The future of Hyrule - gameplay and final thoughts
More common sense about the impact of video games on kids

Patapon and the 10-minute session

Pataponpsp05_2 Patapon is a God game I can enjoy. For some reason, I've never been able to fully embrace games like Populous or Black & White - titles that cast me as an omnipotent figure intervening or forcing my will upon the world and its primitive dwellers. It can be fun to wield the "Hand of God," but I never seem to enjoy it for long.

Give me a set of drums and a coterie of one-eyed minions, however, and I'm happy to reign supreme as God of the Patapons, rallying my little warriors to victory and restoring their former glory. Much of this pleasure is derived from the pure charm of the game and the way its visual aesthetic meshes with its rhythm-based gameplay. Like its genre ancestor Parappa the Rapper , Patapon is a fun and accessible game featuring a stylized world perfectly suited to its playful spirit. N'Gai Croal's description gets it just right I think:

There's a mistaken belief that permeates much of the industry, which is that "realistic" graphics will enable videogames to break on through to truly mainstream audiences. But when we consider the success of Bejewelled, Peggle, Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Wii Sports, it's clearly not the case. As graphics technology improves, the exploration of non-photorealistic rendering techniques should go hand in hand with the quest for verisimilitude. Unfortunately, too many developers and publishers would rather focus on the latter, even on the PSP, a platform whose titles could use a complete design rethink...Just because it's roughly the power of a PS2 in a handheld doesn't mean that we should be playing PS2 games on the go.[1]

And Patapon is very much a game "on the go." The more I play it, the more I appreciate how valuable this seemingly obvious design feature is to me. It's the Playstation *Portable* Why don't more PSP games (I'm omitting puzzle games here) take that into consideration in their overall design? I realize you can simply hit the suspend switch and resume later, but from purely a design point of view, this is an inelegant solution at best.

Patapon's missions last 5-10 minutes. Each is a perfectly self-contained and satisfying play experience. The game doesn't impose a complex narrative I'm bound to forget between sessions, nor does it require me to memorize a complex control system I'm equally bound to forget. In between missions I can fiddle around with my units and their equipment, or I can play a short musical minigame with a dancing tree. Each of these play units, as it were, provides me with focused bursts of rewarding and fun gameplay, perfect for gaming on the go.

I realize lots of people play their PSPs at home - and I can't wait to get my hands on God of War: Chains of Olympus - which obviates the need for true portable play. But for many of us who bought the system as a portable device, Patapon is a welcome lesson in excellence.