After only a few hours play, we hated Patapon. Every time we marched into battle our tiny tribe of eyeballs would be mercilessly blackened by everything the evil Zigoton army threw at it, no matter what we did. Not even the singing tree and the small trumpeting soldier could lift our mood. Should something that looks this sickly-sweet be so taxing? It's more surprising given that the Patapon team also made the super-accessible LocoRoco. But a few swears and several successful missions later its quirky, strategic charms won us over.
Patapon is deceptively deep for what is essentially a Bemani game. Its glossy exterior hides a serious amount of micro-management, RPG elements and puzzles as genius as they are tough. But stick with it and you'll be rewarded with a unique and fun experience. You play as the Almighty Lord of the Patapons, who's returned to guide them to victory over the evil Zigotons and reclaim their homeland.
You do this by beating out sequences in time with the music, using w (for a 'Chaka' sound), q (Don), r (Pata) and e (Pon). For example, tapping r, r, r, e (or Pata, Pata, Pata, Pon) will make your army advance from left to right. Tap out sequences perfectly in time with the music and you'll eventually light up Fever mode. This will make your troops will become more powerful, but skip a beat and they'll curse at your sloppiness and fall over.
New skills, like evading and powering-up, are unlocked along the way, and there are even miracle spells to learn. You can conjure these when you bang the Don drum (q) during the Fever. A Rain miracle will unleash the obvious downpour, but it'll also sprout plants in dry places and help you to cross hot surfaces, while the Tailwind miracle means your archer's arrows will fly further. It's not as complicated as it sounds, and the catchy chants of the Patapons will soon burn themselves into your mind as you recite them loudly as you play.
You'll spend most of your time tweaking things in the Patapon camp. Here you can shuffle your army around by - for example - bringing in long-range
There are huge, screen-filling beasts in epic boss battles. You can return to these fights at any stage to power-up your troops by overcoming them, but they will get tougher as you go experts like archers or axe-wielding grunts who'll provide your first line of defence as the enemy advances.
There are even cute little Patapon knights that ride horses and carry lances. And though your weapons and soldiers level up after each mission, you can still juggle their equipment around with items you find in battle, like fire-spears that set foes ablaze or sturdier armour for durability.
And because you'll be razing giant fortresses to the ground, there's a devastating catapult to help. There's also the Mater Tree, which when fed with various materials (metal, wood, stone and certain meats) gives birth to new breeds of warriors.
And when you think you've seen it all, Patapon throws in some quirky minigames. There's one which tasks you to tap a giant baby mountain's toes to make him laugh and drop materials for the Mater Tree, or one where you prune a huge plant, which sounds like it's in the throes of passion.
While it's not as complete as LocoRoco and some will find the button-tapping premise repetitive, Patapon is one hell of an addictive and original title. Just bear with the initial frustration and you'll soon be marching to victory.
Yes, it's monotonous at times but you've never experienced anything like this. Completely unique.