Developer Alientrap sells Capsized on the premise of it being retro-inspired, a throwback to 2D action games with a focus on its platforming and exploration. While it certainly plays like a Bionic Commando with oiled joints, Capsized’s artistic style and atmosphere, the two main reasons for investing a purchase, are borrowed ideas from worthy inspirations; Dead Space, Bioshock, and even the Aliens franchise pop their head up in Capsized’s vivacious art, giving the world a malevolent tone. It marries the faux-horror nature of these games with a frenetic traversal mechanic, making for a brief experience with splendid art and questionable design choices.
The audience is introduced to the peril of Capsized’s unnamed protagonist through a series of finely crafted comic panels, detailing the crash landing and arrival to the viridian jungle planet. The game’s artistic detail leaves little to be desired: indigenous creatures roam harmlessly, gas bubbles containing noxious gas are burped out of the planet’s repulsive ecosystem, and the green denizens that stand in your way range from being gaseous enemies of the sky to hulking, armored tribal warriors.
This detail makes Capsized’s world, however familiar it may be, a richly interesting place to simply be in. The soundtrack for the game is the album “Movements,” arranged by Mirror’s Edge composer and electronic artist Solar Fields, a fluid cycling of sci-fi influence and tumbling electronic depths. The twinkling grasp of Solar Fields lends the proper air of mystique to Capsized’s aural world, aiding the guttural squelches and pops of the enemies as you vanquish them with gunfire. It is Capsized’s strength in style that makes the curt length of the game such a disappointing fact. The levels themselves are fairly small pieces of the world, and you’ll find the first few introductory levels ending within mere minutes of entering. It is an easy point to sympathize with when you consider the two-man development team, but the lacking content is a problem worth highlighting.
[Capsized’s world is as gorgeous as it is vile and dangerous]
Capsized’s length is exacerbated by one of the game’s most appealing mechanic: the hook, which acts similarly to Bionic Commando’s grappling hook crossed with a bungee jump cord, gives the player the ability to launch the protagonist through a level, provided they have enough inertia and ingenuity to make use of it. This Spider-Man-like tool allows for the player to zip past the game’s beautiful vistas in seconds, as well as acting as a combat assistance so that the player can utilize the game’s robust physics system and haul rocks and other objects at enemies a la Dead Space’s “Kinesis” mechanic. The hook can also slow the player down for the sake of strategic movement, anchoring him or her to a wall to fire upon a helpless enemy or two, or using the stray environment pieces to move past traps and switches.
[The hook allows the player to be imaginative when defending against the hostile world]
Though the hook is Capsized’s gameplay focus for traversal, its shooting is a competent nod to Halo’s variety of weapon selection and spray-and-pray combat. Competent players may find a more skilled combination of hook-and-gun gameplay available to them, but I mainly focused on retreating from enemies long enough to silence them with the arsenal that Capsized’s provides players. Through the weapons are all given their own unique names, fans of shooters will find heat-seeking grenade launchers, rocket launchers, machine guns, and yes, a flamethrower. It’s all relatively standard shooter-fare, a fact cemented by the inclusion of hidden power-ups that assist you in ways that range from unlimited jetpack fuel to energy shields.
Capsized is a game with twelve levels in its Campaign, eight to nine of those levels being developed with a balanced focus on unknown danger, light puzzles, and healthy exploration. The rest of Capsized is a recycled mess, forcing an army of enemies and mini-bosses encountered in previous levels on the player. The difficulty spike of these last few levels is so severe that the combat and gameplay does not simply become less fun, it tears the exploratory heart out of Capsized and replaces it with a mediocre action game, hell-bent on frustrating the player with a legion of enemies and little subtlety.
[Bulbous clouds make for fun slinging opportunities, but little else]
Capsized’s campaign is brief, a mere 2-3 hours of gameplay time, which makes the last few levels an even bigger blight on the game’s worth. Cooperative gameplay forces the second player to use a gamepad, sacrificing the accuracy and preferable control scheme of a mouse and keyboard, and the game simply isn’t fit to handle the independent movement of two players wielding bungee jump cords that act like grappling hooks. An included arcade mode theoretically sounds like a silver lining for potential gamers looking for a purchase with longevity, but some of the included modes involve Deathmatch with bots (a horrendous experience, as you’ll find the severe difficulty of the later levels infused with four different spacemen that loathe your existence to be quite intolerable), a horde mode, time trial mode, a weaponless mode that requires the player to use the hook as their sole offensive weapon, and a duel between two players with gamepads—Arcade mode feels more like a buffet of “Well, we had the ability to put this in our game, so we did” decisions, and none of the included modes are worth investing time in.
Frugal players—and face it, you must be frugal to be perusing an online indie video game blog—will look at Capsized’s current (as of this writing) $9.99 price tag and ask, “Can I derive ten dollars of pleasure from such a purchase?” Each campaign level may be full of promise and exploratory depth, but secret areas only reveal power-ups and other mundane additions to gameplay that add to the star rating given at the end of every level. Capsized has little to offer beyond a gleeful hook mechanic and brilliant art style for players wanting to spend a large amount of time with their purchases, but those willing to take a dip in the value department will be rewarded with a beautiful, albeit slightly frustrating world to escape from.