The first Patapon was something of a success. The PSP game was a hit with critics and some gamers, but never really set the sales charts on fire.
Which was a shame! After all, it was simple, it was cute, it was a first-party game, it was everything the PSP needed to get people remembering they could still play games on it. But, for whatever reason, it never caught on.
Which brings us today to the game's sequel, Patapon 2. Can the addition of some new units and an ad-hoc multiplayer mode help push the series into the PSP limelight, alongside its spiritual sibling LocoRoco?
It's More Patapon – This game is a rehash. We'll get to the downside of that later. But on the upside, it's more Patapon! More missions, more rhythm-based combat. It's nice to see the little guys again.
I Need A Hero – Perhaps the biggest single addition to this sequel is the introduction of a "hero" Patapon, a single character who acts as a sort of "avatar" for your army. Like normal Patapon you can level him up, but since he's nigh on indestructible, he'll not only see you through most missions, but you'll grow awfully attached to the little guy. I named mine Bill.
The More The Merrier - The other big change for Patapon 2 is the addition of an ad-hoc multiplayer mode. It doesn't really add much, just a simple two-stage multiplayer mode, but if you can somehow find one or more other people who own the game, it's a good laugh hearing other people chanting "pata pata" as strangely as you do.
Patapon 1.5 – I'll pull up short of calling Patapon 2 lazy, but boy, is it similar to the first game. Too similar. Same interface, mostly the same Patapon (a few new ones are added later), same bad guys, same challenges. You'll quickly get the impression this could have been released as extra content for the first game, not spun out into a whole new product.
Experience Required, Apply Within – Patapon 2 features an all-new leveling system, based on an "Evolution Tree", which lets you redeem cash and items in exchange for fine-tuning your Patapon improvements. Problem is, the tree – along with other things, like the game's new "fever" (ie combo bonus) system and how to actually use things like the Hero Patapon – aren't ever really explained. Patapon veterans will get a handle on things, but if you're new to the series, it'll all seem a bit overwhelming.
Patapon 2 is, sadly, a bit of a disappointment. With Sony's renewed push on the PSP, and with the critical (if not commercial) success of the first game, this should have been one of the shining lights of 2009 for Sony's handheld.
Instead, it's a glorified expansion pack. Which will please existing fans of the series no end, but really, the original game - and the PSP itself - deserved something a little more approachable and a little more of an improvement.
Patapon 2 was developed by Japan Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. To be released on May 5 in the United States, will retail for $20. Played single player campaign to completion, played 3 games of ad-hoc multiplayer.
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