A Closer Look at iPhone Shooter ‘Platypus’

As we recently indicated, Astraware’s iPhone port of claymation-based side-scrolling shooter Platypus [App Store] has arrived in the iTunes App Store.  I’ve recently had a chance to spend some time with this unique title.  Have a look.

Platypus was originally created by Anthony Flack of Squashy Software as a PC shooter which is currently available from Idigicon.  (Read the author’s harrowing tale of its creation…)  The game is particularly notable for its unusual artwork and retro-inspired soundtrack.  Every item in the game was formed with modeling clay and photographed for inclusion in the game.  What’s more, according to Flack, due to an apparent shortage of Plasticine in his home country of New Zeland, the same grey lump of Plasticine was used to create all of the models in the game, which were photographed and then colorized in Photoshop.

Platypus’ soundtrack sounds like something ripped straight out of a Commodore 64 game from the ’80s–and with good reason.  The game contains remixes of some of the more memorable works of renowned C64 composers Ron Hubbard, Martin Galway, Matt Gray, and Paul Norman.  These classic chiptunes add quite positively to the oldschool shooter feel of the game.

Claymation aside, Platypus is a fairly standard side-scrolling shooter.  The player pilots the Platypus F-27 fighter plane in an effort to traverse the game’s four play areas (two less than the PC version) intact, while dodging mines and taking out as many enemy fighters and ground vehicles as possible along the way.

Platypus is both easier and slower-paced than hardcore side-shooter fans are likely accustomed to.  While the difficulty and intensity does increase as the game progresses, even in Hard mode it’s not particularly difficult to dodge enemy craft and their fire.  This may be a positive to the casual gamer, however.

The destruction of certain enemies or strings of enemies results in fruit bonuses that can be picked up for points and weapon power-ups.  The latter come in the form of a star floating on the screen.  When fired upon, the star spins and changes color, which changes the type of weapon that will be granted upon pick up.  It’s a nice feature that allows the player to choose his or her preferred weapon (and developing a weapon preference happens rather quickly, make no mistake).

The iPhone version of Platypus features a choice of accelerometer or touchscreen controls for maneuvering, with an on-screen button that toggles auto-fire on and off.  I found the touchscreen control to be the more effective method, as it allows for faster movement of the Platypus than does accelerometer control, making it easier to dodge enemies and adding to the overall pace of the game.

As can be seen in the developer’s demo video, the game’s colorful graphics and parallax scrolling backdrop layers make for a very nice looking game with a real graphical sense of depth.  In playing, I experienced the occasional slowdown / studder but saw nothing extreme in that regard.

In all, Platypus is a lot of fun.  I found it hard to put the game down and was continually amused by watching my ordnance turn the cute-looking enemy ships into similarly cute-looking balls of fire.  And while it’s true that there’s not a lot of competition when it comes to side- or top- scrolling shooters in the App Store, I can safely say that Platypus is currently the best such game available for the iPhone.

Game Details
Name: Platypus (v1.00) Price: $4.99 [Buy]
Developer: Astraware
Size: 4.7 MB
Device: Tested on iPhone 3G
Platypus is a fun, unique looking side-scrolling shooter featuring claymation style artwork.  While it’s a bit easier and slower-paced than hardcore side-scrollers, it’s the best scrolling shooter currently available for the iPhone.