Patapon 2 might be one of the first “console” games to spin away from normal distribution routes in favor of digital distribution on the information super highway. Available exclusively on the Playstation Network, the sequel to the strategy/action/rhythm hybrid Patapon hits the network this month. If you have fifteen minutes (depending on your connection speed) and a few extra bucks you should check out the follow up to the critically acclaimed Patapon.
Patapon 2’s nature of distribution is bound to come up a lot given it’s the first major Playstation Portable title to do away with the traditional distribution route of packaging. Without focusing too much on its delivery, Patapon 2 can be easily obtained by hitting the Playstation store, downloading the 362 MB file and playing some Patapon action. From a publishing standpoint, money can be saved and consumers can get the product a lot fast then traditional means. However, if you don’t have an internet connection, or don’t want to sign up to the Playstation Network, there will be no downloading for you. Give, or take Sony decision to go the digital route, Patapon 2 is here, and I couldn’t be happier.
The original Patapon was a straight up hit. The quirky title came in hot off the visual stimulation from LocoRoco, to find a home with gamers who love a bit of the basics, a little strategy action and hitting a timed beat. Patapon might have been a niche game, but I now believe the niche is started to jump over to the mainstream. In Patapon 2 you will experience everything you loved about the original title with a little bit of “more”. For all the gamers who enjoyed the first game, there is no reason why you wouldn’t love the sequel. Patapon 2 is the perfect evolution for the series in its return.
For those who don’t know what “Patapon” is all about, it’s a strange little sucker that is one half rhythm game and the other real-time strategy action. It’s an odd mixture of gameplay elements in an even odder atmosphere that somehow comes together to make an endearing and interesting game. The word Patapon reefers the creatures you control in the game, a tribe of little one-eyeballed warriors that you control by drumming of patterned beats. You have to lead these little Patapon warriors across the wilderness fighting a new tribe that is at war with the Patapons. This other tribe, the Karmen usually have the upper hand and fight along side giant beats that dwarf the smaller, yet more resourceful Patapons. Through diligence, and a keen sense of rhythm you get to lead these creatures into battle as their king, their legend, their god. I know, it’s bizarre, and it is one of those games that are better to play then have someone explain.
As far as the plot line goes in Patapon 2, it doesn’t really affect the game. Besides the information that you will be fighting a new tribe, the four button drumming combinations and you’re plan of attack that will take most of your thinking abilities. Patapon 2 might be an absurd story, but being efficient at the game takes some concentration. By no means is Patapon 2 overly difficult; however there is a method to the madness. The main thing to remember in Patapon is that you can always try missions again, and the game is designed for repetitive battling to level up your soldiers to make some of the more difficult missions easier. On average I would say that over half of the missions you enter will be replayed. Patapon 2 is not one of those games you’ll breeze through in a few hours; expect to spend upwards to 40 hours battling it out with your little Patapons. You want replay value and longevity? Patapon 2 has it in abundance.
Now that I’ve gone over the basics, Patapon 101, let’s get into the changes made in Patapon 2. The first notable change is the inclusion of a few new units and how you evolve their statistics and classes. Each Patapon is put into a class and within these classes you can access an evolution tree to update and change your Patapons classes. This evolutionary tree is a million times better then the mixed up, item managing nature of the first game. The flow chart makes it easy to understand, and easier to micromanage your units, and the items you need to evolve each Patapon.
Evolving your Patapons gives them their own unique strengths and weaknesses. From a bonus to strength and speed to a resistance to fire, or a weakness to ice, you have more clear instructions in how to create the exact Patapon army you want. The tough part is snagging enough resources to conjure up their transformation. Resources are gathered in missions from killing beasts or destroying objects, basically the more you play, the more resources you gather, and the stronger you can build your army. More then statistical change the Patapon’s also change in appearance.
The three new units that inhabit Patapon 2 are the Toripon, a flying unit that bombarded the enemies with spears. The Robopon with their huge arms that act as the games straight-ahead brawlers... and finally the Megapon who is like the magic user, the wizards, the dudes who can cast different spells to help turn the balance of a fight. Like all the units in Patapon they have their ups and downs and need to be switched up depending on each individual mission. The new units are a nice addition to Patapon 2; however bigger, badder, and cooler are the hero figures... the Heropon.
Harpons are hero units that can access a number of power-ups from any Patapon class of fighter. The hero characters really change the balance of the game because of their individual strengths. Better yet, they can be revived after death to fight until the mission ends, or you complete the goal. The only thing to keep in mind is that they can not be revived if it’s down to only the hero and the flag carrier. When it is down to these two and your heropon dies that is the end of the round. Look for a number of heroes that each has their own devastating attacks from fire attacks, to freezing, or simply throwing a mean spear. Utilizing the heropon’s is critical to defeating some of the bigger and creatures and a welcomed addition to Patapon.
Marching along with the new hero class is a multiplayer mode. Multiplayer in Patapon is an interesting take and even though it’s active in local play only, it’s still a fun. In the multiplayer mode you can play against three other players battling it out against boss creatures. Sounds simple, it is, but there is one more hitch... the host select an egg that is gained by finishing a stage and this egg has to be carried in battle. When the multiplayer match ends there is a small memory type drumming competition in which you can gain a fair amount of new items.
One aspect of Patapon that can be a little dull is the monotony of replaying levels to looking for new loot, or for some routeen leveling. Replaying levels can cause you to blank out when trying to save up enough materials for certain upgrades.. Add in the factor that the amount and type of loot can change per level and you have a game that can become easily repetitive, and monetarily unrewarding. Another perspective to all this is that it expands the shelf life of the game and gives you a good reason to go back to some of the older levels and replay them. If you look at is this way, and don’t mind backtracking through old levels then you will likely be content marching forward through the assembly line of battles. Strangely enough, but a nice little addition, Patapon 2 features random weather effects in a level which can add a new, and unexpected level of depth to a level. Lighting can bust down from the sky igniting your little Patapon army, setting brush ablaze and making even a simple level become a challenging stop-and-go route. Any new feature that adds a bit of variety is welcome here.
Graphically, Patapon 2 is still outstanding. The visual art style stays in the same vein as the original and focuses the game on the little Patapon's and any colour that isn't black. The cutesy graphics might not be comparable to another title like God of War: Chains of Olympus, however in its own way, Patapon 2 has a more well rounded direction with a artistic flair that misses a lot of other titles. The sound follows the same drum beat with a wonderful and more diverse soundscape then the first game. The "Pata" language might get on some gamers nerves, but for me, I dig these little guys, and the songs that carry them into battle.
For $20, Patapon 2 is a sure winner if you are a fan of the original or want to an interesting, innovative rhythm game that is unlike anything else on the market. Besides take a minimalistic approach to running through the game, Patapon 2 has a lot of value locked up inside this involving strategy game to provide hours upon hours of entertainment. If you skipped the original for any reason, Patapon 2 is a safe purchase for gamers who don’t mind wrapping a game concept that in its second offering still remains new and fresh. Pata-Pata-Pon.
Gameplay:8.5, Graphics:8.5, Sound:9.0, Innovation:8.5, Mojo:9.0 Final: 8.7 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 05.18.09