Originally released as PC shareware last year, Platypus is a side-scrolling shoot-'em-up set in a world made entirely of clay. There's no storyline to speak of, and all you really need to know is that while piloting your titular craft from left to right through six different environments, you need to shoot at everything that moves. The game's biggest selling point, at least as far its packaging is concerned, is its Claymation visuals; but for the most part those are less impressive than and certainly add nothing to the gameplay.
If you're a fan of classic side-scrolling shoot-'em-ups, you'll find that Platypus is an entertaining but very basic, short-lived take on the genre. Platypus is played using only the directional pad or analog stick and a single fire button, and it won't take you long to realize that your craft's default weapon is horribly underpowered. There are a handful of different power-ups that you can collect as you progress through the game, but each one lasts for only 20 seconds, unless you're able to extend that time by collecting another.
Platypus' power-ups are perhaps the most interesting feature of the game, not because they're particularly satisfying or imaginative, but because of the gameplay mechanic that gives you a chance to determine which weapon upgrades you get. In addition to weapon pods that will float above and below your craft providing extra firepower, there are five power-ups that you can get by destroying specific formations of enemy fighters and then collecting the colored stars that they drop. There's a wide shot that's great for hitting multiple enemies; a rapid shot that effectively more than doubles your firepower; a sonic pulse that hits incoming projectiles as well as enemies; a lightning gun that destroys most enemies on contact as you move its horizontal beam up and down the screen; and rockets, which are very effective against most of the game's six bosses. What's interesting about the power-ups is that each is collected from a different-colored star, and you can change the color of most of the stars by shooting them--occasionally making them a more desirable target than any enemies on the screen.
The enemies that you'll be facing move in predictable patterns and generally take only a few shots to kill, but the numbers that they attack in (and the fact that they'll often surprise you from offscreen or from behind scenery) ensure a reasonable challenge--even on the easiest of the three difficulty settings. The bosses that you'll face at the end of each of the game's six levels are much more varied than the rest of the stuff that you'll be reducing to red explosions of clay, but for the most part the boss battles are time-consuming rather than challenging. That's not to suggest that you'll be able to beat all of Platypus' bosses the first time you face them, because that's unlikely. It should only take you one attempt to figure out their attack patterns and weaknesses, though, after which you'll find that most of them can be destroyed with relative ease--especially if you happen to have the right power-up equipped.
One of the reasons why Platypus isn't really as challenging as it first appears to be is the game's continue system. When you start a new game you'll have four additional lives and two credits in reserve. You'll earn extra lives as you progress, and at the end of each level you'll be awarded another credit. It's still tough to beat Platypus on a single play-through, but when you start a new game--complete with those same four lives and two credits--you can choose to start at the beginning of any of the levels that you've unlocked. The result is that you can beat the game without ever having completed more than one level in a session. This isn't necessarily a criticism, since it would certainly get frustrating if you were forced to play through the first level over and over again, but it might be a turn-off for those of you with masochistic tendencies who were hoping for some old-school coin-hungry-style arcade action.
In addition to the single-player "story" mode, which might take you around five hours to play through on your first attempt depending on your skill and the difficulty level, Platypus offers ad-hoc cooperative play and a survival mode. The cooperative mode lets you play through the entire story mode alongside a friend with whom you'll share a common reserve of extra lives and any power-ups that appear. If you die in a co-op game and there are no more lives for you you'll get to stay on the screen in a transparent craft and watch your friend continue playing, and if he or she manages to earn an extra life you'll be put right back into the game. The survival mode plays out much like the regular game, with the caveat that you only get a single life with which to take on the enemy. This is a great mode to play if you don't have a lot of time because, although the default top score for it is certainly beatable, the fact that it's set to only two minutes speaks volumes about just how challenging it is.
While Platypus' visuals are repetitive and don't always look a lot like Claymation, the game's audio is rather impressive. The sound effects for weapon fire and explosions aren't up too much, but the list of composers involved with the soundtrack reads like a who's who from the Commodore 64 era. Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Matt Gray, and Paul Norman have all had a hand in the soundtrack, which includes remixes of some of their more memorable works from such classic games as Wizball, Parallax, Sanxion, and Driller. There are only eight music tracks in total, but there's not a weak one among them, and given that they're all taken from quite different games they work surprisingly well together.
Platypus is fun while it lasts, and there's certainly no shortage of challenge if you opt for its hardest difficulty setting. For the asking price the game is very bare-bones, though, and the only incentive to play through the game again once you're done is to try for a higher score. There's nothing horribly wrong with Platypus, then, provided you can accept it for what it is--an unambitious, simplistic, and short-lived shoot-'em-up.