I… um… er…

I’m… just… totally speechless. I just started up Patapon 3… and… well… um… it greeted me with not a handshake, but with a massive explosion of win:

I was expecting the Patapon theme… but an intro like that? And a remix like THAT?! That’s totally incredible… I can’t even COMPREHEND the epicness!

Mind blown. Now it’s all over my room. That will probably impair my ability to play, but I HAVE to at least try. πŸ˜€

UPDATE!!

Okay, I’ve played it for a few days now, and um, yeah, it’s MILES better than Patapon 2. It’s got fantastic light strategy elements, and it’s an awesome rhythm game. Before playing the original Patapon, I would’ve never imagined those two genres would work so well together, but JapanStudio/Pyramid gave it a shot, and they hit the bullseye. Now they’ve had two chances to evolve it, and it’s amazing. πŸ˜€

The basic gameplay’s the same as the other Patapon games – drum different commands to the beat to get your Patapons through the enemies and past the goal flag. That’s about where the similarities end, though. Instead of commanding an army of up to 20 units, they’ve cut it down to five units – a tank unit, a damage unit, a support unit, the Uberhero (you) and Hatapon (the critical unit who triggers an auto-fail when he dies, but can’t be hurt if a tank is still alive). This was a GOOD call, because the amount of times my brain has almost exploded in frustration because my 20 units CAN’T RUN AWAY FAST ENOUGH, or because I can’t get every unit geared up equally, is ridiculous. However, cutting it down to 5 units was kind of a double-edged sword, because although there’s less to cross your fingers about, losing one unit can seriously dampen the amount of damage you can do, making it extremely difficult to continue.

However, they noticed THAT, as well, and so have introduced another new feature, “Summoning”. If you can stay in Fever Mode long enough, the Fever Worm will start to change colour. When it starts shining gold, you can summon a Djinn, who heals your units AND resurrects lost ones. On top of that, you’re unchained from the standard beat for a little while, and can FREESTYLE. πŸ˜€ You can just hammer the buttons and create a rhythm of your own, and the better you do, the more EXTREEEEME OWNAGE is dealt on the final measure. It’s AWESOME, but unfortunately, you can only do this once per level. Although on multilevel dungeons, if you don’t use your summon, it carries over to the next floor, so if you’re good enough (and the boss has enough HP), you can unload multiple summons into the dungeon boss. πŸ˜€

Speaking of boss HP, they’ve done what Monster Hunter needed to do a long time ago, and displayed boss HEALTH BARS, so you know how close you are to owning them. That was a REALLY nice thing to do, especially since I don’t trust AI with invisible health. πŸ˜›

Another significant change is the leveling system. In Patapon 2, you used to have to go through a sickeningly evil, confusing, grind-like Evolution Map to make your Patapons stronger. It cost lots of money, lots of difficult-to-get materials… and it was impossible to choose between all of the different variants of Patapon. In Patapon 3, they’ve just added an Experience and Level system. THANK YOU. πŸ˜€ Nice and simple, just play missions for XP to level up and be able to do more difficult missions.

There are also various classes to level up. At the start of the game, you can choose between three base classes, which are melee, ranged and support. When you hit a certain level in these base classes, you unlock new classes to try out, which are generally more powerful or have different abilities.

The weapon system has changed a lot, too. Instead of just getting weapons in missions and improving them by finding better weapons, you find various types of treasure chests in missions. Bronze and Silver chests generally give normal or magic items, whereas Gold and Jeweled chests often give extremely powerful Unique/Super Unique items, but they can’t be upgraded. Normal and Magic items can be upgraded at the blacksmith for Ka-ching (yeah, it’s called that ;)) and materials.

Unfortunately… as is the case with pretty much all Japanese-made games, the difficulty curve is unrealistic and stupid, the recommended level is almost always a lie, and the Bonus Bosses annoy the HELL out of me.

The difficulty curve is ridiculous. At the start of the game, it’s extremely easy, and it gets more difficult over time, which I expected. But I KNEW there was going to be a difficulty spike at some point, because… well… it’s a Japanese game. Thing is, you don’t know WHEN it’s going to spike, which adds to the frustration when you’re level 5, open a door on a quest with a recommended level of 3+, see a big dragon there who proceeds to unfairly stomp the living crap out of your party. I say “unfairly”, because he literally shuffles towards you (because he can’t fly), ever-so-slightly clips your tank with his foot, and cuts a third off his health. Oh, and summons weren’t unlocked at the time, so when my tank DID die, I couldn’t resurrect him. And do you know what was REALLY annoying? Well, I managed to kill the dragon, and I didn’t know that when a dragon dies, they collapse to the floor about one measure afterwards, and cause massive, cheap damage to any unit near them. Since my tank was dead, Hatapon was wide open. The dragon collapsed onto him, one-shotted him and I auto-failed the mission. UNBELIEVABLY GAY. Why can’t the dragon just collapse without doing damage?! It’s not particularly fair when you’ve never seen one before. πŸ˜›

