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    Mar 4th, 2008 at 03:19:30     -    Patapon (PSP)

    I love the Patapons, they’re so damn cute! Good thing they come in a variety of types. The player originally starts with three basic types of units. There are Yamipons, which are basically archers, Yaripons, spear wielding warriors who can throw their weapons a short distance, and Tatepons, axe and shield wielding warriors who take the brunt of the attacks by standing in the front of the army. There are other types of units too, some of which I haven’t found yet. The one I recently unlocked was the Kibapon, a jousting type unit, these Patapons are mounted on a horse and charge their enemies. However they are fairly weaker than the other Patapons but in Fever mode they grow incredibly strong and just knock out anything in their way. So the Kibapon are for advanced players that know how to keep a beat.

    I forgot to mention that in the village you can equip your Patapons with weapons and armor that you find on the field. This in turn upgrades their resistances and attack damage and adds a whole new level of customizability. However if you aren’t into micro managing your units there is a simple “optimize equip” button which will automatically equip the best items for your Patapons in an instant. Also at Mater, when you breed new Patapons you can “brew” different kinds as well. It depends on the ingredients you give the tree, for example tender meat is much more better than cafeteria meat which will give you a stronger Patapon if you create him with that material. And if you want to take a break from fighting you can just watch your Patapons dance around and drink at the center of the village.

    Patapon is very different from your average game. Most games seem to stay to a common formula which is action, adventure, and RPG. Patapon combines these elements while adding its authentic style, the drum beat gameplay mechanic. This game is addicting, and it has something to do with the drum beat game style. There is something about music games (i.e. Guitar Hero, Rock Band) that hooks a player to keep playing. It might be our natural musical instincts to stay near something that sounds good or there is just an addictive trait hidden in rhythm matching game mechanics. Patapon copies that addictive trait while establishing itself as a different and unique version of the rare music genre.

    The tone of the game world is very cutesy. Everything is in 2D and all sprites have a cartoony look about them. The level scrolls to the right as the Patapons march, I can see in the background that trees and mountains imitate that they are farther than they seem which is a good use of textures given it’s a 2D game. The colors are very bright and there are almost no shadows which can give a negative tone which means this is a game made for little children as well as adults. When the Patapons march they throw their weapons and twirl them in the air to show that they are happy when listening to rhythm of the drum beat and it really makes player feel like he is in control of them, leading them to slay giant beasts and the like, which is very satisfying I must say because some of the beasts are larger than all of your Patapons combined.

    This game has definitely made me think about my game design project, not for this class but for my senior game project next year. Instead of creating something formulaic like a shooter or RPG, why not create a rhythm/musical game. The only problem I can see is finding good music that is liked by a large demographic. Music is incredibly relative, and not everyone will like all kinds of music, but if I can find something that caters to most of the audience, then I can make a game that not only has a unique game mechanic but it also has music that attracts people and make them play even more.

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    Mar 4th, 2008 at 02:17:33     -    Patapon (PSP)

    In Patapon, the player is assumed the role of the Mighty Patapon, the leader of the Patapon tribe of cute little eyeballs armed to the teeth of small but deadly weapons. In battle, the Patapon tribe will only react to the rhythm of a drum which the Mighty Patapon commands. The core game mechanic is to make the player “drum” to the beat of the game using the triangle, x, circle, and square buttons to command the Patapon army and lead them to victory.

    I think it’s important to note that the game is only $20.00, and after playing it for the first time on the PSP, I really am quite impressed. I’ve read a couple of reviews about this game and many of them were written differently but said the same thing: this is one of the best games ever made for the PSP by far. So after assessing the price and the reviews, I was quite ecstatic when I started to play the game. The game has a small learning curve, the player is supposed to mimic a drum on the PSP so sound is obviously an important factor here. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play the game without sound, there is a small rectangular frame around the screen that appears and flashes mimicking the beat. You could beat the drum this way but I personally feel it’s better to hear your little minions dancing and fighting and going into Fever mode.

