It's time to alert you to another sparkly gem on XBLIG. Amongst the many options and holiday AAA game release blitz, it's often easy to miss a smaller outstanding title. Platypus is a 'port' that you may have seen elsewhere - but it's release on XBLIG was my first experience, so there's a good chance that it will be for many of you too.
Without a doubt, the first thing that will strike you is the visuals. With gorgeous and stylish graphics made of clay (that's the best way I can word it), this side-scrolling ship shooter immediately has a unique, polished, and dare I say 'tasty' look and feel (I want to eat it). The ships feel robust and dynamic and the landscapes are rich. But as we all know, that's never enough alone.
Thankfully, Platypus follows though bigtime on gameplay. The controls are crisp and intuitive, the guns are satisfying, and the many enemy types offer fresh challenges. There are all sorts of great little touches, but one of the best is the way enemy ships fall apart as you damage them. The smaller basic explosions are cool, but the larger ships bust apart and get beaten up as you pound on them - panels of armor fall off, burn and dimple marks appear, and pilots eject prior to the final booming explosion. It's lovely.
Another standout feature for me is the powerups and goodies. A shooter rests its loins on the powerup system and Platypus sits confidently on a nice variety of boosts. There are five main gun powerups, each with different advantages. Adding to the strategy is the ability to shoot the powerups to change their color/ability - so if you're skillful, you can snag the gun that's best for your situation or playstyle. My personal favorite are the hard hitting red missiles that just feel beefy as they swarm around the screen.
But the items don't end there. You can also blow up certain structures to find little crates that's can provide even more firepower, points, extra lives, etc. But again, you have to skillfully shoot the crate, not the balloon carrying them, or else the powerup will plummet to the ground. And lastly, most of the bigger enemies and structures will explode with fruit (yes fruit, I told you it was tasty) that are worth points towards extra lives. You can juggle and split the fruit with you gun to help grab it before it hits the ground - nice touches right?
There's more but I am running out of blog real estate so I have to resort to a list. Huge bosses, co-op play, three difficulty levels, and cool music round out a feature list that is hard to knock.
One main complaint - sometimes the depth of play was really tough to perceive. As with most shooters, there tends to be tons of mayhem on screen, and sometimes I would confuse background set pieces, with foreground (deadly) enemies and structures. Some levels are bigger culprits than others, but on more than one occasion, I died in the key of 'what the F sharp" when a building I thought was in the background was actually in the foreground. The same goes for one particular level with a floating minefield - which mines am I dodging?!
But all and all, that is forgivable crunch in an otherwise deliciously moist and chewy cookie of a game. Some people may be turning up their noses at the 400MP price tag, but don't be a cheapass - that's a good price.