon has easily sneaked its way into that category.