Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games
Review Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade (Xbox 360)
Review Copy Provided By: IndiePub
Release Date: July 5, 2013
Capsized has crash-landed on XBLA, and those who enjoyed the PC version will be happy to hear that nothing is lost in translation to the new platform.
Originally a PC title released in 2011, Capsized is a 2D action platformer starring a crew of stranded astronauts surviving on a hostile alien world. The player is equipped with a variety of weapons to fight the alien menace, along with a gravity gun used to manipulate objects in the world. While most of your time with Capsized will be spent shooting up the various creatures of this mysterious and beautiful world, you’ll also need to solve puzzles and explore labyrinthine caverns to get your crew off-planet and back home.
A controller works very well to work the game, and is probably preferable to the keyboard-mouse setup this time around. Control of the game is simple, with movement on the traditional left stick and aiming on the right. You can jump, of course, but you also have a gravity gun that acts more as a tether than a projectile weapon. The tether can attach to walls, objects, and enemies, and be used to toss those things or yourself around the environment. It is here that Capsized really shows off the complexity of its platforming. Novice players will find themselves struggling to navigate the winding halls of the world, but will come to learn the intricacies of using your tools to travel. By the time I’d reached the final levels, I was swinging gracefully from platform to platform, slingshotting myself through the air and shooting enemies like a spacey Cirqe du Soleil.
The weapons you get to fight your enemies with are typically scattered throughout the levels in the form of power-ups. There’s the standard pistol, machine gun, and a flamethrower analog. But there’s also a homing-missile-nanobot launcher, a particle rifle, and a gun that shoots tiny singularities that suck enemies in. The weapons are fun to use, but the chaotic nature of many of the enemies means that high accuracy weapons like the particle rifle are much less effective. During play, I found myself gravitating towards the machine gun and the heavily overpowered flamethrower. When enemies are swarming around you, being able to torch them all with a flick of the right stick is a simple solution.
And swarm they do. There are tons of enemies to be found in Capsized. Metroid-like bulbous insects that attack your head and drag you away. A native alien tribe that hurls spears and wields various weapons of their own. The gravity-ignoring priests that absorb your weapons and reflect them back at you. You will kill hundreds of baddies across the 13-level campaign, and most of the time they travel in packs. The campaign keeps a steady pressure on at all times, never making you feel outright safe, nor overwhelmed. This is also true of the final boss encounter, which makes the mistake that many boss encounters have as of late. Instead of testing your skills in navigation and combat, they set you loose in a zero-G environment against three big bads that have a specific weakness. It is not a bad encounter, but one that most certainly was not needed.
Tying all of this together are the incredible hand drawn visuals from artist Jesse McGibney. The environments are lush and detailed, and truly pop on an HD screen. Every little crack in every rock is painstakingly crafted to give the world that extra hint of beauty. Alientrap Games have outdone themselves in creating a world that is just asking to be stared at with the highest level of scrutiny. Small creatures scurry through swaying alien grasses. In the background, strange bird-like creatures float past the round growths that sit raised from their roots. In the caverns, mosses and alien structures add to the claustrophobia of the tight spaces. When it gets too dark, a press of a button flicks on the flashlight, casting the world in a pale blue light and revealing horrors previously unseen.
Capsized really does have a rich world, with the beautiful levels populated by interesting enemies and a fantastic way to travel. Which is probably why the game’s lack of narrative is so disappointing. There is a story told in pictures before each level of the crews’ desperate escape, but that’s the whole story. There is no lore about this planet, no way to know what this place is and if these aliens are protecting a secret. Instead, we are left with a bare bones plot to offer an objective such as finding ship pieces or gathering fuel. As a creator of purpose, the pictures work well enough. I would have liked to see more as far as a story, especially with the crisp and vibrant world to explore.
As stated, the campaign’s levels have a variety of objectives. While a few simply ask you to get from point a to point b, more will ask you to complete a task of some kind. In a few levels, I was asked to kill high-powered enemies. Others had me hunting down alien statues to destroy. It was enough variety to keep things interesting, but the game never forces you into unique situations based on these goals. Because of this, by the end of the game you may find your experience a bit stale. Capsized hardly has the opportunity to outstay its welcome, however, as the game can be completed in a couple of hours.
Perhaps the biggest draw for myself as a player was the inclusion of couch co-op. What the mystery is here is why I had to go into the options menu to turn it on. I could have played the entire game and not realized it had co-op at all, but luckily I have a habit of checking out menus before starting games. The game is even more fun with a friend, although things might get a little frustrating for player two at times. The second man is never allowed outside of the screen, and if he strays too far he teleports back to player one. It can be disorienting, especially considering the high-flying done in the later levels.
A few other modes are offered up as a diversion from the main quest. There’s a bot deathmatch, a survival mode, time trials, and even a mode where you aren’t allowed weapons. These make for only a quick dose of fun, and aren’t deep enough to entertain for long. Your time will most likely be spent trying to get the highest ranking in the campaign missions.
Capsized is a solid title for anyone who loves the sidescrolling days of old and the verticality and action of Metroid. It plays well, is gorgeous to look at, and will keep you on your toes with myriad enemies. The lack of deep narrative is noticeable and disappointing, but not so much to detract from your experience with the game. Couch co-op is also an extremely welcome addition that brings back that classic game feel. This is an action platformer for the HD gamer, and one that is worth your time should you need a couple of hours to kill.