It's smooth sailing until you finish...
Crash landing on a far away planet is never fun. What usually happens is that you end up stranded in a wasteland or a series of dark caves and space stations, not to mention alien food! From classics like Doom and Metroid, to even newer games like Bulletstorm, this is a theme that is common, but far from overused, and remains fresh as a result. So... why not have one more game like this? Capsized is a game that takes its cues from games like Contra, Metroid and other such run and gun games, but does so in a way that makes it quite refreshing and well worth your time and money.
There isn't exactly a story to look forward to or anything in this game. Basically, you, an unnamed astronaut, and your crew of other unnamed astronauts crash land on a planet, and now you have to fight through alien hordes while rescuing crew members and finding a way to get off the planet. The astronauts are completely silent, outside of a few grunts and moans every now and again, and the only text is in the menu and a few tutorial segments here and there. It's not a problem, but it always feels like something could've been done. With that said, thanks to the gameplay, it's not going to matter too much.
So where the story is lacking, the other parts definitely make up for it. Capsized is a sidescrolling platformer/shooter that lets you jump around while shooting down enemies. So immediately, the first game on your mind is Contra (or Mega Man minus the upgrades). Unlike Contra, you don't aim by either moving in a direction or holding up while running; you have to move the mouse around to aim a cursor while running and jumping. You don't have to aim directly at the enemy, but aiming in their general direction is often a good idea. I'll admit, this was kind of awkward at first, because when you look at the game, you'd expect something more like Contra, but after about ten-fifteen minutes, it ends up becoming rather easy to control. Of course, there is an option to play with a controller if you're not a fan of using the keyboard for 2D games, but only if it's a 360 controller. I mean, you could use another kind of controller, but only after doing quite a bit of restarting and performance optimising... yeah, this is silly, but it'd be worth it for the more “authentic” sidescrolling experience.
The aim of each level is to get to the exit, which is pointed out by a big circle with “exit” written on it. Simple enough, right? Well, it is for the first few levels, but later on, you'll have additional objectives, like destroying certain objects or big aliens, and the later levels are also much bigger than the earlier levels. The earlier levels merely ease you into the fold, while the later levels test you to see if you can keep up. Not only are they bigger, but the later levels have more nooks and crannies to explore. It's like a Sonic game where there are multiple paths to the exit, and each have their own incentives to go through them, like ammo, health packs, and jetpack fuel.
Oh yeah, you're not limited to just one gun. You're entitled to multiple guns.. when you find them, that is. Your default gun is alright, but the other guns are much better, so having to find them adds incentive to explore. From machine guns to flamethrowers and even to rocket launchers, Other guns also have two sorts of firing capabilities – a generic one that only takes out one bit of ammo per shot, and the alternate fire that takes away more per shot, but is generally more powerful. Great as this might sound, you'll have to resupply on ammo if you want to keep using them, meaning more exploration may be required.
Capsized isn't all shooting and jumping – it also has some puzzles involving the use of a grappling hook where you have to pull blocks out of the way, or you can use it to propel yourself over pits too big to jump over. It's often in conjunction with a gravity gun of sorts, which propels objects away from you, or can act as a sort of rocket jump (while in the air, use it on the ground when you're near it to keep bouncing around). Now, at first glance, it seems like you have to solve these in a meticulous way, but the physics of this game allows you to give that the middle finger, because objects seem to fly around quite a bit after getting hit by your gravity gun. Basically, this game gives you a fair amount of room to experiment when it looks as if there's only one way to do it..
Oh, and as for the jetpack, you only really use it to fly up to places you couldn't jump up or grapple your way up to. However, fuel can be pretty scarce, so it's usually a good idea to reserve it until you absolutely need it. There's quite a lot of strategy needed for this during the later levels, as they tend to be big and will need every bit of fuel you can find just to get to the end. Not to mention, you'll sometimes need to carry something, or fight off enemies while in the air. This is when the game really gets exciting. I mean, before, it was just a case of shooting down enemies without getting murdered, but with the addition of keeping as much fuel as possible to make it, damn, this makes for some awesome combat. So much so, in fact, that I wish there was more, with a little more fuel available, but alas, we must take what we can get.
