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June 11 2009
Patapon 2 - PSP Review
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Patapon 2 on PSP has a unique visual style.
It was unfortunate that during the reign of the original Playstation (and even PS2) that there were so many Japanese games which were full of wackiness and awesome, yet never saw the light of day outside of Japan (unless you'd invested in a Japanese system, or a *cough* mod-chip *cough*). As ironic fate would have it though, now that the PS3 and PSP are both region-free systems for games (so there's no modding required), we're actually getting local releases of bizarre yet brilliant games like LocoRoco and Patapon. Some of which we're even receiving before the US releases! (are we in bizarre-world, or what?!). Patapon 2 is the latest title fresh from the land of the rising sun, and following in the footsteps of its precursor, it doesn't disappoint.

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Battles in Patapon 2 are intense!
Patapon 2 continues from where the first game left off; the Patapon (those little black and white critters) have built a boat and set off in search of the end of the earth. Through violent storms and scorching sun, they were a determined lot - determined to never give up... until they encountered a giant kraken that is. The kraken sank their boat, and the Patapon were left to wash ashore upon a mysterious island, inhabited by a new tribe known as the Karmen (the other critters, wearing the voodoo masks). In Patapon 2, it's up to you to guide the Patapon in to battle to defeat the Karmen, and continue their quest for earth's end.

The gameplay in Patapon 2 is so amazingly simple you really have to wonder why nobody had done it prior to the Patapon series. You beat a drum to order the Patapon (using the PSP's face buttons), each of which have a different sound; for instance square is ‘pata', and circle is ‘pon'. Different ordering of the face buttons will order the Patapon to do different things; pata-pata-pata-pon (3x square, circle) is the simplest, and will tell the Patapon to walk across the screen. The further you progress through the game, the more orders you learn, such as attack, defend, and more.

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Now that elephant is brilliant!
Beating the Patapon drum must be done in time to the wacky and zany background music, and what you order the Patapon to do is entirely up to you. Send them in to battle it face to face with the Karmen, or take a conservative role and let them duke it out from a distance. At its simplest, I guess you call Pataopon 2 a do-what-you-want music-rhythm game; you have to use set rhythmic patterns in time with the music, but it's really in a whole league of its own.

As if this weren't enough though, Patapon 2 allows you to further customize how many, and of which type of Patapon you will be sending in to battle; going so far as to equip them individually with weapons, shields and helmets. Items you gather up along the way can be used later on to evolve your Patapon into different classes which have different powers and abilities. Again, how you evolve your Patapon is entirely up to you, being able to choose which branches of the Patapon evolutionary tree you want your little critters to go down. It's a refreshing addition to the game, almost having a fresh waft of an RPG when you were least expecting it, and it works very well.

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Patapon 2 is uniquely Japanese.
In terms of the game's faults, there really isn't anything wrong with Patapon 2, it's just more a case that it doesn't offer a whole heap that hasn't been covered in the first title. Which, to the newcomers to the series (like myself) doesn't really matter, and given that you can pick the title up for well under $50 if you shop around you'll definitely get your money's worth here even if you enjoyed the original.

On a sidenote, Patapon 2 has also been released as a digital-only download in the US (while the game is available on both UMD or via the PSN in Australia); it'll be interesting to see how this affects sales of the game, being the first one to have a split release like this. Personally I think the digital-only format in the US will harm sales there – people tend to put more value into tangible things that they own; having a physical cartridge/disc/UMD that they can put a dollar value to rather than a bunch of 1's and 0's on a memory stick. It's a shame if that's the case, because this really is a great game.

The unique visuals of Patapon 2 look like something out of a weird silhouetted comic book, and really spring to life when in motion. For such a simple style of characters (looking like they're straight out of a Target ad, but in black an white), Pyramid have done a great job in bringing their characters alive. There's plenty of attention to detail, even down to the helmets and weapons of the individual Patapon, who physically change as you evolve them throughout the course of the game.

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Taking on Big Bird in Patapon 2! :)
If you hadn't gathered so far, the gameplay of Patapon 2 revolves around the aural experience, being backed by an almost atmospheric jungle-style beat. Immediately Following the orders that you give via the drum, the Patapon all repeat the order in unison as they charge into battle – and of course, the more Patapon you're ordering, the greater the effect. While the visuals do a splendid job at giving the little guys character, this is only backed up by the top notch sound effects. And without sounding like a complete nerd, it only takes afew sessions of playing this game before you're crossing the road next, the green man lights up, and a voice in your head speaks up with PATA PATA PATA PON!

Interestingly, Patapon 2 has been my introduction to the Patapon world, and this game is really unlike anything out there. It's half music-rhythm game, half RPG, and half god-knows-what, but at the end of the day it all comes together in a great big ball of fun. While it may not be pushing the most polygons in the world (if any at all), it has a brilliantly animated visual style backed by a unique soundtrack full of chanting little critters.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSSimple yet effective visuals show there's more to life than polygons.
GAMEPLAYSimple yet deep at the same time, and damn hard to put down.
VALUEHeaps of levels, secrets galore, and a steal at this price.
OVERALLPatapon 2 is a game you really have to play to understand what it's on about… and even then you probably won't have any more clue… but at least you'll be grinning from ear-to-ear. A great title, regardless of whether you go for the UMD or PSN version.

Talk about Patapon 2 in this forum topic now.