The release of Capsized on XBLA is an odd thing. The game originally came out on PC over two years ago and there was even an iOS release of the game that hit back in February. Now the indie title gets its chance to deliver its special brand of twin-stick shooting to a whole new audience. Capsized was developed by Alientrap, a small Canadian studio best known for the original Nexuiz, a fast paced FPS. Their shooter roots are felt strongly but Capsized also leans heavily on platforming as well as some light puzzle elements. In short, it creates a fun and unique title that excites as much as it punishes.
The premise of Capsized is fairly straightforward. You play as an astronaut who has crashed, along with his compatriots, on a foreign planet. Separated from the group, you make your way through lush jungles and dark caves to try to find your friends, repair your ship, and escape. However you pretty quickly discover that this strange planet is not only full of life but extremely deadly as well.
The main story of the game is spread out over more than a dozen levels with short, silent cutscenes bookending each level. Every level will have its own specific goal which constantly changes and presents a fun challenge every time. One level you’ll simply be trying to reach an exit while the next will task you with killing a certain enemy or saving your surviving crew members.
You accomplish your mission through solid side-scrolling, twin-stick shooter action. There’s a vast array of weapons to use and enemies relentlessly swarm you in high numbers. Each type of foe presents a fun challenge such as teleporting around the map, spawning smaller enemies or creating gravity wells that suck you in. While the first few levels start out fairly mundane when it comes to combat, it doesn’t take long for the game to kick into full-on brutal difficulty. Enemies rush you with such great numbers at times that it almost feels unfair. But for the most part, Capsized feels like the good style of difficult.
Outside of your weapons your primary tool will be your Gravity Ram, which allows you to grab any object within the world. This multi-purpose item gives you the ability to grapple around the environment, fling objects at enemies and also solve a variety of physics-based puzzles. In fact you will spend a good amount of Capsized not fighting enemies, instead focusing on exploration, puzzles and avoiding traps.
While Capsized is a lot of fun to play, some of that joy is hindered by fairly sloppy controls. It is very apparent that Capsized was designed with mouse and keyboard control in mind and the game doesn’t always translate well to twin sticks. The biggest problem is that the right stick is simply not accurate enough for the precision required for much of the game. Enemies fly around very fast so locking onto objects with your Gravity Ram often requires several attempts before successfully grabbing your intended target. It never really falls into “bad” controls but the whole experience feels kind of loose.
A related problem is that your aiming reticule is a simple white circle that doesn’t give you enough feedback of where you’re aiming. The odd thing is that the XBLA box art shows the protagonist with a laser sight on his weapon, something that would have been incredibly helpful in the actual game.
Like most indie games, Capsized presents utter beauty both visually and aurally. It features gorgeous hand drawn art and the world feels full of life. The inhabitants and locales of this strange planet are well designed, feeling like a mixture of Amazonian warriors and Incan ruins, but infused with touches of magic and technology. The soundtrack is haunting, with music that feels laced with mystery and discovery.
If you’re the type of person who goes for this type of game then Capsized will likely let you down in another area: length. There are 16 levels and getting through them will only take about three to four hours. There are a couple other “arcade” modes such as Survival and Armless but they are completely throw away and not worth any time. You can do couch co-op if you want but there’s no match making. This means that your time spent with Capsized is just going to be replaying the levels over going for better scores, which really only applies to achievement hunters or leaderboard chasers.
Capsized is a game that is slightly deceiving when you first start out. In its early stages it feels somber and quiet but once it starts going, you realize it’s filled with white-knuckle action. The controls are not perfect but overall it doesn’t detract too much from the experience. But it’s never fun when you’re fighting through a brutally difficult section and fighting the controls at the same time. The only true issue with the game is its brevity, which is disappointing considering how much fun you can have in the later levels. Still the action that is there is really good, especially if you dig really intense shooters.
SCORE: 6.5 out of 10
A code for Capsized was provided to Pixel Related for review.