    The first level was also a tutorial. The player is taught two drum beats, one to make his army march forward and another to command his army to attack. It works as a call and response similar to real tribal music. The player must drum the beat that will make his army respond, for example the player will drum the march beat and the army will respond to that by marching and singing along to that beat, after their response the player can then initiate another command with another beat. In the first few levels of the game I’m pretty much just marching forward until I see an enemy then I initiate the attack beat. It may sound boring just describing it on paper, but the music in the game is a mix of cutesy (think of Loco Roco or Katamari) and tribal sounds and they blend pretty well together. One cool feature I found in the game is having the Patapons go into Fever mode where they are pretty much unstoppable. Their attack power and defense increases, and if you have the archer type units, they will fire multiple arrows instead of their usual single one. To get into Fever mode you must drum to a climactic part of the drum beat or just get ten drum beats in a row without failing or losing tempo. This mode adds more dimension to the game as the player will want to use Fever mode to defeat his enemies quickly and for some boss battles, fever mode can definitely turn the tide of a losing battle.

    After a mission, the Patapons return to their village to celebrate and you, the Mighty Patapon can look around the village by checking inventory, creating new Patapons, or blowing a trumpet to make a gigantic tree dance (which will also give you items). One cool aspect of the Patapons is that if they die in battle, they will leave behind their helmet called a cap. Your other Patapons can grab the cap and if the mission is successful the cap will be brought to the Tree of Life called “Mater” in the village and the Patapon will be reborn ready to fight again. However if you don’t claim the cap or say a gigantic creature swallows up a Patapon whole, including his cap, then the Patapon will be lost forever. This makes fighting bosses extremely dangerous and the player needs to think strategically to slay the beast.

    This entry has been edited 2 times. It was last edited on Mar 4th, 2008 at 03:24:12.

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    Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:31:45     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    After playing the game a little bit more, I’ve come to realize that the colossi are pretty much giant puzzles each one having a distinct type of weakness that the player must exploit. I really enjoy the design of the colossi; they are giant creatures that have the skin of mountainous terrain. I feel like climbing Mount Everest each time I scale them and when I stab it with the sword I’m placing a marker saying “I was here!” It’s definitely a fun style of gameplay and I give a lot of credit to the game designers for their creativity. Agro, your trusty steed, is a great friend to have around. He’s always there to get you through the landscape faster than your feet will take you. I like the freedom that you can do with Agro; you can mount up and do a couple things like shoot your arrow, or rotate a full 360 degrees, or stand up while you shoot your arrow turning 360 degrees! These little details in a game are what usually make me happy and I’m glad to see them get implemented. The boy was well designed too. It’s amazing that someone so small can defeat such giants and I feel like the game can show this extremely well.

    The landscape is a sight for sore eyes. After you leave the temple grounds there’s beautiful open land of green and earthy colors. The light breaks through the clouds and shines with intensity as you and Agro stride the Cliffside. What impresses me is how far the player can see into the game world, there are loads of mountains that we can see in the distance and the clouds move realistically with the wind. As the player rides around, there are birds and eagles that sometimes come on and off the screen. This artistic design really adds to the atmosphere of the region, it’s so desolate yet so beautiful at the same time. It’s a nice lively world with just as little as two characters present in it. When the boy is just standing around, Agro will run around him or walk off screen into some place and it really gives Agro, a horse, some personality also helps to realize the world around the player.

    As I’ve said before the artistic design of the game is astonishing. By creating a large world with nothing but lizards, birds, trees, and mountains, the player is forced to find a way to relate all of these things together to create a personal story for him in the game. This lack of story was intentional because the game developers wanted the player to make assumptions about the world; I know this because I made the assumption that this was a prequel to Ico because of the ending of this game (the boy turns into a baby with horns, which resemble the protagonist in Ico). This desolate tone of the game is a well decided one because I think it helps foreshadow what happens in the end. The long journey to revive someone eventually asks for the ultimate price, a life for a life, and having a world that reflects this price of death in the end sets a good mood for the game. The colossi are well designed as well. Every time I fell a giant, I was curious to see what the next one would look like or how I would take it down. This helped keep me going even though there was a lack of story. The colossi are well varied ranging from large walking ones to flying types and even one that swims (which I thought was the most interesting because you had to hang on every time it dove into the water). Every time the player had to hang on to the colossi whenever it was shaking or flying or whatever, it simply took my breath away and built a type of suspense that was unheard of during it’s time.

