Platform: Xbox Indie Games (Xbox 360) Price: 400 MSP / $5 USD If you haven't played with clay since your childhood and want an excuse to do so again without anyone judging you then definitely give this game. Alternatively, if you're a fan of horizontal shooters, you should give Platypus a try as well. Gameplay: If you've played a horizontal shooter before, you should have a good grasp of what to expect but for those of you unfamiliar with the genre, basically the object of the game is to either destroy the incoming enemies/obstacles or simply avoid them at times (with the exception of the bosses as they must be destroyed in order to proceed to the next level). You take control of a yellow ship that shoots some rather bland bullets but can temporarily be strengthened via power-ups in the shape of a star. Each distinct power-up (total of 5) enhances the regular bullet attack for a couple of seconds which can be lengthened by picking up another power-up star until the timer hits 99 as that's the maximum time a power-up can last for. It's definitely recommended to keep an eye on that timer (found in the upper-left hand portion of the screen) when you're relying too much on these enhanced attacks as once the timer is over you'll be reverted to the regular attack which is not as strong and might require a change of strategy to remain alive. As for how these power-ups are obtained, they are dropped by enemies or can sometimes be found in floating packages that are shot down. Also, in addition to power-ups, some enemies drop fruits which don't enhance your ship but do boost your score. Aside from the already mentioned power-ups, there's an additional one that's a pod which allows you to inflict two shots. It's important to note that some of the power-ups can be changed by shooting the star which will change the color and thus allow you to pick which enhancement you'd prefer to use. However, this is not applicable to every power-up as some are predefined and can't be changed regardless of how many times you shoot them. This holds especially true for the green laser power-up as I don't recall any of them changing although you probably wouldn't want it to change as that's the strongest power-up found in the game as it makes destroying enemies a breeze assuming you use it correctly. In terms of health and lives, there is no health meter so if you're hit by either an enemy/obstacle you'll die and lose a life (which can be restored if you're score is high enough). Once you've run out of lives, you can use one of the remaining credits which also can be increased via high enough scores to continue playing however, using a credit will result in your current score being reset to 0 once again (you'll still make the leaderboards with your old score though once you reach the "Game Over" screen). Luckily, there is no need to restart the game if you do hit the "Game Over" screen as the game automatically saves your progress but it only lets you start again from the beginning of each stage therefore, if you happen to die while fighting a boss, you'll have to start at the beginning of that stage again rather than being able to skip straight to the fight which will be discussed shortly. Length-wise, the game has a total of 20 levels divided into 4 stages with 5 sub-levels each (the last level will always contain a boss). While each stage tends to introduce new enemies, some old ones will return but unlike enemies, the scenery will significantly change on each level which helps combat repetitiveness, visually at least. Each level should only take a few minutes to complete so in the end, the game shouldn't take more than just a few hours to complete unless you're really stuck and keep having to replay a stage to defeat the boss. Also, in case you didn't know, Platypus has previously been released on other platforms and what makes the Xbox 360 version special is that it's the first version to include 2 player co-op support. One of the best parts about this feature is that it supports drop-in cooperative play which means that a friend can join in at any time as long as you have an extra credit to spare to allow them inside the game. Lives are not shared, however, credits are so if your friend dies and utilizes the remaining credit, there won't be any left meaning that if you die, you won't be able to return to the game unless your friend earns another credit. As far as the difficulty goes, while there are 3 difficulty modes (Easy, Normal and Hard) the game tends to be on the challenging side even on "Easy" so prepare to fail a couple of times unless you're either good at horizontal shooters or get lucky. It's a reasonable challenge though, so you should be able to complete the game on "Easy" or at least get to the last stage without much of a struggle. However, on "Hard" prepare yourself for some intense bullet dodging as well as quick reflexes for the bosses (mainly the last one, if you can get that far). Also, another thing that's worth noting about the different difficulties is that in "Easy" after you die, you are still able to use the power-up assuming the timer hasn't expired but in the other two difficulties, losing a life will result in the power-up being lost. You're also able to play any unlocked stage under any difficulty, just make sure to change the difficulty in the main menu before selecting a stage. Graphics & Audio: The claymation graphics are quite impressive, especially taking into consideration that they were all made by one person. As for the music and sound effects, both were effective especially the upbeat music. The background scenery in each level was well done as well but sometimes confused the player as some things were actually obstacles rather than scenery. The stage with volcanoes and mines was guilty of this offense. Replay value: With 3 different difficulty modes, 2 player co-op and a local high score leaderboard, there's a good amount of replay value if you enjoyed it the first time especially if you completed it in one of the easier difficulties. Overall: Visually, Platypus definitely stands out from other horizontal shooters and while the gameplay isn't anything too special, it is fun and certainly is worth a go either alone or with a friend. It is certainly one of the more polished releases on the Xbox Live Indie games service and for $5, definitely worth purchasing if you liked what you saw in the trial. Also, if you're thinking you need to play it with a friend to enjoy it, I completed the game alone and just briefly tested the co-op for functionality evaluation purposes therefore, that's not the case (at least for me). Pros: +Awesome graphics +Upbeat music +Fun gameplay +2 player co-op (offline only) +3 difficulty modes +Local high score leaderboard +Good price +Reasonable enemy/scenery variety Cons: -No online leaderboard (I didn't really care but apparently many do) -Online co-op would have been excellent but since this wasn't an XBLA release, it wasn't expected -Final boss was challenging but the "ending" was rather bland, a simple short cutscene might have spiced it up -The "Easy" difficulty could have been a bit easier Possible glitch warning: After owning the game for about 2 weeks, apparently my save file recently was reset somehow. I'm unsure if it's actually a glitch within the game that caused it or simply a problem with my Xbox. No other game was apparently affected. I'm going to contact the developer about this issue to see if anyone else has had this problem, to the best of my knowledge, this issue has not yet been confirmed by anyone else so it's possible that it's not an actual glitch with the game but I'm stating it as a fair warning in the event that it is. I luckily was able to complete the game before this happened. I'll update this message once I've gotten more details. The review score will NOT take this issue into account for now. In closing, Platypus gets a 8.75/10 for it's fun gameplay and amazing use of claymation along with it's "join me at any time" co-op. Also, if you think the artwork looks rather childish think twice before judging claymation as Celebrity Deathmatch would like to have a word with you. With that said, give the trial a go. If you found it fun, you'll most likely enjoy the full game whether you decide to go solo or with a friend/spouse. This game was obtained from the developer rather than purchased, for review purposes.