Capsized ReviewJoe Shaffer
If there's one thing that seems to be prevalent in modern gaming that I've grown weary of, it's hand-holding. Don't get me wrong; I don't necessarily interpret a low difficulty rating as a strike against a game. However, I find it tiresome to plod through a large number of titles that refuse to challenge me or make full use of their features. Thankfully I have found that there are some underdog developers out there, like Alientrap, who will gladly supply me with the violent face-ripping that I so desire, as showcased in their sidescrolling action title Capsized.
Capsized is not your run-of-the-mill platformer, nor is it an exercise in sidescrolling tropes like so many other indie titles that have manifested over the past few years. You take the role of a space traveler stranded on a poisonous planet rife with homicidal life and xenophobic natives. Each stage provides you with a simple objective that diverges from the "advance to the right to win" style of gameplay typically associated with 2D games. For instance, instead of always requiring you to cross a finish line, the game might expect you to defeat a certain number of foes or demolish some of your adversaries' monuments or structures. One of my favorite stages involved delving into a convoluted mess of debris-choked tunnels and immense chasms in an effort to rescue my fellow crewmates. Discovering their whereabouts was not the only difficult part, either, as I had to drag their unconscious carcasses back to my makeshift encampment whilst fending off the vicious locals.
Although these objectives are quite simplistic, completing them is not a simple matter. For starters, there's a rough, awkward period in which you must acclimate yourself to the game's low-g physics and peculiar control scheme. Although you can play with a gamepad or Xbox 360 controller, it's much easier mouse-and-keyboard it. Unlike most console-style 2D shooters, aiming is not limited to four-to-eight directions, as bullets can fly in any direction that you can point the reticle. Aiming with a 360 controller is a bit awkward, as it requires you to use the right analog stick. Unfortunately, there are a number of occasions in which you must jump while aiming, both of which make use of your right thumb. Unless you have two right thumbs or are proficient in pressing action buttons with your right index finger while tilting the right analog, using a 360 controller can actually be more of a hindrance than sticking with the keyboard and mouse.
The tricky part of growing accustomed to the game's mechanics, though, lies in utilizing your jetpack and hook shot. In the case of the former, survival depends on how well you can gauge your movements and those of your targets. It can be tough to keep yourself from careening into a contingent of aliens while also cutting loose rounds from your phaser, for instance. Dodging projectiles is also the pits, as the jetpack is not always the fastest travel option, especially when you initially fire the pack up. Once the pack's fuel runs dry, the hook shot becomes your primary means of ascension. With well timed shots and a light understanding of the game's physics, you can propel yourself upward and out of harm's way--or into it if you're not careful. More than that, the hook shot makes an excellent weapon. With it, you can grasp mighty boulders and various other bits of environment and propel them toward your enemies with life-ending ferocity.
After a few completed stages and some time getting acquainted with the physics, you might believe that you've developed into a pro. Maybe you'll wind up like me, thinking I was invincible because I had amassed an impressive collection of weapons ranging from piercing lasers to explosive rockets, even a wave beam and a shotgun. Against standard natives, any well armed astronaut would seem like a god. It was when high priests, telekinetic warriors, and monstrous combatants reared their heads that I discovered a reason to worry. That's when the game began to inundate me with foes and barrage me with flying spears and punishing lasers. At times, it seemed like there was no escape from their onslaught, and that I didn't possess enough bullets to put so much as a dent in their forces.
That's when Capsized truly comes to life. It's during moments when effective dodging absolutely matters, when survival is uncertain, when each sweet bullet counts, and when you learn to make use of the marvelously designed landscape--both to flee certain death and to eradicate the opposition--that the game is at its best. As I've said before, Capsized is not your average sidescroller, and thus contains a plethora of nooks, crannies, and special details that can factor in to your strategy when dealing with super-powered foes.
Yes, the game will test your survival capabilities. You will likely run low on ammo, health, and jetpack fuel more than few times. That will usually send you scrounging for power-ups, hoping that nothing deadly followed you in the process. Generally, a thorough search of your surroundings will yield a fair enough bounty. Even though Capsized is a tough game, it's not totally unforgiving.
Not totally, that is...
There are a couple of stages where the game overwhelms you with enemies. At times you might happen upon a cluster of foes--usually a two or three truly powerful ones supported by pesky pissants--and find yourself in pieces before you can even take aim. Don't be surprised if you find yourself trying repeatedly to no avail, either. At times, Capsized will mercilessly stomp you unless you can concoct as sound enough strategy, but sometimes even that won't save you from a cheap bombardment of unavoidable projectiles.
Perseverance will help you win in the end, though; that and a lot of swearing. It also helps that the game has a somewhat soothing aspect to it, what with its hypnotic electronic soundtrack and cool watercolor-like presentation. Environments are fittingly alien and gorgeous, at times almost appearing like they were ripped from the pages of an ancient comic book.
Bottom line: Capsized is a delightful and devious 2D experience exploding with challenge and action. It's the kind of game that makes me glad I give obscure titles a chance. So if you dig indie titles and pine for a skull-crushing adventure, give Capsized a chance. Just be sure to take up yoga on the side, or maybe listen to the Pure Moods compilation to remedy your frustration between sessions.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.