Strengthened tactical elements and elaborate audiovisual adjustments push Patapon title closer to perfection.

User Rating: 9 | Patapon 2: Don-Chaka PSP
The debut of Patapon on PSP last year left a strong impression through its clever combination of the two genres: strategy and music, along with an artistic 2-D graphics. A number of notable awards after that further consolidated the position of this amusing game among its fans and motivated Sony to publish Patapon 2 (P2) with game play inherited from its original. The war drums resound once more to bring us back to the queer, exultant battles.

P2 continues the story in the first installment about the arduous journey to the Promised Land Earthend of the Patapon people to pursue a sacred artifact named IT. After completing a ship at the end of the first game, they set out through the ocean. However, an unfortunate encounter with a sea monster on the route shatters not only the ship but also the people of the tribe themselves. On an uncharted island, the legendary warrior Hatapon finds himself alone with the sacred war drum, and players find themselves in the role of the Almighty (a god that Patapon tribe worship) once again to help these people on their quest.

This version basically retains all of the acknowledged characteristics of the first installment and adds a few new features to make it more user-friendly. The first addition you will recognize is the choice of difficulty level (Easy, Normal and Hard). According to the producers, Normal in P2 is equivalent to the default and only level of the original (which was actually tough for beginners). This small change is actually quite important for a game with innovative game play like this to adapt to a wider range of gamers.

Those who have played the first game would not have any problem with the control system: the four buttons triangle, square, O and X represent the four familiar sounds "chaka", "pata", "pon" and "don" of the war drum. Through different four-syllable tunes created from these sounds, players can give basic commands to the army, such as advance, retreat, attack and defend, or call forth the force of nature to assist them. In order to command, you have to place these "vocabulary" into the right order by placing specific combinations of the four basic buttons; otherwise the tunes will not take effects. A streak of successful presses will increase the combo index and finally triggers the "Fever" mode in which your armies will deal multipliers of the normal damage to the enemies. Consequently, sustaining this mode as long as possible is the key to defeat tough bosses in the game. As for the structure, P2 is separated into various scenes, all of which are designed in 2-D side-scrolling. You will control the Patapon troops against many opponents, but the special thing is that any scene can be replayed to gather resources needed for building your army.

Apart from the familiar arms such as Yaripon, Tatepon, Yumipon, Kibapon, Dekapon and Megapon, P2 adds three brand new services. They are: Toripon, aviary riders with altitude as their advantage but susceptible to anti-air attacks; Robopon, powerful armor-plate melee units; Mahopon, a type of adaptive magicians who can cast multiple spells depending on the wands equipped. However, the true addition in this sequel is not only the sheer number of arms but the depth in strategic element as well. The choice before each battle becomes even harder to make because of a totally new factor: Heropon, a commanding unit which can adapt to various tactics thanks to his repertoire of specialties. Apart from that, the appearance of Evolution Tree (a pathway for upgrading units) further diversifies strategies in every scene, and at the same time makes Ka-ching (monetary unit in game) more valuable since most of the upgrades are not cheap.

The developers in Pyramid studio expands P2 to include over 80 scenes, many of which are satisfactorily difficult and require you to use new troops wisely to pass. From the other side, the enemies also consist of many other hostile tribes and gruesome bosses, not only the rivals from Zigoton like the original. Besides these main scenes, there are mini games which offer interesting awards if you can win. And last but not least, all of the invaluable tactical factors will no longer be confined in the single player mode since P2 offers connection through ad-hoc for its fans to play against each other.

Graphics in this version upholds the simple but aesthetic style in 2-D environment, with bright colors dominating the background. Character designs are deliberately sketch-like but never lack witty and hilarious details. All of these successfully rebuild a queer and vivid world inside the small PSP.

Patapon is inherently half a musical game; therefore, its audio part must be a strong point. Compared to the first game, P2 has a wider repertoire of drum tunes but still retains their diversity which fits in various situations during battles. Nevertheless, the main theme stays cheerful and excited. In addition, P2 takes a closer look into sound effects of each type of units to make them livelier and contributes to the common exultant atmosphere. If the award-winning last year could be considered relatively flawless, it is by no means easier to find any drawbacks of its successor.