Another case of bad difficulty curve? Well, in the next three-level dungeon, on the second level, when I was VERY overlevelled, in the first room there’s a normal-sized ice dragon, a bit of a challenge, but taken down no problem. In the next room… there’s an Ice Salamander. And they’re PUSHOVERS. >.> In the room after that, there’s ANOTHER dragon, a BIG one this time, who was very tough, and I almost lost several units to him. After that, in the next room… another Ice Salamander! WHAT THE HELL?! And then… in the final room of the floor, a GI-FRIGGIN’-GANTIC golem, who DESTROYED me. Difficulty curves aren’t SUPPOSED to look like this:

Patapon 3 Sample Difficulty Curve

(AAAARGH WORDPRESS IS SO GODDAMN SHIT! I want MORE than a millionth-of-a-pixel-wide column so I can ACTUALLY post images WITHOUT THEM BEING CLIPPED, NOT a STUPID NEW TOOL that lets me COPY PREVIOUS POSTS for GOD’S SAKE!!)

I hope you get the idea from that tiny picture. Sorry I can’t make it bigger, WordPress is shit.

The Bonus Bosses now. I like Bonus Bosses, I really do. They give you a little something extra to aim for, and reward you well for taking them out. However, the Japanese don’t quite understand there are people who like Bonus Bosses, but don’t have friendsΒ in close proximity who own an unpopular handheld console AND a copy of Patapon 3. Seriously, a Bonus Boss appeared while I was playing, so I thought “Hey, cool, it’s appeared pretty early in the game, so it must be a low-level Bonus Boss – it can’t be insanely hard, surely.” So I had a look… and the recommended level was “?”. Oh, nice and helpful as always, Japs. >.< I decided to have a go by myself, since I didn’t know what level I had to be.

It was impossible. Literally. My main damage-dealer can crank out about 10,000+ damage (A LOT) with a charge if the Random Number God is feeling nice, but after about five of those… his health bar was still full. But the funny thing is, when the boss finally stopped being an idiot and started to attack, I could defend quite well. πŸ˜› All he had was an unfair, cheating amount of HP, so I just returned to the hideout.

The selection of modes and stuff is brilliant, and the gameplay would be fantastic with a friend or three… but it’s on the PSP and you can’t play over the Internet. That damages it quite a lot, since I’ll never get to play it with someone else.

Alright, that’s pretty much everything. Lemme do the F.A.G.G.O.T Rating. πŸ™‚

Fun
Enjoyability – 10: Ha ha HAA! This is such a great game to play. It’s as if it was designed with fun as the biggest point, becuase almost every part of this game, the music, the voices, some of the dialogue, is a HEAP of fun. πŸ˜€
Frustration – 6: You know when you’re having fun with something, then all of a sudden it’s taken away? That feeling of elation usually turns to anger. And that’s exactly what happens when you’re having a great run, without any worries, then all of a sudden there’s a difficulty spike, you make one slight mistake, and it’s all over and you’ve gotta start again from the beginning of a mission. I like a challenge, but not an almost impossible one halfway through a seemingly easy level.

Audio
Sounds – 9: Not really much to say about the sounds, since they’re usually drowned out by the amazing soundtrack, but the drum sounds are almost iconic, the monsters sound pretty good, and the “SHHWING!” sound when you hit a perfect command makes you FEEL GOOD. πŸ˜€ They’ve also replaced the creaking treasure box sound when a dialog appears with a less annoying “Shht” sound, which is welcome. πŸ˜›
Music – 10: All of it is… just awesome. πŸ˜€ There are new tracks, and old tracks from Patapon and Patapon 2 which have all been remixed, often with guitars, to sound “meatier”. The lyrics are all Patapon tribal chants, and they change depending on what command you entered in the last measure. (DON DON, CHAKACHAKACHA-KAA!) The soundtrack REALLY comes alive in Fever Mode.
Voice – 10: PATA PON, DON CHAKA! FEEEEVERRRR! DON, DO-DON, DO-DON! OOH AH OOH AH OH YAY! YAY YAY, OOH AH OH YAY! Quite frankly, I LOVE it, it’s crazy, it’s funny, it fits the mood, and it’s absolutely fan-friggin’-tastic. πŸ˜€

