Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Astraware Platypus Review

Platypus is the latest game from the creative minds at Astraware and Idigicon. In this side-scrolling shooter you take to the skies in your F-27 “Platypus” fighter to defend the peaceful Mungola from the invading Collosotropolan Battle Fleet.

Game Play

Platypus is an adaptation of the popular game of the same name from Idigicon for Windows to the Palm OS and Windows Mobile platforms. Astraware has created a faithful representation of Platypus for the small screen providing you with pulse pounding excitement anywhere you happen to be. The game has three levels of difficulty (easy, medium, and hard). First timers will want to begin game play on the easy game mode until they get the hang of the game.

You control your Platypus with the stylus by default. If your handheld PDA or smartphone has a 5-way nav pad, you can optionally use it to control your ship. The game also has two modes for firing at your enemies: autofire on and off. I tried playing the game with and without the default settings, and I found that game play was easer with the default settings. Trying to move your fighter around the screen and shooting at the same time with a 5-way nav pad like those found on devices from Palm turned out to be just a bit too difficult. When dog fighting in the skies over Mungola, you will be able to destroy most enemy aircraft with a single shot. Keep a watchful eye out for larger enemy ships as they will require multiple hits to destroy them.

Platypus is made up of over 20 playable levels or missions that are broken up into 4 worlds, referred to in the game as stages. Once you have completed a stage, the next time you play the game, you are allowed to jump over previously played stages if you chose. You score points by shooting down enemy aircraft and demolishing ground vehicles. Extra points are awarded for destroying other targets of opportunity like buildings and airborne obstacles. Destroying enemy ships often releases bonuses and power ups. Falling fruit (cherries, grapes, and bananas) will give you extra points and floating stars will add power-ups to your ship. Power-ups only last for a few seconds, however you can do a lot of damage with rapid fire mode, scatter shot mode, and my personal favorite, the heat seeking missiles power-ups. Just fly your Platypus over the fruit or stars while they are on screen to pick up the goodies they offer. Just be careful when the shooting starts. If you are not paying close attention, you might try to pick up a cherry only to realize at the last second that it is really a bullet from an enemy fighter.

I tested Platypus on a Palm TX, Palm Treo 755p, and Treo 750. In all cases the game played well with no noticeable differences in game play.


Graphics & Sounds


One of the unique elements of Platypus is that the game’s graphical design elements have been created out of modeling clay that was later colorized on a computer. The use of clay models gives the game a very organic feel to it. When ships, vehicles, or objects are destroyed, they don’t just blow up, they burst in a squishy, splattering explosion! With all of the messy shoot-em-up action taking place in the foreground, it is almost too easy to miss the graphics in the background that make up the game’s landscape. Trees, buildings, hills, and the sky are also beautifully crafted. You will want to crash you Platypus a few time just so you can look at all of the other graphical objects on the screen.

The sound effects in Platypus are also well done. Laser bolts sound like laser bolts and enemy craft erupt with a satisfying plop while ground transports explode with a resounding ba-boom! The background music that is used in Platypus is a retro throw back to the mid-1980s, when side scrolling action games dominated computer screens of the day. While playing, I found the default music level to be too loud. Lowering it to the first level (out of three) was better. If I’m playing in an area where there are a lot of people around, I just turn the music off and set the sound effects volume to a lower setting.

Conclusion

Platypus is a perfect mix of modern action game with deep roots in the classic slide-scrolling shooters from yesteryear. The game is easily picked up by both casual gamers and fans of action games. The replay value of the game is high because of the messy fun when things go “splat!” as they explode. In short, Platypus is an entertaining game that will keep players glued to their handhelds for hours! If you enjoyed Astraware Zap 2000, then you will want to add Platypus to your software library. Not since Bejeweled have I spent this much time playing a game on my Palm Treo.

Buying Information

Platypus is available today directly from the Astraware website for $19.95 and runs on recent Palm OS and Windows Mobile smartphones and PDAs. Astraware is working on releasing future versions of Platypus for the Symbian S60 and UIQ platforms.

For more details, visit the Astraware website at http://www.astraware.com/platypus.
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