People always wonder why I like the Dynasty Warrior games. "Each one is the same," they’ll say, "how could you possibly like them?" The answer is simple enough, yet they never really understand it. It’s that I liked the first game so much that the new ones just give me an excuse to play the same game once more. If you feel the same way, and if you enjoyed Pyramid’s innovative musical strategy title Patapon, then you’re probably going to enjoy Patapon 2. All of the successes and failures from the original game appear in its sequel, and while that will be just fine for some gamers, it will be a stellar disappointment for most.
The gameplay is identical. Players take control of Kami, a deity of the war-like yet cutesy Patapon tribe. As Kami, players guide the Patapons through combat by playing a four-note measure on the PSP face buttons. For the next four notes the Patapons respond in chant, and perform actions corresponding to the sequence of notes played. There’s a sequence for attack, defend, retreat, charge, and so on, and the game’s challenge comes from playing the right one at the right time. Players can also equip the Patapons with weapons before battle to better ready them for the upcoming scenario.
Like its predecessor – again – Patapon 2 combines charming visuals with quirky music, though a large portion of each is pulled from the first game. The stocky, one-eyed Patapons will make anyone smile as they dance in time with the music. The game’s scrolling 2D backgrounds also create a cool storybook look, and its music is charming and lighthearted. The Patapons cheer at every refrain, as each tribal beat explodes, and this works wonderfully when they slaughter tons of enemies and go absolutely nuts.
While the additions to the game are meager, they function well. Patapons now evolve and level up through an evolution tree that specifies what resources are needed to evolve a particular warrior to another type and, more importantly, the strengths and weaknesses of that type. This is a huge improvement over the first game that forced players to experiment with combinations and delete unwanted Patapons to make room. Patapon 2 also offers a multiplayer mode that puts players in charge of individual Patapons, but up against one of the game’s bosses. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work as well because human players don’t add much more fun or skill to the experience than their AI parallels.
The biggest problem with Patapon 2 is one that returns from the first game: no matter what you want to do in this game, sooner or later you won’t know how. You may just want to progress in the game and play the next level, but eventually you’ll hit a boss that you’ll fight for upwards of ten minutes before losing. Well, that just means you need to level up your Patapons, right? If you’re lucky, a hunting run will yield enough materials to level a Patapon, but any appreciable change requires at least thirty minutes of grinding.
Patapon 2 attempts to alleviate this by offering more ways to grind than its predecessor. Obstacle courses and new bosses are fun to challenge once, but the glamor wears off quickly. What’s worse is that Patapon 2 gives players zero information with specific goals. New unit types are uncovered in the evolution chart, but they aren’t visible before they’re unlocked. The player must accidentally upgrade the right combination of Patapons to unlock a new unit scroll.
Likewise, new equipment and rare materials are hidden away in the game’s stages, but the game offers only obtuse hints for finding them. As a result, many players will see the credits while only experiencing a fraction of the game’s content (assuming they can finish the game without finding important materials and equipment). This also contributes to the game’s lack of new content. While there are new unit types, weapons and stages, most players won’t find them without a walkthrough, which makes them almost redundant. After ten hours of play I didn’t unlock one of the game’s new units, much less have any idea of how to do it even if I wanted to.
Patapon 2 is for gamers with a specific mindset. The priority in this game is killing time. Progress towards any goal players set for themselves, be it finishing a level or unlocking a rare Patapon, is entirely incidental to killing time. If wasting the maximum amount of time is your goal, or if you loved the first Patapon and want an excuse to play the same game again, then Patapon 2 is for you. Players looking for a guided, stress-free experience should stick with more traditional fare.