Graphics
Animation – 8: The animation is mostly smooth, but there are a few animations which look a little jerky, like when the Patapons jump into the air and spin around. Other than that, no real complaints. πŸ˜€
Models – N/A: The only models/textures are the treasure chests that appear after a mission. Rating them would just be unfair, since they make up such a tiny amount of the game.
Textures – N/A: See above. πŸ˜›
2D – 9: The art style hasn’t changed, and that’s a good thing, because the Patapon art style is insanely recognisable and just plain awesome. I wasn’t so sure about the new Uberhero when I first saw him on the Patapon 3 XMB background (I thought they’d gone too far into the realms of cheesy DBZ Super Saiyans), but he stands out, fits the art style and looks ace. The new monsters, weapons and enemy units all look brilliant. The only thing that’s wrong is when monsters are scaled to emphasise extra HP/attack power – they often look quite blurry, which is a bit of a shame.
Effects – 8: The particle effects are great, the Summon effects are awesome, the and the “dead-things-fall-into-the-ground” effect works much better than the standard, boring “Everything Fades” effect. Cool damage amount effects are welcome, too. πŸ˜€

Gameplay
Core – 9: I didn’t think strategy and rhythm could be combined into a game, but they sure showed me with Patapon 1 and 2. In Patapon 3, though, they’ve REALLY improved it. A nice simple leveling system, weapon customisation, and when you input Pon Pata Pon Pata, you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope that all of your 20 units run away fast enough. πŸ˜› Having all commands accessible at the start is really welcome, too, but it might outface newbies. That’s where the nice set of tutorials come in handy. Every problem they’ve noticed has been addressed pretty well. Apart from the difficulty curve, that is. Oh, and the fact that Bonus Bosses aren’t accessible. πŸ˜› But at its core, it’s an amazing game.
Immersion – 10: Against bosses at least, I LITERALLY can’t play this game and talk at the same time. It’s extremely immersive, and needs your undivided attention if you’re going to do well.
Story – 6: Well, the story hasn’t progressed THAT far for me yet. I don’t quite understand it, though – in Patapon 1 and 2, it was simple: the Patapons want to get to Earthend and look upon “IT”. In Patapon 3, it’s different. There’s more dialogue and it seems more indepth… but I’m not totally sure what’s going on.
Replayability – 7: Sure, you can replay quests, and that’s great… but after completing the game, I can’t imagine there’s much else to do. But then again, there is a LOT of game time here. πŸ˜‰
Repetition – 3: This depends on how good you are, really. If you’re good, the repetition will be almost unnoticable. If you’re not so good, you might find yourself doing the same mission again and again to try and complete it, and that IS noticable. πŸ˜› Personally, I found it so much fun that I never really noticed it being too repetitive. (By the way, yes, lower scores on a negative point are good. ;))

Online
Praise – 7: There’re all sorts of co-op and VS modes here. You can have a race, or a sort-of Capture the Flag type game. You can also do missions co-op… but I’ll probably never experience that.
Criticisms – 10: The problem is not the game itself, it’s what system its published on. Let’s all be honest here, the PSP isn’t PARTICULARLY a popular thing, especially over here, and especially when compared to the DS. It also doesn’t allow playing over the Internets, which is the only wayΒ  people who don’t have any friends close by who own a PSP can experience multiplayer. They’ve also got to like the Patapon series, and trying to get anyone I talk to frequently to try a game like this is nigh on impossible because “it sounds stupid”. It’s impossible anyway, because everyone’s probably sold/lost/broken their PSP. The multiplayer features are so inaccessible, the devs might as well have just scrapped multiplayer and spent that time on trying to improve the single player experience even more.
Fun – 5: I can’t rate this properly, since I can’t actually PLAY multiplayer properly!

Total (After overly complicated but quite good Importance Machine calculations):
7.26/10 (Very Good)

If the difficulty curve was less retarded, and if they’d published it on PC or Xbox or on any NORMAL console to make multiplayer realistically accessible, this could’ve probably hit a 9. Despite those extremely annoying problems, Patapon 3 is better than its predecessors, and it’s still a REALLY fun game with gameplay deeper than it appears. It’s a diamond among the piles of crappy games you get on the PSP. If you dismiss it as “stupid” or “childish” and you don’t even give it a chance, you’re SERIOUSLY missing out.

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The ONLY game which lets you play as a gangsta’ pimp sheriff dragon!

