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Patapon 2: Can you FEEL the Pon-Pon?!

Patapon 2 is on the way, with twice the "pata" and three times the "pon" in store for gamers that are not too rhythmically challenged to enjoy the thing. After our preview of the game, we see lots of common ground with the first Patapon and some incremental improvements. Incremental is a key word, because nobody wanted to see Patapon 2 come in and completely reshape the formula. Nothing was broken, really, so why apply any fixes? This concept for sequels works remarkably well in the gaming business, unlike all other art forms where people expect sequels to do something bigger, better, or at least different.

The storyline (yes, there really is one) in Patapon 2 makes references to your earlier exploits, and you'll see many of the same characters resurface as you make your way back into this weird world. The building blocks of your Patapon army are identical, but the way in which you'll use them and develop them during the game has shifted fundamentally. The levels available for play show similar design approaches, including some geared toward hunting, others involving a boss battle, and new material that puts stress on timed runs and overcoming obstacles in the environment. Innovating through iteration would be the summary we'd make after seeing the first few levels of Patapon 2.

The big shift in unit development appears as an honest-to-goodness "tech tree," complete with branching paths that allow you to closely customize the type of Patapon you'll take into battle. The first game focused more on building well-equipped soldiers and select "hero" characters. The heroes are still here, but you'll have much more involvement with your footsoldiers than before. It's a good model. Since you can almost always reclaim fallen soldiers in the game, there isn't the panic over having a particularly strong character defeated and ending up "gone forever." The acquisition of special items is still a big part of the game, as you are growing your army, which builds replay value.

The other intriguing aspect of Patapon 2 from a gameplay standpoint is the appearance of online and ad-hoc wireless features that allow multiple players to work together. The campaign or story is still played solo, but up to four players can connect for a shot at specific levels designed around co-op gameplay. This option appears as one of the "areas" available to explore, similar to the mini-games that return in Patapon 2, such as playing music on the toes of a child-shaped mountain... Patapon 2 displays a weird sense of humor and the same rock-solid gameplay as its predecessor. Gamers that wanted deeper gameplay will find it, and we're excited to see how the co-op multiplayer functions in the full release. There's pata-aplenty in this new installment of wacky rhythm gaming from Sony.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock
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