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PSP Fanboy review: Platypus

Andrew Yoon
Andrew Yoon|@scxzor|December 31, 2006 11:45 AM

The shooter genre is easily one of my favorites: classics like Ikaruga and Gunstar Heroes, demonstrate how much fun it is to blow up lots of stuff with rapid-fire lasers. The aforementioned games have brilliant simple controls, utilizing just two buttons, but they feature great gameplay mechanics that challenge the gamer considerably. Platypus, however, features none of these attributes.

You know you have to be a little suspicious when the promotional quotes on the packaging don't actually praise the game. Unlike Ikaruga's notorious "frothing" quote, Platypus' box notes that its "graphics are made entirely of clay." Huh? Yes, that's true. But does that say it's good? (No, it doesn't!)

The truth of the matter is: there isn't really anything good to praise in this game. Not even the unique claymated graphics. While unique, the graphics leave a lot to be desired. One of the biggest problems with the game? The claymated bullets. While Platypus should be commended for not taking place in a generic sci-fi fantasy future like every other shooter created, it fails to take advantage of one of the genre conventions: lasers. Why are lasers such a good thing? Because in games, they're bright and visible. Clay bullets are tiny, gray sprites that blend in with the environment. Even worse, the bullets will sometimes hide behind clouds that are placed in the foreground. Not fun. Shooter afficiandos know that shooters tend to be more about dodging than shooting, but even the casual gamer will be frustrated when invisible bullets continue to destroy their fragile one-hit KO ships.

The backgrounds also leave much to be desired. The repetitive and unchanging backgrounds are visually qutie boring. The claymated enemies don't fare much better, as they seem to be a few frames of animation short of looking smooth.

While the visual presentation suffers greatly (and even hinders gameplay), not much more can be said about the game's audio presentation either. The music is horrifically generic--I've heard better soundtracks from porn movies. Ikaruga was so beloved by critics and fans because every aspect of the game added to the gameplay: the music was orchestrated to give players auditory cues as to what will happen in the game. Through memorization of the music, players would be able to learn what enemies were coming, and prepare accordingly. Not so in Platypus.

Unfortunately, there isn't much to enjoy in Platypus' old-school gameplay. The development team clearly failed to learn that the shooter genre is supposed to have some depth to it. The enemies are uninspired, but even worse: the weapons and power-up mechanics are incredibly limiting. Power-up stars are picked up by destroying a specific group of enemies, and the stars enable you to fire mostly useless projectiles at enemies for a set period of time. Most of the projectiles are too slow, or too underpowered to make them enjoyable. Even worse, there's no strategy behind the power-ups: there's no way to switch weapons, no way to store a power-up. The lack of depth in the combat system is the final nail in the coffin for this horribly underwhelming game.

Shooters aren't hard to make at all (you can make one for yourself at DigiPen). However, it's up to a game developer to use the genre's simplicity to their advantage and create interesting gameplay mechanics and scenarios. The team responsible for Platypus fails on almost all levels: the graphics, the music, the sound, and the gameplay all fall short of what good game design teaches. The sheer lack of effort placed into this game shows why Treasure is still considered one of the best dev teams in the industry ... and why MumboJumbo is not.

PSP Fanboy Score: 3.5 out of 10