Patapon – Rhythmically wonderful, frustratingly addictive

 

Pata Pata Pata Pon. … Pon Pon Pata Pon …. Chaka Chaka Pata Pon ….  Pon Pata Pon Pata.  4 beats; 4 buttons; 40 incredible hours that will, without a doubt, be talked about for years to come.

 

This unassuming UMD has been among the worst culprits of dust-collection on my PSP shelf. Sure, I’ve heard Greg Miller sing its praises. Sure, I’ve seen the occasional cult shoutout that’s hit the ‘ol Twitter feed. Sure, I’m a big fan of Sony-centric rhythm titles. But for no good reason, it’s never been at the forefront of my backlog. In fact, it was only by the grace of CCPortable that I gave Patapon a chance. Once again…the Cartridge Club has introduced me to a true classic.

 

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“Patapon was a wildly engaging experience that captured my love of rhythm games…”

 

Patapon was a wildly engaging experience that captured my love of rhythm games of the era and dipped them into a universe rich with story, glory and true enjoyment. You, a revered (though not omnipotent) deity amongst the cycloptic Patapons, drum your way through an imaginative land of rival tribes, terrifying monsters, and the enigmatic entity known only as IT. Trekking the 20+ missions, the tale leads your people across Patapa Plains, through the Eyeball Forest, across the Deplorable Desert, and over Mt. Backikoi. A wonderful range of levels complimented by an equally wonderful range of gameplay mechanics.

 

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“…you’ll eventually be flying through levels with 200-button, unprompted combos.”

 

You, the player, must rhythmically press the PSPs face-buttons in a constant 4-on/4-off pace that translates to orders given to Hatapon, the flagbearer of your Patapon army. This is known as the Pulse of the Earth. Square, Square, Square, Circle? That’ll march your tribesmen forward.  Circle, Circle, Square, Circle? That commands your army to attack the Zigoton foes. Triangle, Triangle, Square, Circle? That’ll rally your forces into a defensive position. Sound complicated? It is – but only for the first few minutes of the game. For the next 40 hours, those combinations will become second nature to you. Without thinking, you’ll eventually be flying through levels with 200-button, unprompted combos. And it feels awesome! Get really good, and you’ll unleash Fever Mode which dramatically increases your army’s attack power, and becomes essential for taking out the eponymous ‘Gong the Hawkeye’ and his army of Zigotons.

 

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“…adds a healthy amount of grinding that may hurt the flow a little bit.”

 

But the game’s depth doesn’t stop there. With 6 unique Patapon types to mix and match into your battalion, a wealth of weapons, armor, and power-ups to equip your forces with, and an alchemy element to upgrade your soldiers – there’s so much here to keep you busy. Now I will say, this adds a healthy amount of grinding that may hurt the flow a little bit – and governed by these drum pulses, there’s sadly no way to ‘speed-run’ through levels. I’d say about 20 of those 40 hours was replaying levels to get more money (Ka-Ching) and better equipment. But don’t let that deter you – it’s incredibly fun.

 

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“A cartoonish art-style lends itself to the timelessness of the, sometimes fickle, PSP.”

 

Graphically, Patapon is beautiful as well. A cartoonish art-style lends itself to the timelessness of the, sometimes fickle, PSP. The levels are bright and colorful and vary with each landscape. When I think of the game’s desert levels, I think of golden sunsets and amber stonework. Thinking of the forest levels, emerald greens and lake blues. Zigopon strongholds; royal purples and bright oranges. Every level just exudes color. And coupled with a strong use of silhouette-work throughout the game, makes this one of the best looking PSP games I’ve played.

 

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“Tribal drumwork, childish timbres, collective cheers…”

 

Patapon’s music is more deserving than a single, cliché paragraph at the end of the review, but it really is unexplainable. Amazing in its own right, it takes a strong composition to stand up through 40 hours of repetetive button-mashing, and this game nails it. Tribal drumwork, childish timbres, collective cheers – all these seemingly random effects work together harmoniously to make you feel like YOU are driving the song. This short track should give you an idea of what you’re in for.

 

 

“At the end of the Earth, gaze upon IT and be granted true happiness.” It’s a phrase uttered throughout the game. And while I can’t promise true happiness, I can guarantee that you’ll walk away from the credits of this one-of-a-kind game feeling like you’ve just experienced something wonderful. I know that’s how I felt.

 

Get out and give it a try, and once you do, be sure to head over to the Cartridge Club forums to share your thoughts!