Preloading Portal 2 on this pitiful connection is like trying to push an elephant through a mouse hole. The elephant being the 10GB Portal 2, and the mouse hole being my 1Mb connection, which cranks out a max download speed of 128KB/s. But of course, because of overhead and other technicalities, you don’t really ever hit that. πŸ˜›

So, while I was waiting, aside from playing some Dynasty Warriors 7 and joining a Skype call where trying to get a word in was like trying to push an elephant through a mouse hole (I left after about 2 minutes), I had a browse through Steam’s store. Nothing much, just a bunch of crap, as per usual. Except for one thing.

HOARD. This is how you initially catch my attention, a good name, and a symbol that looks like it’s going to poke your eye out. πŸ˜› It was a strategy game, and I don’t really like strategy games. However, it pressed my dragon button, since that’s what you play as. πŸ˜› And if it HADN’T pressed that button and kept me interested, I would’ve never noticed that it was an ACTION strategy game, or more specifically, a “Stratecade” game (strategy-arcade). On top of that, it was an indie game, so it had a chance of being really amazing. Of course… being an indie game, it also had the same chance of being really shitty… πŸ˜›

The screenshots didn’t give me enough, so I had a watch of the trailer. Because they actually include real gameplay footage, indie trailers are always infinitely better than trailers from full game studios. Yes, I’m looking at you, BETHESDA; your Elder Scrolls V trailer actually made me want to play the game LESS. Try not being shit at outlining the story. πŸ˜›

Of course, because of my elephant-mousehole connection, I couldn’t watch much of the trailer. Only enough for me to say “Well, I like the look of it, but unless there’s a demo, I’m not bothering.” And what do you know? There was a “download demo” button right there! πŸ˜€ Most companies totally fail at either the description stage, or the “I’m interested, I want to try it” stage, but these guys actually had brain cells, and made a demo available! πŸ˜› Because I could try the demo, I had a chance to love it. And since I DID love it, and since someone else I know ALSO loved it, they now have 14 of our pounds. πŸ˜€

Now, time for a proper F.A.G.G.O.T Review! πŸ˜€ HERE WE GO!

Hoard is an up-to-4-player strategy-arcade game. You control a dragon, and the basic aim is to amass the largest hoard you can by doing traditional dragon-like things, such as burning down crops and buildings, destroying castles, kidnapping princesses, roasting knights who come to rescue said princesses, killing thieves who are stupid enough to wander into your hoard while you’re near, making towns fear you, and generally being a gigantic draconic asshole. πŸ˜›

It seems mind-numbingly simple… but there’s a layer of strategy to all this. Destroying towns and stuff will get you gold, sure, but to get high scores, you need to let these towns grow, so they end up sending more valuable loads to other towns, which you can intercept. You also have to watch your hoard AND your hide – if anything gets stolen or if you get wounded, your multiplier resets. If you play well by avoiding damage and protecting your hoard from thieves (sheriff dragon ;)), your multiplier eventually increases, up to X3.

Kidnapping a princess and taking her back to your hoard nets you a ransom bonus after a while (dragon pimp ;)), but almost every knight on the map will head towards your hoard to save her. Damaging a town enough without destroying it makes that town fear you. To keep this fear, you have to make sure that other meddling dragons don’t destroy the town or make the town fear them more. In return, their archers won’t attack you,Β and they’ll send you tribute (ie: protection money, hence: gangster dragon ;)). There are also wizard towers which are tough and can be just plain irritating, but they hold a gem worth large amounts of gold. HOWEVER, carrying this gem makes you slow and vulnerable. If you look closely at everything, you can see how strategic this game can be. πŸ˜‰

If you do end up biting off more than you can chew and run out of health, you don’t die. Instead, you are wounded, and automatically fly back to your hoard to heal. And that’s nice, because I get bored of seeing “YOU DIED! Respawning in 5 seconds” – it just jolts you away from the action and makes you feel more detached. In Hoard, it’s like: “You’ve run out of health? It’s okay, here, I’ll take you back to your hoard, just wait a few seconds to heal… alright, go, get back out there!” It feels smoother. πŸ™‚

There are plenty of maps to choose from, and a few different game modes to try. There are also score/time targets to hit on each map, bronze, silver and gold. And unlike many, MANY other games, the gold target is actually challenging to hit. You can also play Hoard co-op with up to three others, but I reckon the real fun is in the competitive modes. There are also 100+ Steam-chievements to get, but I don’t really care about them. πŸ˜›

Now time for the F.A.G.G.O.T. πŸ™‚

Fun
Enjoyability – 8: Even with bots, this is really fun to play. The subtle layer of strategy also makes it really interesting, which adds to the fun.
Frustration – 0: I never felt any frustration while playing. There isn’t anything to be frustrated about, at all.

