Oh look I did a review again. Kind of irrelevant as it's been out for like two years, but hey, it's practice. I chose a smaller game to look at this time, if anyone reads this I'd appreciate constructive criticism on writing style etc., thanks!
Microsoft Windows (Reviewed), iPad, Linux, OSX, XBLA
Capsized is the first commercial title from Canadian indie developer Alientrap. At first glance it looks like a familiar side-scrolling, run-n-gun platformer, but is set apart by its detailed visual-style and variety of gameplay mechanics.
The campaign's story is very bare-bones and basic, as is the comic book style by which it is conveyed. A series of beautifully drawn images, sans any dialogue, are shown panel-by-panel telling how a spaceship of Human astronauts is hit by an unidentified object, so they are forced to suit-up and evacuate via the ships escape pods.
Brief, 1 to 3-panel story strips also serve as introductions to each of the stages and your objective in them. The introductory strip for the first stage shows one of the pods crash-landing (upside down, I suppose where the name “Capsized” came from) onto the jungle-like surface of an unknown alien planet. You play as the spaceman that steps out of it and you proceed to follow your first vague objective: explore the alien planet.
Capsized's gameplay is, as mentioned, a metroidvania style mix of exploration and shooting action, using WASD to move and the mouse to aim your targeting reticle. Objectives are usually simple; reach the end of the area, destroy certain targets, collect items etc., though completing them often requires more thought as puzzles are introduced and the enemies get progressively heftier, more wily and numerous.
The stranded astronaut can use a nice variety of futuristic weapons to blast away alien scum who are selfishly trying to protect their home world. Though you start each stage with just the puny blast carbine, there are plenty more to choose from should you discover them within the stages. From basic pulsar rifles and flamethrowers to advanced homing nano-bot launchers and the devastating “Quasar Array”, there's a suitable weapon for every situation.
Aside from the weapons, you can also jump and stomp “plumber style” on weaker enemies with your hefty space-boots, or use the handy grappling beam to grab rocks (or, indeed, small creatures) to launch at your foes. The grappling beam also serves as alternative means of traversing the environments; you can use it to pull yourself towards surfaces or swing throughout the planet like Tarzan in an spacesuit.
You also have a handy jetpack, activated with the spacebar, useful for boosting around the more open areas, provided you discover fuel for it. Jetpack fuel, as well as ammunition, extra lives and various powerups, are hidden throughout the stages. To reach them you need to find secret passages through the walls, basically by bumping against the edges of the map until you fall through it. It is usually worth scouring the terrain for these goodies to gain the edge, particularly in the latter half of the game where I found the difficulty seemed to spike considerably.
Physics play a big part in the game's mechanics; using the grapple beam is essential to pull levers, or lift rocks to drop them onto pressure pads and to open doors and access new sections of the maps, or to simply knock away debris that is blocking your path. There are situations where you will need to haul items across the stage to dump it onto a pressure pad on the other side (made somewhat easier by the low gravity), either dodging enemies or clearing them from the path in advance, the latter being my preferred method as some will actively hunt you when the see you.
Moving objects around can be problematic and was a major cause of frustration, particularly in enclosed spaces as they will get stuck in the terrain occasionally. Also in areas where you must carry rocks to pressure pads, I often found myself reaching them only to accidentally launch the rock off a cliff edge and groaning as it tumbled back down to the surface.
The music of Capsized consists of some nice atmospheric synth-tunes, though overall it lacks variety. The tracks are also usually rather slow-paced and, well, relaxing which I thought doesn't really fit an action game. Each stage has a different theme, but you will often hear the same tracks repeated in the background. This doesn't really detract from the experience too much, but I felt a lot more could have been done with the music, even if it is nice to listen to.
As for sound effects, there are plenty of background noises such as sounds of unseen wildlife tweeting or making insect-like clicking sounds, giving a nice feel of a living world. You've also got the basic laser weapon “zaps”, alien creatures' screeches and grunts and explosions and whatnot, all of which mesh together nicely.
One stand-out aspect of Capsized is the gorgeous, hand-drawn art style through which the vibrant alien world is visualised. While the environments are limited to the similar-looking overworld regions or caves beneath the surface, the amount of detail is impressive. Vines sway, docile indigenous creatures can be seen wandering about in the background, also weather effects such as sunshafts cascade over open areas in daytime stages, while mist and rain add to the visual ambience of night stages.
I managed the main campaign in around 6 hours, a decent length for an Indie such as this considering there's a good amount of content included to keep up the longevity.
There is a local co-op mode; you can team up with someone via two Xbox 360 pads to take on the campaign together, although I lacked the equipment to try it out. In arcade mode, there are other game types to play such as survival which pits you against waves of enemies, time trial where you must traverse stages in search for oxygen capsules to stay alive. You can also duel against another player, though only locally using two game pads as there's no online option sadly.
Overall, Capsized is a good game and although it is frustrating in parts and not particularly deep, it has enough variety and challenge to keep it fun and interesting during the 5-6 hour campaign.
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