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300 Word Review – Patapon

There are a lot of rhythm games out there, Guitar Hero, PaRappa the Rapper, and most of them are fun. Having all the combinatorial depth of Simon Says they are nonetheless incredibly compulsive. They are also though, very much rhythm games, and for anyone who has actually played an instrument they have about as much to do with music as a lightgun game has to do with firing a pistol. The motions are right, but the feeling isn’t quite there.

With all the grinding and equipping and sorting units Patapon doesn’t feel like a rhythm game. That’s because for the most part it’s a strategy game, with another game in place of clicking. Your army moves along a 2D, side-scrolling plane not because you’ve pressed a certain button but because you’ve tapped out the correct sequence of buttons along with a set beat. One sequence will move them forward, another will make them attack, etc. As you encounter enemies you have to string together these different sequences in order to repel and counter their attacks. You then go back to camp, create units, equip units, and maybe play a rhythm-based minigame for extra resources.

Patapon is a step in the right direction towards real music games. While you’re still limited to the game’s internal metronome you’re given some leeway in the notes, and at its best moments it’s your ability to improvise that allows you to succeed. Though the game eventually leans on boss fights that require nothing more that rote memorization, you can see in the core mechanic of Patapon another game where each battle would require more interesting and complicated improvisation. If any of the unique tunes created had a tenth of the personality of a StarCraft match, then that would start to feel right.

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