Sony Japanstudio have given the world a now piece of cartoon madness, where tribes of cyclops obey the mad drumbeats of yours truly.
Read my Fidget Review here
What is a Patapon, you ask? A one-eyed cartoon tribesperson, who lives only to follow the commands sent through the rhythmic thumps of four drums. These hapless minions are led by drumbeats from the “Almighty” (i.e. you); who makes them do everything from walking and fighting to performing the odd rain dance by beating on the main keypad.
Thankfully, your rhythm needn’t be spot on, or this would be impossible. You lead the pons through many lands fighting armies, bosses, besieging castles and even stopping for a spot of hunting now and again. All on the way to world’s end to gaze upon “It”, whatever that might be….
It’s a curious side-effect of rhythm games, that the tunes ought to stay memorable and most of all repeatable. The one thing they shouldn’t be is mind-numbingly irritating. When that occurs, the game stops being fun and things often end with the console being thrown at the nearest wall.
Tragically, it’s on such a bum note that Patapon trips up. Having to plug through the same few beats over and over again really starts to wear you down. Despite how easy it is to complete the same four button-presses, the relentlessness of the main few rhythms for moving, attacking and defending are repeated so often that you start wishing the game would just let you use an arrow button.
But the eventual musical attrition aside, the game keeps you enthralled. Patapon is great to look at, and the cutesy cartoon graphics are charming in a very silly way. The gameplay has a casual learning curve, and the ability to up your stats when stuck by either re-facing defeated bosses or going on hunting trips. Later on, rather than being an option, these become essential and luckily are great fun. There are also various secrets and power-ups to be found during these interludes. But it’s not all marching and fighting; there’s a well built system of troop management at work here as well. Throw in some tune copying mini-games and you’ve got a good time on your hands.
Really, the trouble with Patapon is that the good game here is constantly hit with large flaws. Ignoring the eventually annoying beats, there are a few other real snags. Changing your line-up is time consuming in the extreme, and on some missions it just isn’t clear what you’re doing wrong. Also, for a portable game, it requires far too much concentration; to beat the missions you need to keep the Patapons in Fever mode, which takes either a handful of timing-perfect beat combos or ten sloppy ones. Even then, a single missed note will send you back to zero. Unless you’re playing quietly at home or wearing top-of-the-line headphones, background noise and distraction will mean instead of being fun, it’ll just frustrate and irritate you.