Claymation has always been a bit of a rarity in movies, Wallace and Grommet, Gumby, and a few kids' movies highlight the short list of titles. The video game list is even shorter, which makes sense considering how ridiculously involved making claymation entertainment is. The video game list of clay includes the Clay Fighter games, Trog, The Neverwood and not much else. Those games where amusing at best, but ultimately not very good. Platypus is a very low key release that hopes its gimmick results in sales. Does the game play hold up, or does it fall apart like clay on a hot day?
As you can see from the 65% at the top of your screen, I found Platypus to be a satisfying, enjoyable experience, if not a particularly great or revolutionary title. This is far from what my initial impression was however, or even my impression of the first two of the six levels present in the game. Platypus starts off extremely bland, there are very few enemy types to greet you in the beginning, and the ones that do aren't very exciting; tiny little guys that move in predictable patterns that will kill you if you get you massive hit box in their way. The back grounds of these initial levels are supremely bland; the first one in fact in nothing more then green mounds of clay with white tops that pass for mountains. That's all the first level is, a handful of small quick enemies and a throw away background.
Slowly, however, the game redeems itself. By the final level the enemies become quite varied and challenging. This is especially true about the bosses; the last four are massive and very tough all while avoiding the clich? of being too cheap. I especially liked that they are of the segmented variety. They, like all the enemies, deform as you shoot them and then splat away. This is very satisfying as it gives you a sense of progress as you shoot round after round into the boss and some of the tougher enemies. While the bosses aren't cheap, I can't say the same about the common enemies, many are hard to hit and have hard to see projectiles. Frequently they will come up from behind faster then it is possible to dodge. This could have been ok if you had some kind of rear firing power up, but there is none.
Slowly power ups become more plentiful (and necessary). Interestingly you don't lose them when you die, but instead have a time limit with the power up. You can gain more time by collecting more of the same power up. You can gain more power by picking up weapons pods. Unfortunately these pods are rarely seen, just once or twice in the last two levels. And to make matters worse, when they are available they are almost impossible to get. They triple your firepower if you somehow get one, but actually getting one proves to be a frustrating endeavor. Speaking of pick-ups, you can gain extra points which get you an extra man every 500,000 by collecting fruit that falls out of larger enemies. Fruit? I guess they wanted to stay in the cartoony theme, but really, fruit?
The final levels actually do have interesting backgrounds such as caves and cities sculpted out of clay. These levels don't make up for a game that is generally disappointing is terms of level challenge. Only one level, a cave level, features any sort of boundaries and even then when you run into them you can't die from it. Towards the middle of the game there is a volcano that spews rocks that cover roughly a fifth of the screen. These rocks kill you of course, normally I would welcome an environmental challenge such as this, but it would have been nice to be able to predict where the rocks would fall by a shadow or a recognizable pattern or something to that nature. None of that is present, I found that the only way to survive was to pin to the bottom of the level and hope you have enough room between the swarms of enemies and rocks to dodge. Needlessly difficult is the only way I know how to describe that. The game does make use of many levels of parallax scrolling however, so at least that is in its favor.
Platypus is the only original shooter currently available for the PSP in America, and one of two available in the world. Luckily for it, it is better then Sengoku Cannon. That, however, isn't saying a whole lot, and in the end nothing about Platypus stands out except for the fact that it's the best clay shooter ever by default. I think the publisher knew this, since I have yet to see an ad for it (there have been no magazine previews to my knowledge) and big stores don't carry it. I don't there ever being more then one pressing of this game so collectors, go pick it up after you've beaten the three Konami collections that recently came out. But don't get too excited, at the end of the day this is nothing more than a so-so shooter with a claymation gimmick.
Platypus is easily the best claymation-inspired 2D shooter on the PSP. Of course, it's also the ONLY claymation-inspired 2D shooter on the PSP. It's not a must-own game, but fans of the shooters will get a kick out of how Platypus re-imagines this once popular genre.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!