You'll be graded at the end of each level based on speed, how many enemies you've killed, how many times you've died, and how many secret “rooms” (for lack of a better name) you find. Oh, and difficulty setting as well, so even if you do perfectly on a level, if you did it on Easy or Normal mode, you'll lose a star from your overall ranking. These stars unlock other modes, like time trial, deathmatch, co-op, armless (no guns, basically) and survival, as well as some achievements. It manages to add a good reason to replay levels just to get enough stars to get all of the achievements, or just unlock all of the additional modes...
About these additional modes... I admire the developer's attempt to try and extend the game's lifespan, but these feel fairly half assed. Armless feels more like a frustrating handicap than a fun alternative to what you had as you go through the levels without using any guns. Survival and deathmatch don't seem to really work with the playstyle given in this game... well, survival is alright because it pits you against constantly generating enemies, but deathmatch pits you against another spaceman who is either dumb as a mule, or evil. You can play a match against your friend, but after a while, it's like “man, this is boring”. Plus, deathmatch lacks online play, so either this is the obligatory “throwback to the past” that every 2D platformer made in this millennium has to include, or they had to rush this out and just happened to forget about online play. Time trial is probably the only mode that isn't just some lame eleventh hour add on, as it's always fun just going through a level as quickly as possible, and on top of a timer, you have to find oxygen tanks so that you don't die. Again, I appreciate their efforts, and hey, people seem to like them, but
So with all that's said and done, this game goes by way too fast. The campaign is about a few hours long, and the extra modes aren't going to be of much use after you get their respective achievements, as they feel tacked on at best. In saying that, it was a lot of fun going through the campaign. There is that initial control-related hurdle to jump over, but after that, it's smooth sailing... well, I mean, it does get reasonably tricky, relying heavily on your wits and reflexes to get yourself through, but it's the sort of hard that comes from making sure you don't make the same mistake twice. It's never cheap; it's skill based, which is what a lot of games tend to miss these days. It's because of this, however, that each conflict builds up a fair amount of adrenaline. You don't want to die, or else, you'll have to restart at some point further back, and lose a life... and lose all of your lives, and you're right back at the beginning of the level. Trust me, it can get rather intense...
The graphics are beautiful. The use of serene colors and an immense amount of detail makes for some of the best 2D graphics since Braid. It's often actually quite distracting because it's so impressive to look at. The enemy designs manage to perfectly balance cartoony charm and menacing, which will keep you from having nightmares about them all night, but still strike as enemies, so that you'll want to shoot them down. The only flaw is that animation can appear stiff. Like anime, the appeal is found more in still shots than in motion, but it's only a minor flaw here (as opposed to a fair amount of anime where at times, it's better to close your eyes and just listen).
As a compliment to the graphics, the soundtrack is quite tranquil. Consisting of electronic beats that seem calm (even in the midst of combat), there is a strong amount of ambience present, and it can actually be quite soothing... on its own, anyway, but when combined with all the gun shots and splattered aliens, it just seems a little out of place. Where it's easy to expect fast paced electronic music (like Vanquish), you're instead greeted with calm music, and gun fire that is of the “drown out the music” variety. Don't worry, the guns sound good, too. In fact, despite me saying that it drowns out the music, it's also backed up by the bass of the music, as it gives them a little extra kick, making each kill even more satisfying... yeah, it sounds a bit shallow, but if you're killing aliens with a tinny sounding gun, it'll feel more like child's play, and that's no good! So yeah, audio is fantastic!
Capsized is a good game, but it could use some work. The presentation is fantastic, and the game itself is a rather exciting romp. However, it's too short, and the additional modes are tacked on at best, stopping this game from being the masterpiece it could've been. But I still recommend buying this game because despite its cons, it's still a game that should be played through, if only once, and if you don't like it, hey, you'll only be out ten bucks.
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