As time goes on, things get more complex. The big beasties start to demand a bit more strategy, and those damnable Zatagons aren’t messing around either – they’re fielding cavalry against me and trying to ambush my Patapon team. We’ve got burning deserts to cross as well, and I’m not a miracle worker. Except, it turns out that I am. Build the Patapons into a fever and I can then cast magic spells, causing water to pour down on the desert and keep my people safe from harm. I just have to repeat the right beats in the right order. This is the surprising thing about Patapon; what looks like an extremely simple rhythm action game soon reveals hidden depths. With new miracles to learn, new beats to master, new equipment to dish out to your units and new units to put out on the field, there’s always something that keeps the game fresh and interesting.
Sometimes, this depth isn’t completely to the benefit of the player. Patapon is also considerably tougher than you might expect, and in some missions a missed beat or a fluffed fever is all you need to put you from ahead to dead in a matter of seconds. Some of the larger battles or bigger creature encounters hit you with a sheer, brick wall of difficulty, and the only way to overcome them is to return to past hunting ground and collect more resources, while also repeating boss battles – which get harder every time – to build up the strength of your Patapon forces. This is slightly annoying, and it almost, almost, almost turns one of the most accessible and instantly enjoyable titles on the PSP into one that more casual players may learn to hate.
Luckily, it doesn’t, and it’s mostly thanks to the game’s visual style and the charm of the Patapons themselves. Patapon comes from the team that created LocoRoco, and like that game it ditches 3D for a distinctive, illustrative 2D look. The results are wonderful, and while the graphics might be simple, you have to admire the skill with which the camera zooms in and out and back and forth to constantly give you the best view of the battleground, not to mention the ingenious design and animation of the creatures and – particularly – the bosses. From giant fire-breathing lizards to weird crab-like monstrosities, these are a treat, and working out the right beats to use to defend against their various attacks is arguably the biggest challenge of the game.