The mysterious and deadly world of Capsized is an undoubtedly hostile place. Nightmarish flora and fauna twist their way from gnawed ground, burnt-out debris litters the landscape and hints at the gruesome fate of whichever unlucky souls found themselves on this planet before you, and the terrifying forms of bloodthirsty natives slink by somewhere just outside the periphery of your helmet visor, ready to eviscerate you with deadly bio-weaponry. This is not a place you should want to spend a nanosecond more than is absolutely necessary to rescue your crew and get the hell out, but Capsized‘s intricately detailed art style, tense exploration, frenzied combat and cerebral soundtrack will have you gravity-hooked to your screen as it unsettles, frustrates, and delights in equal measure.
It’s always seemed strange to me that more developers don’t opt for 2D when trying to craft visually appealing worlds. Even though the news that Abe’s Oddysey would be getting a shiny new coat of paint in the form of New and Tasty had me soiling my loincloth with glee, if I was asked to choose one game that really didn’t need updated graphics, Abe’s first misadventure would have been the one. Oddysey still looks every bit as striking now as it did when it was released, and it’s completely down to the personality and unique art style Lorne Lanning and his team wove into the game. In comparison, the 3D graphical benchmarks from that era look extremely dated now. The reason I bring this up is because I have no doubt that Capsized, which has already been around for a couple of years as a PC exclusive, will still look phenomenal in another ten years time.
Capsized’‘s arresting visuals come up somewhere between H.R Giger and Shannon Wheeler, and the creepy comic-book reminiscent environments retain all the claustrophobic dread you’d expect from a malevolent alien world whilst, in part thanks to an atmospheric, synth-driven electro soundtrack, still offer that sense of haunting wonder present in the most affecting science fiction. That urge to explore the unknown, of boldly going where no indie gamer has gone before in spite of the inevitable danger that lurks somewhere between the ominous shadows and the pulsating, venomous plant life. The draw to venture into the unknown sits at the core of Capsized, and you’ll want to traverse every inch of every level and uncover each of it’s many secrets, even though you’ll likely get squished by a host of alien nasties dozens of times in the process.
You’re by no means helpless though. In fact, a huge and varied arsenal of weapons is on hand and scattered about in the familiar form of collectible power-ups to help you fend off your alien assailants. Pulse rifles, railguns, plasma launchers and flamethrowers are all waiting for you in the darkest recesses of the planet, offering powerful options with which to defend yourself. Ammunition for these weapons is limited, but you’ll always have your gravity gun at hand. Not only can it be used to throw your enemies at each other (or smash them to little pieces with rocks, which remains sadistically satisfying throughout) but it’s also used to solve many of the game’s physics puzzles. The puzzles offer a nice break from the shooting, but they do come with their own set of problems.
Capsized is an IndiePub title, and I had a few of the same issues with the physics as I did with the publisher’s elemental puzzler Storm. While it’s nice to have an organic engine at work here, the physics have a bit of a mind of their own, and can often be difficult to second guess. The controls can also be a tad on the stiff side, which is a problem when trying to perform accurate manoeuvres. Combat is augmented by a lock-on mechanic, which overcomes the problems that the controls might cause with regards to shooting, but you’re on your own when it comes to manipulating objects, which can lead to frustration. It shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment too much, and part Capsized‘s appeal is the level of challenge, but it’s noticeable enough to be worth mentioning.
Despite the aforementioned control issues, you’ll feel surprisingly agile playing Capsized. Your gravity gun can be used to pull yourself up to ledges and ceilings and also features a ‘gravity ram’, which can get you out of any tight spots should you get stuck, or launch your character into the air for higher jumps. You’re also capable of wallbouncing fairly effectively, and if you don’t feel like jumping, there’s always your good old-fashioned jet-pack, which effectively allows you free run of the screen. Basically, there’s a bunch of ways to get around, and you’ll never feel restricted – even though the paths to reach your objectives are reasonably linear, there’s usually at least a few different methods to achieve your goals. It’s refreshing to see this in a 2D platformer, where limited mechanics can often prevent player choice.
As well as a campaign mode, which features a threadbare but intriguing narrative told through animated panels, Capsized features local co-op, bot deathmatch, a bunch of survival-type modes, and a handful of new levels exclusive to console versions of the game. A game mode which has you holding off waves of enemies, whilst a fairly prevalent feature in other games, is particularly great fun here, as it gives you a chance to really get to grips with the various weapons and enemy types.
If 2D platformers are your thing, Capsized would be a fantastic addition to your collection, and even if they’re not, it’s such a visually appealing and atmospheric title that you might find yourself converted. I’d say shooting aliens has never been this much fun, but then I’d have go through about 75 percent of all the games ever made to double check, so I’ll just say that shooting aliens in Capsized is every bit as fun as it should be, and very rarely does it look quite this good.
Capsized is out now on PC and Xbox 360, and heading to PS3 in the near future.
- Standout haunting and intricate sci-fi art style
- Challenging and satisfying combat and puzzles
- Controls can be stiff and tricky
- Physics are a little unstable