atapon is a hard game to classify under just one specific genre. It's part rhythm game and part strategy, with a slight underpinning of RPG aspects. It is, however, 100% fun.
Patapon is a thoroughly enjoyable game. Players are able to get a full sense of accomplishment when they do well in a level, while the game doesn't come across as completely punishing to people who are not that good at maintaining a rhythm. The game starts up with a brief history of the Patapons. They were once great warriors of legend searching to find "IT." Unfortunately, the current group of Patapons is a mere shadow of their former greatness, having been cast out of their homeland by the Zitotons. Having been introduced, you're asked to become the god of the Patapons. By agreeing you're given your first drum, and meet Hatapon, who will give you your next drum. It is with these drums that you'll start to lead the Patapons back to glory, and once again pick up the search for IT. Not the most original of stories but it does work as an excellent motivator.
Drum the Patapons into war fever.The game has a very unique visual style. Objects and characters are done in a very simple manner using primary colors. In spite of this simplicity characters have a unique visual flair that's very attractive artistically. Sound-wise you'll be hearing a lot of drums. There are a few other bits of music thrown in; but these only serve to distract you from paying attention to the proper rhythm. You'll also be hearing the Patapons chant. A lot. Seriously: you'll probably end up hearing it in your sleep. Surprisingly enough, all the chanting doesn't end up being annoying — but I can't vouch for what any other people in the room may think. You may want to consider wearing headphones while playing, especially in public. What is very clear is that the game has very impressive visuals that are reflected in its sound design, as well.
As with most rhythm games, the controls are deceptively simple. The four face buttons control your drums, and each bar that you play has four beats to it. The trick is keeping the rhythm going. To help the player maintain the beat, audio and visual cues are given. Each of the two visual cues — a small white border around the screen and the combo marker — pulse in time with the proper beat. While they shouldn't be a substitute for listening to the beat they do serve as a helping hand to people who have a hard time playing rhythm games — as well as those who have problems hearing the beat in the first place.
Once you get a rhythm going the gameplay follows a set pattern: drum, Patapons chant/sing, drum, repeat. Though this sounds repetitive there is actually a goal behind it, which is to drive your Patapons into a "Fever." Once in Fever mode, Patapons are much more effective warriors. They attack more often, harder and faster. There is quite the sense of accomplishment when you finish levels without breaking Fever. And, too, the game rewards you when you sustain Fever for a long time by giving you more items and money drops from defeated enemies or stunned bosses.
Speaking of enemies — they are an absolute joy to fight. They give you a decent challenge and if you do well you'll hopefully get some items out of them. There is no greater sense of pleasure than to wipe out a horde of Zitoton warriors. I would liken it to a very cartoony version of 300. Boss fights are particularly rewarding. It's always great to see your small Patapons take on these gigantic creatures and end up overcoming them. There is just enough challenge to them to make fights difficult but not so much that the game's impossible. As an added bonus, those wanting an additional challenge can go back to fight bosses again. Although bosses grow stronger each time you defeat them, it's not a bad idea to go back and fight them anyway since there are many rewards to reap from doing so.
Monsters don't scare Patapons.
Lilliput, move over.There is a small variety of units to choose from, most of which you'll have to earn to be able to use them. Each one is well suited for a particular combat role that allows the player some freedom in planning out battle strategies. Weapon choice has enough variety to keep things interesting while giving the player some options. The Patapons can themselves be upgraded with the items you collect.
There are a few drawbacks to this game. The most glaring: an almost criminal lack of a pause button. Developers tried to offset this by keeping levels fairly short, as well as to allow players to leave battlefields with no penalty. Another issue is in how difficult it is to obtain items. While you do earn them by playing well, the items that you receive are distributed at random, which can make creating certain Patapons difficult; or even more critically, prevent you from properly outfitting Patapons for the more difficult battles. Even if you do get an item drop that you want it may be almost impossible to obtain it, as dropped items disappear after a short while. It is possible to lose these items entirely as Zitotons will advance on you very aggressively.
Despite these few drawbacks, Patapon is an excellent game. The Patapons themselves really start to grow on you. You might find yourself singing along with their songs and feel a little bit sad when some of them die. Even if the game's audio appeals to you, the $20 price tag should at least entice you to try it out. The experience is rewarding enough to dust off your PSP.