Patapon 3 PSP
Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment
Patapon was a stylish looking game which offered an original mix of strategy and rhythm based gameplay topped with a sprinkling of RPG elements. The result was very impressive and enjoyable. Patapon 3 differs a little from previous Patapon titles in that you're now controlling a small squad of Patapon rather than a whole army but the essence of the Patapon experience remains just as enjoyable.
As we mentioned at the top of this review, you aren't controlling an entire Patapon army in Patapon 3. Instead you'll take charge of a rather small squad of Patapon and a hero unit. At the beginning of the game you'll get to choose your hero character. You'll have a choice of Yarida (spear hero), Yumiyacha (bow hero) and Taterazay (shield hero). Yarida and Yumiyacha will confer attack bonuses on your Patapon whilst Taterazay offers the use of a protective shield. Once you've made your choice, you'll take part in some tutorials before moving on to the real battles.
If you haven't played a Patapon game before you might not be aware that you don't have direct control over your Patapon. You deliver orders to them through the use of drum beats. A drum is assigned to each of the four face buttons on the PSP. Circle, Circle, Square, Circle for instance will attack whilst Triangle, Triangle, Square, Circle will defend. You have to press these buttons in time to the music however. A beat indicator, a white line that flashes around the border of the screen, gives you some indication of the rhythm. In short it's a novel way of controlling your forces, although it's not a method that's entirely suitable for deaf gamers.
Your Patapons will level-up and gain new abilities as well as better weapons and armour throughout the course of the game. It's possible to over level-up your Patapon and make some of the battles rather easy by simply going on the offensive and using steamroller tactics on your opponent. However, at times the battles can still be challenging and the game does encourage you to not solely relying on the same four Patapon over and over again. There are times when you'll need to bring in different Patapon classes (you'll unlock several new classes throughout the course of the game) and whilst this is a good thing, it does mean that you'll have to try to keep the levels high for the bulk of your Patapon otherwise you'll have a mix of really strong and weak Patapon making up your team of four.
One of the problems I had with the original Patapon was that it didn't offer a multiplayer experience. Patapon 3 certainly doesn't suffer from this problem however. Online play is supported with the ability to setup a clan for up to 20 people. Some might bemoan the fact there is no voice chat, although that's by no means a disadvantage as far as we're concerned, but you can use pre-configured messages to communicate during a game. The game can be played co-operatively although the progress is only recorded on the host's game which is unfortunate but at least both players keep the experience and rewards earned during the co-op game.
The visuals in Patapon 3 are in the same style as those in the other Patapon games. The two-dimensional, simplistic artwork and use of colour may be basic but it's beautiful nevertheless. The design of the Patapons and the enemies you'll face are about as simplistic as you'll find in a PSP title and yet the game has much more visual charm than most games on Sony's handheld. From a technical perspective the frame rate remains fine and the load times are decent (particularly after a data install of just over 150MB).
Patapon 3 is pretty much the same as Patapon when it comes to its suitability for deaf gamers. You'll need to try and keep your button presses in time with the beat and whilst you do have a visual aid, in the form of a flashing border at the edge of the screen, it's much more difficult relying on this alone. Of course it's great that the developers did include a visual aid but Patapon 3 is much more challenging for deaf people than for those with the ability to hear. All of the dialogue in the game is exclusively in text and you can read this text at your own pace. Tutorial messages are shown in text too and whilst you're playing the game the four button combos for each of the orders you can issue to your Patapon are displayed at the bottom of the screen.
One of the biggest complaints with the PSP is that it's a handheld that's seen far too many ports from the PlayStation and not enough original content. That criticism is a little harsh however as there have been some impressive original titles such as LocoRoco and Patapon that you can't find on any other system. Patapon 3 is another fine addition to the series that does a few things differently but still manages to impress with its simplistic but addictive gameplay. There is a lot of depth to the game and there's quite a lot that for the sake of brevity we haven't covered in this review. Whilst there are some reservations that prevent me wholeheartedly recommending the game for deaf gamers (my advice would be to give the Patapon 3 demo a try before making a purchase), Patapon 3 is one of the better games on the PSP and the fact it's priced at well under £20 makes the overall package a rather sweet deal.