by MARTY DEMAREST & r & & r & Patapon & r & Rated Everyone; PSP & r & 5 Stars & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & e, God. You, Patapon. Well, actually, though you are all Patapon, you are a mixture of identities. As amusing as a mass of round, black, single-irised ambulatory eyes might be, a triumphant civilization requires cultural variety. From spear-bearing Yaripons to equestrian Kibapons, you have different skills to bring into battle. You distinguish yourselves further in your genetic makeup, from basic Patapon black to the red of the Pyokolas, who have rabbit ears sticking up. You include the pokey, spiky-haired Tikulee and purple-horned Mogyoons, who send foes reeling with every strike. Even you bulky Dekapons (marching, club-carrying eyeballs that you are, twice the size of any the others) display your barbaric selves in a range of types from vulnerable, basic bald to better-armored, antennaed Mofeels.
You have all been forged from sticks, rocks and meat that I offered to the tree of life, from which you dripped like eyeballs of dew. I have summoned you to follow the beat of my drum, pounded forth in four simple tones from the PSP's quadrangle of buttons. Hear me and know that Pon-Pon-Pata-Pon expresses my divine desire that you march forward into battle. Should you hear a Chaka-Chaka-Pata-Pon, hold up your shields and defend yourselves. Your priest will keep me synched to your Pataponian pulse. (As a divinity I can simply set down your world and live my life to the beat of my own drum, though I find myself maddeningly chanting the syncopated, magic-spell-making Don-DonDon-DonDon in my spare moments.)
I realize it is neither comforting nor benevolent of me to deceive you. So let me be blunt: You will die. But so will your enemies, the furrow-browed Zigatons. You will seize their spoils, picking up flame-shooting bows and ice-coated shields. You will bear these weapons into battle against legendary monsters like giant worms and dinosaurs. Some of you will die, and then I will revive you. Others will be forever lost to Pataponia. But your wars will be immortalized in scrolling cave-wall paintings. Your battles will yield up war chants that feature the confused Japanese "Nani mo?" ("What else?") during moments of arrhythmic pause, and the internationally funky "Get up on!" when things are going well. Your lives and deaths will blend in chaotic counterpoint to rhythms ranging from foursquare conga to disco fever. Boogie forth, Patapons, and thrive.
THE GOOD: Recently, the PSP has moved from being a dusty relic to a thriving system sporting remakes of the five-star classics Final Fantasy Tactics and Castlevania: Dracula X. But Patapon has risen to the top of the pile as the system's most enjoyable original title. A videogame unlike any other, Patapon is exactly what the undistinguished PSP needs.
THE BAD: The PSP has a built-in wireless network adapter and ships with a pair of earbuds, yet Patapon offers no multiplayer combat. Maybe Sony's saving that for the sequel.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Patapon is an ingenious blend of God-game, battle strategy and rhythm-and-groove that accomplishes more with four buttons and a beat than other games do with dozens of guns and controls.