    The game has no real reward structure aside from getting more grip gauge power and a larger health each time a giant is destroyed. But the feeling you get after each colossus death is quite an intense feeling and therefore is a reward in itself. This feeling also left me wanting for more as I would constantly want to kill a colossus bigger than the previous one. The one thing I would probably change in the game is the voice acting. I know the game is supposed to have a fictional language in a fictional world but in today’s day and age having a game on a home console (before the next gen systems) that doesn’t have voiced text seems rather primitive. But it’s a minor thing seeing as there is only one person that actually talks for the most part in the game, the deity that speaks to the boy.

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    Feb 21st, 2008 at 00:49:57     -    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)

    In Shadow of the Colossus you control a young boy who appears to be unnamed (though Wikipedia states his name is “Wander”, I truly believe it was roughly translated to be “the Wanderer”) as he ventures into a forbidden land with hopes of bringing back a girl to life. The boy and his horse Agro must travel a vast landscape to battle sixteen Colossi believing that there is secret to bringing back the dead by defeating these creatures.

    When I first played this game back in 2005, I was truly impressed with the graphics. It really pushed the Playstation 2 to its limits as seen from some of the dropped frame rates in the game. I was ecstatic when I learned I had to play this game again for the classics gamelog list. After loading it in and playing for an hour, I realized that it still had that charm that most games seem to lack today. There is something magical about climbing atop a creature that is more than fifty times your size and bringing it down with a few well placed stabs from your sword. This game does an exceptional job in making you feel like a hero and that you’ve done something extraordinary.

    The controls were definitely unique for its time. As with any 3D adventure game you use the left thumbstick to control your character and the right to rotate the camera. There are a few buttons to switch your sword to bow and attack and jump. But when you fight colossi it was nice to know there was a button to lock on to your colossus, because at some point, you will fight flying ones and small fast ones and you need to anticipate where they will strike. Unlike most games you don’t just swing a sword at the giant and expect it to fall, you have to scale them. This was very interesting in my opinion as I had to make use of the R1 button which makes the boy grab on to any ledge, vine, or hair on the colossus. However you can’t hold on forever and this is where the simple interface comes in. You don’t have a HUD when riding around, which is cool because it really gives a cinematic effect to the game. When you fight colossi a grip gauge appears as a solid circle and tells you how much strength the boy has in him to hold on whatever he’s hanging on to, your selected weapon appears, and two life gauges appear, one for you and one for the colossus. The simple HUD is enough to display crucial information while not getting in the way of the action or the overall cinematic feel of the game.

    The story in this game is unique in that there are no other characters besides the boy and a god-like entity to help fuel the story. All the player is told is that, to bring the girl back to life, he must kill sixteen colossi, now go find them. This story or lack thereof is actually a good thing in my opinion. This allows to player to make assumptions about the story and hence he can actually create his own story as he battles these giants. Even though every colossus has its weakness, every player usually takes a while to figure how to exploit that weakness and hence some players will play for half an hour trying to find the weakness and others will get it almost immediately resulting in a wide range of different stories for each player. One aspect about the story that I particularly liked is that every time the boy wakes up in the temple after defeating a colossus, his clothes get ragged and his overall brightness gets darker. I originally perceived this to be a dirty effect where if you’re scaling mountainous creatures you’re bound to get dirty. However I realize that each time the colossi fall, dark energy enters the boy, and we see him inch closer to death and transform into a black shadow-like entity that we all have grown to hate in the game “Ico”.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Feb 21st, 2008 at 01:02:42.

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