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Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: MumboJumbo
Developer: MumboJumbo
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Shooter/ Arcade/ Classic/Retro

Graphics & Sound:
How to describe the look of a clay-animated game? If you remember Skullmonkeys (one of my favorite PlayStation titles) or if you're a fan of Aardman animation, you'll know what to expect from Platypus. The idea of a clay-animated shooter is cool enough and the execution here is very strong. The story behind the development of this game is interesting, if it's true. Do the research and draw your own conclusions; even if the provenance of Platypus is debated, the creative juices behind it are undeniably strong. It isn't every day that we see one frame of a game and know it isn't like any other game out there. A similar example might be the LEGO Star Wars titles. Something about watching enemy ships break apart into little globs of clay is very cool. Believe me when I say you won't miss the blood and fiery explosions.

Platypus features some nice music, not the usual techno or pounding rock, but some cool and quirky stuff. Everything apart from the visuals could be characterized as stock shooter material. Even so, it really is fun to play a game where you aren't looking at the same old stuff screen after screen.

Platypus takes you through level after level with waves of enemies intent on your destruction. The side-scrolling shooter has seen many variations over the years and this one is better-than-average. You won't find incredibly novel weapon modes or really dynamic environments, but the gameplay is solid. Each level consists of five stages with a large boss at the end. There aren't true sub-bosses, but there are some large, tricky opponents. The sheer number of opponents to battle is sometimes daunting, but upgraded weapons help to cut the chatter. Fighting bosses is fun because they are typically the "screen filling" variety and require heavy pounding to defeat. Lightning-fast reflexes don't hurt, either. You can upgrade weapons by defeating certain enemy squadrons. Once an upgrade appears, you can shoot it to cycle through different weapons. We can argue about which type is best against specific enemies, but each player will have personal preferences that aren't always practical. In certain fights, you'll only be able to choose one type of upgrade, usually missiles. You mostly will make do with standard weapons since the upgrades are only temporary and scarce. After each level, you can save progress; this makes it possible for real humans to actually get through the game. If the single-player mode is too difficult alone, you can invite a friend to play in an ad hoc wireless session. The coolest part is that you'll be able to play through a cooperative version of the main game. If the single player mode is too easy, you can always switch to Survival Mode and try to play a whole game without getting killed once. Good luck with that...

Most folks who aren't on the pro gaming circuit will find Platypus a bit difficult. Shooters aren't known for being pushover games in any event, but Platypus doesn't pull any punches. The level of challenge here could be adjusted down and not detract from the enjoyment, I think. For instance, the power-ups are on a short timer and aren't available nearly often enough in the easiest difficulty - it would have been better to create persistent power-ups for the easiest level. The result is that you learn to play the game without power-up items and just view them as a bonus. Some of the upgrades are nearly useless and others seem overpowered. Depending on where you are fighting in each level and your personal preference, you have several choices for weapon upgrades. When the upgrades do come around, they tend to be in big groups. Brief power-ups and moments of devastation appear to be the vision for Platypus, but this makes the power-up system far less strategic. I don't mind having a timer, but give me a chance to enjoy my power-up more often, for goodness' sake...!

Game Mechanics:
Nothing in the world of controls could be more simple than the well-designed side-scrolling shooter. One button to shoot, one button to move. The countdown timer on powered-up weapons means you don't have to worry about switching between modes. An interesting feature is that if you are in the middle of a twenty second countdown and lose a ship, the next ship starts with your powered-up weapon. This is a nice way to avoid the device used in many games of this type where a large number of power-ups suddenly drop in your lap after you die. The means to destroy enemies is always just a shot or twenty away. The boss battles don't use incredibly deep mechanics, just a lot of blasting. If power-ups were more interchangeable, the boss battles could be more strategic, as in picking the right tool for the job. Platypus doesn't play this way, it just gives you the power-up you need in advance of the boss battle. If you don't have the power-up, you're still fine but it will mean a lot of shooting. The control scheme works for either the analog stick or D-pad, so arcade purists can get their n-s-e-w on...

Without the clay effects, Platypus would just be a standard side-scrolling shooter. Since we don't see a lot of those coming on the market right now, fans of the genre really can't go wrong. The clay animation will keep anyone glued to the screen a little longer, but the net result is a game that thrives on a weekend rental and may earn a place in your library if you happen to really be a fan of the genre.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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