Capsized Review

  • First Released Apr 29, 2011
  • PC

Terrific art and diverse movement mechanics make it a pleasure to explore the exciting world of Capsized.

The thrill of exploration and the desire to experience new things are two of the driving motivations that have fueled humanity's endeavors for thousands of years. For ages, this involved such dangerous acts as going to sea or tasting a new food described only as "Trust me," but nowadays all you need is the right machine and some money in your pocket. For the reasonable price of $9.99, Capsized takes you to a fertile alien world bursting with eye-catching vegetation and populated by a diverse range of unusual creatures, many of which want to kill you. To survive, you must fend off your assailants with powerful firearms, as well as master the mechanics of moving through this strange two-dimensional landscape. The locomotion tools encourage experimentation, and it's a joy to jump, fly, swing, and rocket your way through each level. Getting a feel for how to manipulate objects in order to solve puzzles and kill enemies is also a blast, and by the end of the campaign, you'll be eager to jump back into earlier levels and get even more creative with your hard-earned skills. The physics system behind this fun is prone to occasional hiccups, and there are other minor issues that crop up in the arcade modes (co-op is a bit wonky), but these are small matters compared to the immense satisfaction of adventuring through this beautiful and deadly world.

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The situation is straightforward: your spaceship has crashed on an alien planet, and as one of the few survivors, you must locate crew members, call for help, and get yourself rescued. To accomplish all this, you must set off into the jungles of this lush world, which are an absolute treat for the eyes. The ground you walk across is a detailed mosaic of rocks and plants that come in many shapes and sizes. Small fungal bulbs, long dangling vines, and a rich variety of growths that wouldn't look out of place in a coral reef cover the landscape. There are also harmless creatures that stalk through the near background, grazing in the undergrowth or fluttering through the air. Faded scenery in the deep background creates a nice sense of depth, and the quality of sunlight changes to reflect how deep below the canopy you are. Eerie, atmospheric music adds a wonderful dimension to the alien ambience, and this artfully realized world continues to reveal lovely details even after hours of playing, making it a pleasure to explore these exotic environments.

To traverse these beautiful yet treacherous lands, you must make good use of your varied skill set. You walk at a moderate pace and jump many times your own height, thanks to the relatively low gravitational pull. This also means that when you jump into a wall, you can hang there indefinitely by holding the directional key toward the surface. You can use this trick to jump up walls as well, and this vertical mobility makes you feel nimbler than the average spaceman. The jetpack is another way to reach high places and gives you the freedom of flight as long as you can find the supplies to fuel it. Your gun plays a role in locomotion too. It's equipped with a gravity ram that shoots a short burst of force that violently propels you away from any surface, object, or enemy that you are close to. Point it at the ground, and it flings you into the air much higher than you can jump. Point it at a wall, and you can jet across a chasm to a far ledge. Shoot an object, and depending on its properties, it might zip forward (small rock), shoot you backward (big rock), or possibly even crumble to pieces (boxes and wood structures). Some enemies can be killed outright with the gravity ram, while others are too tough, and blasting them can send you rocketing backward like an inkless squid.

Your final movement tool is a hook that you can shoot in any direction. This hook is attached to your body by a kind of laser elastic and when it hits a surface or an object, it latches on and the elastic begins to contract. You can use it to drag yourself up to a platform or onto a wall. You can also swing through the air like Tarzan and use the elasticity to slingshot yourself to great heights. Furthermore, this tool lets you interact with enemies and objects in some neat ways. Hook an enemy, and you zip together for some close-quarters combat (protip: equip the flamethrower). Latch onto a large object, and you can drag it around, maybe removing a barrier or triggering a button. Snag a smaller object, and a force field encircles it. This means that not only can you carry it with you and move it around at will, but once you disengage the hook, you gravity-ram the object in whatever direction you aim. Quick-moving objects have destructive potential, and you can use them to damage enemies or break barriers.

Even gloomy corridors hide colorful surprises.
Even gloomy corridors hide colorful surprises.

