April 21, 2011

Review – Patapon 3

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 2:01 pm

Patapon 3
I’m never long for thinking of Sony’s palette-perfect cave-art-in-motion Patapon without also thinking of that other treasure on the PlayStation Portable, LocoRoco – and vice-versa. Both titles livened up Sony’s handheld offering with a breath of fresh air, largely composed of daring dabs of color as vibrant as the twist of controls that presented both as prime reasons for early PSP ownership. But, both titles also offered an experience that seemed to leave little room for growth, largely saying all there was to say the first time around – though that didn’t stop either from broadening the brush strokes with sequels that struck a few new sparks for the trouble.

A third swing at the bat saw LocoRoco take a strange move off a cliff however, seeking to serve as some form of “lost levels” for that franchise, and directly creating a game with enough sadistic spirit to do the dark lord proud whilst also chasing many gamers away.

Where Patapon 3 could have taken a similar dive from the heights of previous critical praise – changing the beat for the sake of change – this newest march to war strays from the depth of previous entries to create a more ideally portable extension to the rhythm.

While I won’t suggest that the latest entry in the rhythm series will offer veterans what they might be expecting or approve of at first glance, Sony’s latest bang at the drum manages to prioritize the reasoning for another dance session, fearless in the act of cutting away previous trimmings to defy the odds of that move and offer up a title that does the mobile agenda right. That said, I suspect many familiar with the previous releases will lament the subtle touches and scenic environmental joys that have fallen away with this release.

Though the game begins with a heavy musical rift that brings the word “extreme” to the tip of one’s tongue, “streamlined” is the more apt word to apply to the direction – “personal” might also prove useful, as the game asks players to directly share an identity with one of three Uberheros differentiated by weapon and play-style.

Assuming that role, players lead three other Patapon into battle against the typical hordes of rivals and beasts, focusing solely on those battles in the absence of many other concerns that have now been striped away. Item searching isn’t a matter of hunting down specific enemies for instance, many spoils from the battlefield can be broken down into ka-ching and baser elements to be put to use by a blacksmith that upgrades weapons for your party. As that party levels up, a fairly straightforward set of screens allow certain perks to be activated and the class of each of those four Patapon can be changed to bring different skills to the battlefield.

Once again, many of the deeper quirks and time-consuming elements of the series have fallen away – I do so lament the way Patapon no longer celebrate successful battles with a triumphant march home.

But where this will surely leave some finding fault for the cuts, I’ll suggest anew that this third outing has a more direct line on offering the core rhythm game to players on the go, sans a lot of management concerns. This creates a more immediately accessible experience for newcomers – the rhythm seems more forgiving than ever while ever ready to reward perfect timing – but it also offers series regulars a game that is entirely more about the business of busting beats on the go. In essence I’m going to side with the idea that there are two very deep Patapon games in existence already, and rather than retreading that ground, Patapon 3 is about the lethal efficiency of rhythm on the road without many of the eccentricities.

I came to this conclusion while repeatedly failing a stage but suffering no consequences, suddenly feeling a lot freer to experiment within stages and take more chances, and worrying far less about the outcome – I wasn’t married to the experience, I was able to jump in and out more casually, and in a strange way enjoyed that freedom as much as I’ve previously enjoyed the deeper commitment of the first two releases.

A big part of this release is multiplayer, with Patapon 3 offering both ad-hoc and infrastructure play. Versus and co-op opportunities are going to rely a lot on friends picking this title up along with you, and so far seem populated by harder edged players that will leave you grinding to catch up in the ranks to find more balanced matches. Coupled with the straightforward nature of most stages within the game proper that allow for rapid grinding, Patapon 3 clearly represents a game intended to be played with others.

An interesting part of the multiplayer experience is the inclusion of a slip of paper inside the box for Patapon 3, which you certainly wouldn’t want to lose since it provides a code that entitles you to a digital strategy guide, and perhaps more importantly, the right to play the game online at all – so word to the wise if you’ve pick the game up secondhand and are wondering what server usage agreement means.

If that doesn’t rub you the wrong way, Patapon 3 also asks players to flip through and agree to several pages of legal speak, every single time the game is booted up – perhaps moving us ever closer to a time when each and every game comes with its own lawyer.

Those complaints aside, Patapon 3’s new priorities may fall short of creating an ideal trilogy for the franchise in the narrative department, but the release does hit all the right notes for brief and mobile bouts of PSP therapy.

Japan Studio, Pyramid

Sony Computer Entertainment

PlayStation Portable

Singleplayer, multiplayer

Release Date
April 12, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

1 Comment »

  1. Re: Legal Garbage – Really? Man… it’s almost as if companies want people to steal their games instead of buy them. It’s bad enough you have to enter codes and do online checks and etc… now you have to agree to legal mumbo jumbo every time you boot up? Ugh.

    Oh… nice review btw! ;)

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — April 21, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

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