Audio
Sounds – 5: Hmm… well… the sounds are pretty average. The audio cues are quite lame, since I can’t tell what sound means what. But overall, the sound is just “OK”.
Music – 8: The music is really great, it makes me nod my head, and some parts make me smile. πŸ™‚ Sure, it’s not the most incredible music I’ve ever heard, but it sounds awesome, it’s catchy, and it’s randomised. Although the effect of this is subtle, it’s much better than listening to a loop, and it shows they’ve really put some effort into their soundtrack. πŸ™‚
Voice – 8: The only voices are the princesses, the death sounds, and the voice in the survival mode’s soundtrack. The princesses sound like cheesy, traditional princesses, which is funny. The death sounds range from “pleh” to “LMFAO”, and the way the vocalist chants “Dragon! (Dragon!)” at one point in the survival mode soundtrack is fucking ace. πŸ˜€

Graphics
Animation – 8: Since you’ll be looking at them for most of the game, the dragons hold the “animation spotlight”. πŸ˜‰ Happily, they’ve done a great job – the dragons look very fluid and natural. The other animations are few and far between, and they’re generally unremarkable.
Models – 6: It’s really weird. Everything looks 3D, and it MUST be 3D… but the dragons, knights and everything like that look like they’re pre-rendered. :S In any case, the dragons look nice, but they only start to look cool until you level up a few times. Other models just look kinda average.
Textures – 7: There are some ground tiles which look fantastic, and others which look a bit “meh”. I love the style, by the way; the game world looks like a game board – you can see the table it’s resting on. πŸ˜€ The dragons themselves are textured quite nicely, but again, the other models are “meh”. The texture work stands out in some areas and doesn’t in others, but there’s nothing that sticks out like a sore dick.
2D – 10: I freakin’ love the HUD and the menus, and that dragon backdrop that appears when you’re selecting game options. I also like that red dragon which appears in loading screens. Nothing wrong here.
Effects – 6: Well, they’re good, but nothing to write home about. The powerup effects and gold pickup effects are nice, but the rest are pretty meh. The firebreath effect looks a bit pathetic to me personally. πŸ˜›

Gameplay
Core – 9: Hoard looks like a mindless kill everything game, but look a little deeper, and there hides some really cool, fast-paced strategic gameplay. “This dragon is feared in this town – should I destroy it so he gets no tribute, or shall I try to make them fear me and protect it instead?” “Should I take a risk attacking that dragon to drop his multiplier?” Choices like these make it really engaging.
Immersion – 9: At the start of a game, it’ll be slow and a little boring. But after a few minutes, you’ll start thinking about what would be the best move to make. And since it’s so fast-paced, you’ll be concentrating and having to adapt quickly. This is immersive. Very immersive. So immersive, you might spend two hours playing and not notice. πŸ˜‰
Story – N/A: There is no story. And I’m glad there isn’t. Pinning a backstory to this game would’ve just been a waste of time. πŸ˜›
Replayability – 10: Since the gold medals are so difficult to get, and since multiplayer is so much fun, and since it’s a pick-up-and-play indie game, the replayability is incredible. I’ll be playing this again and again, trying to grab those gold medals. And if you’re an achievement whore, there’s plenty of them to fuck here. πŸ˜‰
Repetition – 6: Ah, yes. Well, playing this game for more than a couple hours at a time will get a bit boring – it may be me, but I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure Hoard wasn’t designed to be played for long stints at a time. Then again, there are people who play Starcrap all day… πŸ˜›

Online
Praise – 9: Co-operative is fun – you need teamwork to keep your multiplier up, the thieves out and the cash flowing in. However, competitive multiplayer is where it’s REALLY at – fierce yet friendly competition, which is what I like best. πŸ˜€ As for the netcode, well, it seems pretty solid – I never noticed any serious lag at all.
Criticisms – 3: My main gripe is that you can’t assign bots to empty spaces in an online game, which is a bit of a stupid omission. Then again, since I wasn’t hosting and couldn’t look for myself, this may just be Ped being a complete retard. πŸ˜› Nope, scratch that, you can’t add bots. :/
Fun – 9: As said in “Praise”, co-op is fun, but competitive is REALLY fun. Playing with humans is much more interesting and challenging than playing with artificial imbeciles. πŸ˜›

Total (After overly complicated but quite good Importance Machine calculations):
8.08/10 (Excellent)

Honestly, at least give the demo a try. It’s a really, really great game, and has a surprising amount of depth. πŸ˜€