Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
Release Date: Out Now
If one game really stands out on the PSP as being truly original and creative it would have to be LocoRoco. The game was quite unlike anything we had played before and was a breath of fresh air at a time when far too many PlayStation 2 ports were appearing on the handheld console. Such was the originality and excellence of LocoRoco that it's a sure bet gamers are going to be interested in whatever the game's developers move onto next. Patapon does have some similarities with LocoRoco but it's essentially a very different game. Importantly however, it's another unique experience that's quite unlike any other game you may have played before.
Patapon is essentially a cross between a real-time side-scrolling strategy game and a rhythm game. There are even some RPG qualities to Patapon which further serve to increase the game's appeal. You'll play as the god of the Patapon tribe. The Patapons need the beat of their almighty's drum to guide them and it's up to you, using the four primary buttons on the PSP (the triangle, circle, square and X buttons) to beat out a rhythm that will guide them and ultimately help them defeat the Zigaton army who have occupied their homeland, Earthend, as well as guide them to see a mysterious object called IT. There are over 30 missions in which you'll hunt, rescue captured Patapons, attack Zigaton forts and engage in some challenging boss battles.
You can order your Patapons to advance, attack, defend, charge and retreat by pressing a four button combination in time with the beat. To advance for instance you need to press square, square, square and circle in time to the beat. Pressing the buttons correctly to the beat will result in your army of Patapons moving forward. Failure to the press the buttons in accordance with the beat will result in comments that let you know that you're not doing it right and the order you have given will not be performed. There are six different unit types in Patapon and they all have their uses. The different units are: Kibapon, Tatepon, Yaripon, Yumipon, Dekapon and Megapon. These are exotic names to be sure but they are essentially normal units such as archers, warriors, cavalry etc. The real twist is that you can only take three different unit types into a mission, so you'll need to choose carefully.
Whilst Patapon is a great single-player experience, it's disappointing in that there's no multiplayer element. You'll spend a fair bit of time developing your Patapons, unlocking new armour for them and so forth and it's a bit of a shame that you can’t take them into battle with other player's Patapon tribes or maybe even trade armour and other items that you've earned during the course of the single-player game. That said however, there's more than enough potential here for a sequel or maybe as a downloadable title for the PlayStation 3, which could come complete with a full range of multiplayer options.
The art style in Patapon is just as impressive and unique as it was in LocoRoco. The Patapons are strange looking creatures. They kind of appear like a round soft toy eye on legs which looks rather comical. The backgrounds are striking in their use of colour, in the same way that LocoRoco was, and the enemies you'll come up against are all high on visual charm, even though they are not exactly elaborate in design.
There can be no denying that deaf gamers will find Patapon more difficult than hearing gamers. As we mentioned earlier, it's essential to input your commands (with the four button combos) in keeping with the beat. Hearing gamers will hear the beat and will find it easier to input their button presses in time with it. Deaf gamers do have a visual aid to help them keep the beat (a pulsing border around the edge of the screen), which is useful but it's not easy having to keep your eye on the border and pressing the buttons in time. Thankfully there's a demo available for the game (from http://www.us.playstation.com/patapon/) so you can give that a whirl before you purchase. All of the dialogue in the game is shown in text so you'll always know exactly what's happening. All tutorial messages are shown in text too.
Like LocoRoco before it, Patapon is one of those experiences that's just difficult to put into words. The game is a unique experience in its own right. The game can easily be classified as one of the best so far on the PSP but at the same time it's fair to say that it's an acquired taste and not everyone will appreciate what it has to offer. Personal preference aside however, Patapon is one of the finest games on the PSP and along with the LocoRoco it's one of the most original. Everyone should at least experience what the demo has to offer.