‘Patapon’ Pleases Persnickety PSP Player

Brent Wallace

Patapon is a rhythm game exclusively for the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) developed by Interlink, the makers of 2006’s LocoRoco. It is one of the most unique games available for any system as it combines aspects of rhythm games, real-time strategy games, and role playing games, all into one tight package.

The game isn’t without its shortfalls, but Patapon is unquestionably a game that anyone with a PSP should check out.

In Patapon, you are a god worshiped by the Patapons, who are essentially eyeballs with arms and legs. Your goal is to lead the Patapons against the menacing Zigoton army, which has already devastated the Patapons in the past. The Patapons ultimate goal is to reach Earthend and gaze upon what is simply referred to as “It”. It is a very simple premise, but it is more than enough of an excuse to get the whole game going.

The basic game play of Patapon has you giving commands to your army of Patapons by pressing a specific pattern of buttons with the beat of the music that plays during each mission. You beat these patterns using the PSP’s face buttons. With this simple system you can order your army to advance, attack, defend, retreat, and more.

Your army can consist of a decent variety of unit types. You can have javelin throwers, archers, infantry, cavalry, heavy weapons, and more. You can also equip each individual Patapon with more powerful equipment using the game’s robust equipment system. The missions in Patapon are varied enough so that you’ll want to try different unit combinations since the game only allows you to bring three unit types for each mission.

Make no mistake though: Patapon is a rhythm game at heart. If you can’t keep up with the rhythm, you won’t fare well no matter how powerful your army is. On the other hand, if you excel at keeping a good beat going, you can easily win battles that seem to be stacked against you.

Patapon has three types of missions for players to go through. These are hunts, battles, and boss fights. The battles are the main scenarios of the campaign and always have you facing various numbers of Zigotons. These scenarios are sometimes escort missions. The hunts are the primary way of gathering resources for making new troops in Patapon. The boss fights pit you against massive creatures that generally guard items of high value, either for proceeding in the campaign or creating more powerful troops.

Patapon’s main problem is its repetitive mission structure. All of its mission types suffer from this problem. The battles are all a bit too similar to each other, simply having you face against several waves of Zigotons that you must beat to complete the mission.

The boss battles are definitely the worst offender here, however, since there isn’t much variety in the tactics required for defeating them. It doesn’t help that the bosses’ attacks are too similar to each other as well.

Patapon has a total of 33 missions. When you have gotten through them, there are still a few things the game has to keep you occupied. The game lets you replay the boss battles and hunts as much as you want. There is some replay value here since the boss battles get tougher every time you beat them.

There are also a few mini-games that you unlock as you go through the campaign. These mini-games are all rhythm based and make for a fun diversion from the main game. You do have to pay resources to play these mini-games, but you’ll generally have the resources necessary for most of the mini-games readily available.

Graphically, Patapon has a sharp visual style with its silhouetted 2D graphics. The visual style is very attractive, and the frame rate is very smooth. Screenshots do not do this game’s graphics justice.

The game is also sharp with its audio design. The music in the game has a tribal sound to it, and it provides an entertaining rhythm to the game. The game doesn’t have any actual voiceovers, but the sounds the Patapons make while singing along with the music is well done.

All matters considered, there is nothing quite like Patapon available on any system. The game may suffer from a lack of multiplayer and repetitive mission design, but the entertainment value of the basic game play more than makes up for this. So if you have a PSP and want an entertaining and unique game, Patapon fits the bill quite nicely.

Released on Feb. 26
Retail price: $19.99
ESRB rating – E
Available: Retail stores.