In today’s age where digital distribution is starting to take over and is reducing disc clutter in gaming shelves around the world, indie developers are enjoying time in the spotlight. That’s where Canadian-based Alientrap and their first game Capsized come in. Released late last month on Steam, Capsized is a sidescrolling action/shooter hybrid that has you solving puzzles, shooting baddies and launching yourself into the air. Can it launch its way off of this hostile alien world?
The plot to Capsized is as simple as it gets: You’ve crash landed on a planet populated with giant insectoids and aliens that don’t take kindly to your unexpected visit and now you must find a way off this world with any crewmates that are still alive. That’s it. No backstory on exactly how you ended up there, nothing on what your character has to look forward to past the end of the game, nothing at all. Fortunately these games don’t need anything of a story to carry its own weight around, and seeing that Alientrap hasn’t been around for very long I’m not expecting them to come out with some grand epic in their debut. This time around it seems to be all in the gameplay and visuals.
Capzied, being of the sidescroller/shooter type of game, takes a lot of time and practice to get used to the controls. Though you can customize it any way you like, A and D are used to move left and right, and W jumps. Looking and firing is all done with the mouse, and if you can find the fuel for it you can use your jetpack with the spacebar. Although an XNA framework issue can cause the cursor to lag, my mouse seemed responsive without issues even on a computer that was barely getting by on running this game.
Two cool elements that they’ve thrown into Capsized are the grappling hook and the gravity ram. The former is self-explanatory; you can grab any surface and the hook will then act like a tether, allowing you to swing around. The hook can also latch objects that you can pick up and carry. This action uses a force field to levitate the latched object, allowing you to place it with the mouse and move around without taking away any of your abilities, such as wall jumping. The gravity ram can be used as a way to forcefully clear out lighter objects and barriers, though the coolest use for it by far is to launch yourself in the air; useful for when you have no jetpack fuel and need to climb a long shaft if there’s nothing within your hook’s reach to grapple.
With a little practice, these various ways of getting around can be mastered, but at the same time can be marred by imprecise controls. Now I’ll be honest, I’m willing to cut a little slack here because my computer did struggle to run the game at a full framerate (though it wasn’t that bad) but I could still tell that they needed a little more work, mainly in the jumping department. Another control problem that turned out to be quite frustrating was the lack of just being able to put a hooked object down. If you’re standing next to your latched object and let go of it, you’ll automatically smack it into the next galaxy with your gravity ram. This made a simple task such as dropping a rock on a switch in close quarters next to impossible.
Outside of the campaign are some standalone arcade modes that unlock as you find stars that are tucked away throughout every level. These modes, such as bot deathmatch and time attack do a bit to extend the replayability of the game by making you replay levels to collect enough stars to unlock these modes, but they don’t really add much more to the game themselves. Some of these would have benefited from online functionality, but there is no competitive multiplayer to be found. If you want to get your classic 2-player on however, you and a friend can team up for local co-op in the campaign.
From a visual standpoint, Capsized is a beautiful game. The colorful, cartoon world looks as if every tiny object on the screen was slaved over to make sure that no detail was left out. As you lose health, cracks appear on your screen to represent your character’s damaged visor. The only issue I had was with blood splatter on the screen as you get close to dying, as the amount of blood starts to get in the way of the environment. The score for this game pleases the ears in the same way the graphics please the eyes, with a nice soothing soundtrack. One song started to remind me of U2 for whatever reason as well.
If you can look past some of the minor control issues and lackluster arcade modes, Capsized is a good game. Alientrap’s debut game has already got people talking, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with as they get better. Although I don’t know whether I’d pick up this game on PC again, I’ll definitely be checking it out a second time when it hits Xbox Live Arcade.