Monday, February 25, 2008
Patapon is a rhythm-based platform game created by the same people who brought us the incredibly under appreciated LocoRoco. Unlike the more traditional rhythm games like Gitaroo Man, the game involves you, the Almighty of the Patapon world, beating your sacred drums to create a rhythm which will motivate your tribal creatures to do your bidding. The game is mixture of real-time tactics genre (think Shogun: Total War, but in 2D) coupled with the rhythm part to navigate your miniature troops through a variety of environments like swamps and deserts and battle their enemies - the Zigotons.
Drum beats are simulated via the four face buttons. Your cute warring critters sings to get the rhythm going, then as god you will have to play your drums to their rhythm. For example: Pata Pata Pata Pon (which is square -> square -> square -> circle), instructs your tribe of blood lusting morbid killers to move forward; and Chaka Chaka Pata Pon (triange -> triange -> square -> circle), which orders your Patapons to defend themselves. The four edges of the PSP's screen with pulsate with the rhythm. Timing is crucial when beating as even a miss of a micro second will cause your worshippers to start throwing insults at you.
Missions are condition-based. You can head down to the Patata Plain to hunt animals to increase your Patapon levels as well as to harvest new equipments, or participate in battle with the Zigotons. Either way, the Patapon army can be customised before each missions. This allows you to equip them with different weapons as well as arranging them in formations of three squads (each squads having up to six Patapons, all equipped with the same weapons). Yaripons (archers) for example should be dumped way back where as Tatepons (sword bearers) should be placed on the front.
Unlike LocoRoco, Patapon is much more challenging, especially if you have not developed a sense of rhythm. The challenge is in the timing, but anyone who has a couple of hours experience with a gamepad should be fine. Combos can be raked through perfect timing execution as you go from chanting to beats, rinse and repeat. Those hoping for a carefree gameplay similar to LocoRoco should look elsewhere, as apart from some visual similarities Patapon is anything but.
Speaking of visuals, Patapon is gorgeous. Like LocoRoco, it eschews three dimensional graphics for simply two-dimensional detail. Colours are sparsely used, and whichever hues are on the screen are very vivid. Creature designs done by French artist Rolito are heavily stylised - the Patapons themselves are miniature eyeballs. Artistically, Patapon is unique in today's video gaming industry where polygons are often used to judge a game's visual merits.
As far as the game is concerned, there is no problem I can think of. The only one issue I had with the game is this: I find myself chanting out loudly in rhythm with the game, so it would be highly unlikely I will ever get to enjoy this in the public. Which is disappointing in my part as this game does deserve every bit of publicity it can get.
But I do have a complain and it is the price. While American games get to play Patapon at a budget price (US$20), we in PAL land are slapped with rather insulting £25 retail price. Amazon UK has it for a more palatable £20 if you really need soon, but those willing to wait a bit longer should import the US copy from MovieTyme where the game is available for only £12. But don't let that put you of, Patapon is a highly recommended game for fans of adventure, strategy, RPG and rhythm games alike and the price barrier should not stop you from enjoying it.