Between the hook, the gravity ram, the jetpack, and your clinging jump ability, Capsized gives you an impressively diverse array of locomotion tools. It's possible to make it through the game relying on only some of them, but you'd be missing out on so many delightful possibilities. Sure, you could burn a bunch of jetpack fuel to reach a high platform, but you could also climb a nearby wall and then gravity-ram yourself into space, deploy your hook to the ceiling, and gracefully swing up there. You can cling to a wall to avoid falling a long distance, but if you stay in the dive and shoot your hook once you've got a good head of steam, you can launch far beyond where you initially fell from. Finding out new ways to take advantage of your abilities makes exploring levels that much more exploratory, and the different sensations of movement combine in gratifying and invigorating ways.

Movement is one of the chief pleasures of playing Capsized, but you encounter a lot of enemies that make things difficult for you along the way. Feral creatures inhabit these forests, creeping through the undergrowth or buzzing through the air, held aloft with gaseous flight bladders. There is also a race of green-skinned, bipedal natives who wear cool masks and carry guns. They shoot arrows, spears, and poisonous gas at you, but they aren't the only ones shooting. You start off each level with your basic blaster gun and find a variety of weaponry throughout your travels. One rapid-fire weapon doubles as a shotgun, and a space-age rocket launcher can also shoot grenades thanks to the secondary fire ability that each weapon boasts. Lasers, heat-seeking missiles, and a big bad singularity gun all kill enemies effectively, but your foes certainly aren't pushovers. Later levels reveal bigger bads with magical powers that require some nimble maneuvering and smart thinking to avoid. Though you can find extra lives in each level, Capsized isn't an easy game, and death can come quickly if you aren't handy with the trigger.

Capsized supports the keyboard and mouse as well as a gamepad, but though you might not expect it from a platformer, the keyboard/mouse combo actually works a bit better. The quickness of the mouse aim serves you well in both shooting and movement. More importantly, once you've hooked something, you merely have to tap the key again to unhook rather than continually holding down the trigger to maintain the connection as you do with the gamepad. These differences are relatively minor, and it's fun to master the controls regardless of which you prefer. Moving around in the low-gravity environment definitely takes some getting used to, and there is a floaty quality to your movements that sometimes hampers your precision. The walls can sometimes feel too sticky, and there are occasional hiccups in the physics, but for the most part Capsized lets you be as nimble as your own skills allow.

The 12 levels of the campaign can take more than a few hours to complete, especially if you are exploring and trying to find the secret pathways to the tantalizingly visible bonus stashes. You receive a star rating for your performance on levels, but unfortunately, there is no leaderboard to incentivize improving your star count or lowering your completion times. Still, going back to earlier levels can be a lot of fun, as it lets you flex your hard-earned skills and get even more creative with movement and physics. Some of the arcade modes also puts those skills to good use, including Time Trial, in which your locomotive prowess is tested as you try to grab scattered oxygen containers before your air runs out. Armless is an even trickier mode that sends you into campaign levels without any firepower, forcing you to use the hook, gravity ram, and whatever you find lying around to full effect. Survival (fight endless waves of enemies) and Bot Match (deathmatch against AI spacemen) are less intriguing, and it's a shame that none of the arcade modes have online leaderboards, but there's still plenty of fun things to do outside of the campaign.

You can also play the whole campaign cooperatively with a friend on the same screen, using two gamepads or a keyboard/mouse combo and gamepad (which oddly requires you to set the menu option for "gamepad" to "off"). Though it can be fun to fly around and squish bad guys with another player, this mode is a little too wonky to be thoroughly enjoyable. Get too far away from your friend, and you teleport to join him, but who teleports where is inconsistent, and the camera can get confused when one of you dies. There are also some visual bugs that cause your hook line to disappear, as well as an increased prevalence of physics-based oddities.

Teamwork doesn't always mean sticking side-by-side.
Teamwork doesn't always mean sticking side-by-side.

Though Capsized may not be a complete package, it is an enthralling one. It's rare that you get to explore a gameworld teeming with this much life, in which the artistic design and soundscape work together to provide such a delightfully alien atmosphere. Sightseeing here is a pleasure greatly augmented by the diverse ways you can get around each level, and once you begin to use your locomotive tools in concert, moving around becomes a treat in and of itself. Whether you're playing it for the first time or revisiting a level to indulge your skills, blasting your way through this hostile land is exciting and enjoyable, making Capsized a great option for those hankering for adventure.

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The Good

  • Richly detailed environments are captivating
  • A lot of fun ways to move around
  • Physics allow for creativity

The Bad

  • Problematic cooperative play
  • No online leaderboards

About the Author

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.