How do you squeeze a music rhythm game into the real-time tactics game? Ask PaRappa the Rapper developer, Interlink/Pyramid, who created the lovable Patapon for the PlayStation Portable. Patapon treads uncharted territory and does so with unwavering resolve, but do the quirky visuals and unorthodox fusion of genres yield a game worth playing? A resounding: “Yes!”
In Patapon, you assume the role of a god to a tribe of eyeballs with legs called, Patapon. As their god, they worship you and look to you for guidance during their quest to reclaim their land and conquer their oppressors, the Zigaton. The story isn’t the most compelling framework conceived, but Patapon isn’t about the story — it’s about gameplay.
In order to commune with your Patapon worshipers and guide them to victory, you have to issue commands via drum commands or “songs”. At first, the square (Pata) and circle (Pon) buttons are the only drum beats at your disposal. Commands, such as marching forward and attacking are performed by playing the corresponding song at just the right beat. With time, more songs and drum beats are made available. Fortunately, the game drip feeds these new commands in a gradual manner so you will have plenty of time to master them.
With enough successful command inputs, ‘Fever Mode’ is activated and the Patapon go berserk. They attack more frequently, throw more projectiles and generally become envigorated. It’s with ‘Fever Mode’ where I thought the game truly came alive. While building up the Patapon’s combo meter to reach ‘Fever Mode’, I felt I was merely playing ‘Simon Says’ with the little critters. Once I reached ‘Fever Mode’, with its lively music and the nonsensical chanting of tribal children, I felt I was synced with my little army and the game – very awesome.