Patapon Review


Score: 4 out of 5Truly unique experiences are sought after like gold in the videogame industry today, but rarely does a work deliver on an off-the-beaten-path idea as successfully as Patapon for the PSP. In what can best be described as a linear real-time strategy/rhythm fusion game, Pyramid and JapanStudio have managed to provide great depth and engaging game elements in what is, at first glance, a very simple piece of software.

Upon loading Patapon, the player is immediately thrust into a starring role as the re-awakened god of the Patapon tribe, and is charged with leading them to “Earthend,” in search of “IT.” The fourth wall is obliterated. In order to complete the task, the Great Mighty Patapon (that’s you), must beat various rhythms on four sacred drums (the four face buttons) to command the little black and white eyeball warriors to advance, retreat, attack, defend, etc.

The traveling Patapon army starts off small, but grows as missions are completed. This is not an automated procedure, however; Patapons can only be birthed by combining raw materials such as woods, ores, and metals, as well as providing a certain amount of ka-ching (the game’s currency) per unit. There are six unit types in total, each with four different levels, based on the resources used to create them. Only three unit types can be sent into battle at a time, however, after being outfitted with a variety of weapons and armor picked up from fallen enemy warriors. It is up to the player to determine what configuration of troops will be optimal for each mission, as they all have different strengths and weaknesses. The extent of customization is surprising.

In terms of gameplay, though, Patapon can be a bit repetitive. This is a game about drumming, and drum you shall. In a move of pure genius (that was sarcasm), the developers decided to omit a pause function, so be prepared to shut out reality when it’s Patapon time. In the midst of a mission, there is no such thing as a telephone, computer, doorbell, dog, mailman, etc., there are only drums — only Patapon. That’s not to say that the game isn’t captivating as a whole, but that there are some parts (mostly early on) that are less exciting than others.

The way gameplay works is that the player drums the particular four-beat rhythm that corresponds to the desired action, and then the Patapons perform that action over the next four beats, singing away merrily (a merry killing song, of course). After that, the player picks things up again with the next four-beat command. Patapon isn’t your typical rhythm game in that it doesn’t throw button sequences at the player and expect them to match them or parrot back in some glorified game of digital Simon Says. The call-and-response style of traditional rhythm games like Parappa the Rapper and Space Channel 5 is in place, only here the player orchestrates and the game follows. The catalog (arsenal?) of commands available to the player can be strung together to accomplish goals as he or she sees fit. It’s rhythm-strategy.

The goal in any of the game’s missions is to move from left to right, defeating everything in your path. There is never any turning back, unless of course you quit — and “fail” — the misson. This particular aspect of the game seems representative of the inalterability of past deeds, and also helps to convey the determination of the Patapon tribe to achieve their ever-present goal of reaching Earthend and discovering the unknown IT. The player’s steady drum beat drives the tribe into what the game calls “fever,” where all of their actions become more pronounced, such as inflicting extra damage with every attack or easily retarding enemy advances. This is achieved by either by acceptably completing 10 four-beat commands in a row, or by pounding out four consecutive perfectly-timed drum beats. These are signified by full, echoed sounds as opposed to the more flat-sounding normal strikes. The music ramps up as the war band approaches fever, adding more complexity, new instrumentation, and of course awesome Patapon singing.

Finally, the game raises moral questions, like whether or not the Great Patapon is indeed working on the side of good, if the destruction brought about by the Patapon tribe is warranted, and if blind faith in an unquestionable god’s word is really the right way. You might notice that the Patapon’s eyes are always fixed on you or on something that you tell them to destroy. Do they ever notice anything else? No, they can’t…because they don’t look at anything else.

Good little warriors or bad, everybody should at least try out Patapon. It’s a great game.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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