The Patapon craze has died down, but if you hit up any random message board and ask for PSP recommendations, several people are going to proclaim it to be among the best games that the PSP has to offer. Well, after giving Patapon a more than fair chance, I’ve got to come clean with my feelings on the game. Patapon is a fraud. I don’t want to get into the argument of PSP fans overhyping mediocrity (it happens A LOT), but Patapon is their prime and shining example. The game isn’t worthless, but it’s full of crippling issues that would need to be addressed in order to make the game fully enjoyable. So, let’s dig into exactly why Patapon falls short.
Rhythm Games Should Encourage the Beat
I’ll start off with my biggest gripe. Patapon is a rhythm action game with a cool style. You control your army of Patapon by keeping beat and by using pre-determined button sequences. To advance, you do one series of buttons presses, to attack, you do another. Each time you successfully execute a series of presses, the Patapons will echo your beat and then do what you commanded them to do. The problem is that there isn’t any consistent and reliable beat in the soundtrack. Even when the Patapon echo your beat, it’s not always ON BEAT. In fact, many times your Patapon will echo back the words of the beat, but at the wrong tempo. Once you hit Fever mode (triggered by several consecutive on beat button sequences), the Patapon REALLY stat to echo the wrong tempo. It’s infuriating. A good rhythm game encourages you to stay on beat, not challenges you to push through the BS the devs thought would be cute to throw at you. The result is a game that never really lets you connect with the sounds of the game, but rather has you relying on your own foot tapping to keep going.
Fever Mode will piss you off. The Patapons go crazy and mess up your beat.
Rhythm Games Rely on Variety – Patapon Lacks It
Another serious issue I have with Patapon is that the game lacks variety. There are basically 3 major commands in the game: March, Attack, and Defend. There are some other tweaks here and there, but for the most part you just cycle through three button sequences over and over again. Sure, the levels change, but here’s the game in a nutshell. Do the March until you come upon an enemy, do the Attack sequence until enemies are gone, March until another enemy, and repeat. In a boss encounter, you March until you’re within range, and alternate between Attack and Defend. The occasional Fever Mode will kick in, but it doesn’t do anything more than just increase your attack power. There are some minigames in Patapon, but they’re pretty simple. However, despite the simplicity of these minigames, they can frustrate as well. Again, the game doesn’t always provide you the proper tempo to match with your own rhythmic button pressing. After a while you just tire of the minigames.
The minigames don’t hold your interest for too long.
Level Grinding in a Rhythm Game?
Patapon isn’t well balanced, and as a result you are forced to level grind to improve the strength of your Patapon. This is a huge design flaw, if you ask me. The action in Patapon should be a compliment to the rhythm foundation of the game. If you keep the beat, you should keep advancing. That is not the case. If you don’t spend time strengthening up your forces by replaying old levels repeatedly, you will not advance deep into the game no matter how perfectly you execute your button presses.
Wanna beat the bosses? Get to grinding, son!
It’s Not All Bad
Patapon has a certain charm and visual style that is very, very, appealing. The game is priced right ($19.99), but it’s definitely another overhyped and overpraised title by the Sony swarm of faithful fanboys. There are much better PSP titles to dedicate your time to that aren’t getting the same amount of praise; and I would encourage everybody to look into those games. I know this post is coming late after the release of the game, but SOMEBODY had to stop the endless hype.
Despite its frustrating aspects, the game looks amazingly cool.