LocoRoco was fun, but in the end fell short when it came to gameplay. With Patapon the makers made again a very charming and original game, one of the kind that gives the PSP its own identity. You play a god, get a ton of crazy followers and lead them through many battles, disappointments and enemies to their saviour. The way you do this is genious: by composing orders and calling miracles through your divine drums.
By pushing the face-buttons in-line with the music you can let your troops march, attack, defend and retreat. Next to these basic orders you can call for miracles (like rain clouds to cool them down in the desert) in the same way and help you men. Really cute is the fact that your followers will sing your commands when doing things correctly, or give a funny comment when you can’t keep the rythm straight (or give a non-existing order). The mechanics are incredibly addictive and fun and the music and repeated orders (pata-pata-pata-pon) will remain in your head for days.
Don’t underestimate the difficulty degree! After some beginner levels you’ll quickly have to respond to changing situations with the right commands and you’ll have to keep long periods of “Fever”-mode going. Fever is attained when you perfectly manage to give ten succeeding orders. The result is that your men will progress faster and do more damage when they attack. To help you sustain the rythm there are musical and graphical clues, but you’ll make a mistake more than once, especially when changing orders (and pushing other buttons), Fever starts or when you get interrupted by someone. The latter is very noticeable: concentration is necessary and hearing the music even more. That there’s no pause-function for when you get a call or have to go eat is very frustrating!
Next to give the right orders and maintaining Fever you’ll also have to collect resources (to make new troops) and weapons (to get better gear for your men). Here some repetition and frustration may occur as you’ll have to “level” and constantly replay the same maps over and over again to get better armies (there are archers, spearmen and grunts with axes). Too bad that there’s not more variation and fantasy in the weapons and armour as there’s little fun to be had by adjusting your men. An auto-button makes this even less exciting!
The variation and fantasy is something you do find in your enemies, large and small, the graphics and design of the levels. All this results in you for instance replaying maps when you lose one of your most loyal (and thus strongest) soldiers and that other people will want to look over your shoulder to see those cute little monsters die from your little spears.
Patapon is a very original, immersive and charming game. It has its flaws, like the lack of depth in gear and a too big need to replay levels, but that’s easily compensated by the fantastic feeling when you go into Fever-mode and your troops are going into battle against enormous and cute monsters while singing. A cutie, so to speak, and one you’ll forgive anything…