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24Nov/090

XBLIG Review - Platypus

xboxboxart A shooter coming on in the Indie Games that ISN’T a dual stick shooter? How could that be? Did hell freeze over? Platypus is a strange beast for me, because #1) It’s a game that I have played several times before and #2) It’s a horizontal shmup. I have always disliked horizontal shmups. Gradius, R-Type, I don’t care. Horizontal shmups just don’t feel right to me for some reason. This game is a strange exception to the rule, because other than the graphical style it doesn’t do anything to change anything about horizontal shmups. It’s just got an unmistakable charm that keeps me coming back for more.

And now it’s on the Xbox 360 where I can play it on my large-ish 36” TV (albeit it’s only 480p) with my SF4 Fight Stick. And it’s bliss. But let’s get to talking about the actual game shall we?

Platypus has actually been around for a while. It’s available for the PC, the PSP through the PSN store and the iPhone/iPod Touch and heaven knows where else because I think I’ve seen fan remakes for other platforms.

Graphically, the game is superb. Just about everything in the game is done via Claymation. And I’m not talking computer generated stuff here, I mean literal lumps of clay. Granted, they’ve been enhanced somewhat with Photoshop and blah blah blah, but almost everything from the backgrounds to the ships are done in Claymation. Hell, even the shots and explosions are done in this style and they look awesome. Some of the bigger enemies, when they explode you’ll see little guys bail out of the doomed ship, the closer they get to being destroyed, you can see the damage you’re doing. And the bigger enemies and bosses drop fruit. They drop FRUIT. It’s just incredible the amount of detail that has gone into the graphical style of this game. Even down to the numbers blending into one another when it calculates your high score. I would almost put it past Wallace and Grommit to be perfectly honest. Even the bloody smoke and clouds are done in that style. Not to mention everything is in 720p high definition.

The sound is every bit as good as the graphics with all the gun sounds and explosions you come to expect. Even when you hit the bigger enemies, it sounds like someone smacking a lump of clay with a baseball bat or something. It’s just great. And the bass that comes from the explosions is something else as well sounding suitably huge and epic. Oh, and speaking of epic. The soundtrack. It’s just awesome. It consists of remixes of Commodore 64 game tunes done by Commodore 64 remixers and I wish to God I had this to stick on my iPod because it’s some of the best music I’ve heard out of a game in the Indie Games section I’ve ever heard. The game by itself is worth the 400 points, but the music just makes the deal that much sweeter.

The gameplay and levels and whatnot, while done with near perfection are honestly not anything exceptional though. That’s not by any means saying that this game is bad of course. The developers didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, because with a game like this it doesn’t NEED to be reinvented. This style of gameplay has lasted for YEARS and I highly doubt it’ll EVER get hold. You use your right analog stick to move around and hit one of the face buttons to shoot. That’s it. There are various weapon powerups in the game that last for a finite amount of time such as Autoshot, a spread shot, missiles (that look bloody awesome in the graphical style this game comes in and pack one hell of a punch), a sonic pulse and a lightning gun. My personal favorite is the Autoshot just because I like to fill the screen with bullets, but they all definitely have their pros. The only one I find that I don’t really like is the sonic pulse because it’s range isn’t really all that great. But it makes up for it by destroying the enemy shots. And the lightning gun, while it doesn’t pack much of a punch, it’ll cut through and hit multiple enemies. Occasionally you’ll see crates floating up the screen by balloons, and if you manage to get the crate instead of the balloon like I usually do they’ll hold either gold coins that boost your score a little bit, a x2 multiplier for your score, or even better, 2 extra guns that revolve around your ship.

And as far as the stages go, there are 4 stages consisting of 5 levels each, so there is PLENTY of game to go around here. Unfortunately, there’s no way to save your progress though. So this goes back to the old school idea of just sitting there and beating it all in one shot. If you can. And this game lasts a fair amount of time for what it is and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth because even on Easy the game is pretty damn tough. But not anywhere near hard enough to make you you want to throw your controller across the room on Easy. Since I’m more of a casual player for these types of games, that’s the difficulty I play it on. Yeah yeah, I’m a wuss. I know it. But the higher difficulty levels definitely add to the challenge, and ramp up quite nicely.

I do have a few gripes however. It would have been awesome to have Xbox Live support for the two player support, and global leaderboards (or at least an option where the game will message the friend you’re competing against with your score). Saving would have been nice, but that is just personally me, and I don’t believe saving has EVER been in the game. But those are small gripes. The lack of Xbox Live support is something I’ve learned to just deal with in the Indie Games section, and is a disappointment in these AWESOME games like this. But since I’m a writer and a blogger and not a programmer … there’s nothing I can do about that unfortunate fact.

9.5 – Considering cookie cutter dual stick shooters are a dime a dozen in the Indie Games, it’s refreshing to see a game like this. Even if it is a horizontal shooter. ;) Regardless of that, this is a GREAT game that can be played by anyone. Everything from the graphical style to the sound and DEFINITELY the music in this is awesome and if you have even a passing interest in shmups you have to pick this up. And here’s a suggestion, if you don’t have ANY Microsoft points right now, get on your console. Buy the 500 point pack for $6.25. Get this and Atomhex (the previous game released by these guys). You won’t be sorry. Scratch that idea, Atomhex for some reason has gone up to 240 points.

Here’s hoping the sequel will make it to the Indie Games section as well.

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