The guys from Alientrap had a specific plan in mind for Capsized: they wanted to create a 2D platformer that incorporated elements from the first-person shooter genre. This may seem like a fairly strange and difficult goal to accomplish, but they’ve managed to do so quite successfully.
While Capsized is strictly a 2D game, the controls, sound FX, and weapon choices come straight out of the world of FPS games. In fact, it’s hard to ignore the fact that these guys drew heavily from the well of such titles as Half-Life 2 and the Quake series. Expect to be firing shotgun rounds at headcrab-like crawlers rather than hopping on turtle shells. But that’s not a bad thing. These elements manage to feel fresh when applied to a 2D platformer.
Capsized tells the story of a crew of spacemen who have crash landed on an alien world. However, in telling this story, there is no dialogue, narration, or captions. The only text in the game is found in either the menu or the little tutorial hints you can open up at various points throughout the game. The astronauts themselves are strangely silent, besides a grunt here and a mumble there. This mostly silent nature of the game might be out of place in other platformers, but the space setting lends itself well to this effect. Besides setting the perfect mood, overlayed with some brilliant electronic music tracks, the lack of spoken dialogue allows players to focus on the sounds that really matter: the guns. And these guns sound awesome. When paired with the ambient background music, the pop of a shotgun, blast of a pistol, whoosh of a rocket, and inexplicable noise of one of the more sci-fi weapons are all incredibly satisfying. Often, these sounds are punctuated by the distinctively bassy percussion of the music tracks.
The artwork in Capsized is fabulous. Everything is hand-drawn and so excruciatingly detailed it’s hard to not get distracted by them. However, this does become a problem at times. Many of the aliens you’ll encounter—almost all of which want to cause you severe personal injury—are difficult to see when set against such painstakingly detailed backdrops. A lot of times you won’t even realized you are being attacked until you notice your health bar draining. And there are some vicious four-legged creatures that tend to stay close to the ground, often disappearing behind foreground elements. A lot of times you won’t notice these things until they are sinking their fangs into your character.
There are some additional visual effects that are worth pointing out. First of all, as you take damage, your screen gets a broken glass effect on it, which looks really cool but will impair your ability to see. Another cool little touch is that your astronaut bleeds red while aliens bleed green. Oftentimes, you’ll discover aliens you’ve unintentionally wounded by seeing the fluorescent green blood dripping from them. And during loading screens, you are treated to some gorgeous comic book panel cutscenes. All of these visual elements work together to give Capsized a unique—though sometimes confusing—look.
The control scheme should be intimately familiar to the first-person shooter crowd. W, A, S, and D are your move keys, Spacebar is jump, and any aiming and firing you do will be done with the mouse. While this control scheme is absolutely perfect for 3D games, it’s doesn’t feel quite right for a 2D platformer. It won’t take long for your hands to start cramping up. Even as a FPS veteran, I can’t imagine an extended Capsized play session with the keyboard controls. Of course, you can custom map the keys as you see fit, but it’s still hard to find a control scheme that’s not murder on your fingers.
Thankfully, there is the option to use a gamepad. Unfortunately, the only supported gamepad is the Xbox 360 controller. I was able to jury-rig my system and get my PS3 Sixaxis to work with Capsized, but it required multiple system restarts and lower overall performance in order to get it working properly. My hands, however, thanked me for doing this, and the console controls felt surprisingly intuitive.
Capsized is a bit more difficult than I had expected, and I noticed a pretty steep difficulty spike starting at the sixth mission. Mission six asks you to bring down a series of “pursuers,” which are extremely strong aliens that can fly, surround themselves with powerful magnetic shields that absorb anything you shoot at them, and hurl flaming energy balls at you. They seem a bit much, especially at this point in the game. I can see maybe one of these being a boss of this stage, but, depending on which difficulty you select, you’ll have to take down three or four of these things in order to progress. After this point, the stages get really long, meaning that running out of lives will cause massive backtracking. But the larger level layouts allow a lot more exploration. If you’ve ever played the old 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games, you’ll remember having multiple possible paths you could choose to get through each level. Capsized has this quality in its later stages.
Completing each level results in a star rating based on time, difficulty setting, lives lost, and how many secrets you managed to uncover. You can replay levels in order to improve your star rating. These stars add up, and will unlock bonus Arcade modes like Time Trial, Deathmatch, and Survival. There’s even a mode called Armless, in which you’re not allowed any weapons. There are two-player modes, like Duel and Co-op, but if you don’t have two controllers, you’ll have to share a single keyboard. Awkward!
The 2D platformer is not dead. Capsized proves that current-gen design philosophies and gameplay mechanics can be applied to this ancient genre, making it feel fresh once again. There is a lot of innovation in this title, and an artwork style that you’ll want to stop and stare at. Not bad for a mere ten dollars, I would say. I just hope Capsized can be patched to support more controller types in the future.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Beautiful hand-drawn artwork that is so insanely detailed it will actually distract you from the obstacles in the game. 2.8 Control
Get a controller or get carpal tunnel. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great sound FX and music that fits the world of Capsized perfectly. 3.0 Play Value
The twelve campaign missions go by way too fast. However, there is always the option to go back and earn more stars, and the unlockable Arcade modes bring added value. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|