Indiewatch: Capsized - A flawed but enjoyable platformer
Welcome to Indiewatch, a series where I take a look at good yet unknown, unappreciated and overlooked indie titles. It is time to give some appreciation, attention, and love to those games that deserve it but never got it. In order for a game to be covered on Indiewatch, it must fit into the following criteria:
- It must be an indie game
- It was not covered or given minimal coverage by mainstream video game websites and YouTubers (Destructoid, Polygon, IGN, Totalbiscuit etc.)
- It must be good! Nothing below 7 out of 10 will be covered.
Today we are going to take a look at Capsized, a sci-fi platformer, developed and published by Alientrap. It released on Steam April 29th,2011 and later on GOG.com. It got an iOS release called Capsized+ February 13th, 2013. It has also become available on iPad and Xbox 360 (watch the review above for a deeper look at the game).
Your ship is struck by an unidentified object, causing it to begin crashing onto the planet below. You get into an escape pod and are jettisoned into space. The pod crash lands on the planet below. You emerge to find yourself stranded on an alien planet.
You grab your carbine blaster and begin to journey out into the mysterious world in hope of finding surviving crew mates and a way off the planet. When it comes to 2D platform games, the story is very often a secondary focus of the developer and Capsized is no exception.
The story in its entirety is essentially what I described above. There is no story behind the alien world or its inhabitants. I feel that it is an opportunity missed. Everything about the world is mysterious and interesting. A background story behind it and its inhabitants would have been greatly appreciated. The plot does its job but feels lacking.
Traversing an alien world
To manoeuvre around the levels you have a number of tools at your disposal. The first is the hook. This allows you to grab hold of objects to move them. Using it you can move obstacles blocking your path that would otherwise be immovable.
Smaller objects can be thrown to break barricades or vines along with hurting enemies. It can also be used to latch on to walls to pull yourself up or to hold lighter objects to use as a shield. Next is the gravity ram. It allows you to push yourself into the opposite direction you aim it to get to areas that would otherwise be unreachable.
The third is the always trusty jetpack. While its usage is limited without a power-up it comes to great use in larger more open areas. It is always a guarantee to get to those hard to reach areas, assuming you have the fuel.
You also have the ability to wall jump. While the least exciting method of getting around, it is useful. While these tools are generally awesome to use, they do have some flaws.
The hook is useful but a bit fiddly to use. It can be very hard to move certain objects, particularly bigger ones in tighter spaces. Not to mention using it effectively as a shield. The ram is great fun to use but it is random as to how effective it is.
Sometimes it will work brilliantly and as intended. Other times it has the effect of a babies fart. As for the jetpack, it feels a bit wimpy. While it does exactly as it is used for, it is quite slow. A slightly faster moving speed would make it much more enjoyable to use.
All in all, despite my criticisms, the tools are quite fun to use.
Defend yourself against a hostile world
As you make your way through the alien world, you will come across plenty of hostile beings. This includes the wildlife of the planet, giant fly like creatures, wolves and more. While dangerous it is the planet's inhabitants that are the most hostile of all.
The aliens come in all shapes and sizes from small and weak creatures to flying ones to magical priests to juggernaut guardians. Each enemy has its own attacks and behaviour, resulting in different tactics required for each. They are all well balanced and offer a fair challenge for the point in the game they appear.
To defend yourself against these beings, you have an array of weapons at your disposal. The weapons include the standard unlimited ammunition carbine blaster, assault rifle, flamethrower, rocket launchers and even a weapon that creates a black hole.
Each weapon has a unique alt-fire too. For example, the alt-fire on the assault rifle acts like a shotgun while on the flamethrower it acts as a shield to block incoming projectiles. I find the weapons to be well balanced, fun to use and all useful in their own right.
Good level designs with minor problems
The level design of Capsized is generally good. At the beginning of the game, the levels are relatively small, allowing you to get to grips with the gameplay. As you progress through the game they gradually get bigger. They also offer a gradual increase in difficulty as you progress. There are a variety of different environments.
These include jungles, alien settlements, temples, ancient ruins and alien nesting grounds. A single environment is never overused, keeping them fresh. There are secrets to be found in each level containing weapons, power-ups and extra lives.
While generally good, the level design is not without its flaws. The levels are well balanced in the increase in difficulty except the final few. At around the seventh level, things begin to get too hard.
This is more due to the levels traps and fiddly hook mechanic. The levels also nearly triple if not quadruple the total enemies. Due to the unpredictable effectiveness of the gravity ram, the later levels can also cause frustration as it makes you fall down great heights that you spend time climbing.
While there are faults to be found, the levels are fun. A few cause frustration but enjoyment definitely outweighs it. At the end of each level, you are rated out of ten stars.
The quicker you are and the more secrets you find the more stars you earn. Stars are deducted for dying and for playing on easy and medium difficulty. While it is a fun system, it is very harsh. The hard difficulty is crucifying, particularly in the later levels. Attempting to get ten stars on each level is a feat for only the most patient and determined players.
A beautiful world with a fitting soundtrack
The alien world is a sight to behold. It exactly fits what would be defined as alien. It is strange, mysterious and nothing like anything you have seen before. The music has an alien feel to it that helps create this immense alien feeling that makes the game simply absorb you.
If it wasn’t for the fitting of the soundtrack, I don’t feel that the game would hold so well.
It is one of those rare instances where the soundtrack is what carries the game. Without it, it would be a far worse game, as its atmosphere is what makes it truly magnificent.
Flawed but enjoyable
Capsized is far from being a perfect game. It has its fair share of flaws. What it does well, however, outweighs them. It fits the criteria of Indiewatch by the skin of its teeth. If it wasn’t for that magical soundtrack, it wouldn’t have.
It is a good game, it looks beautiful, and the sound and music are outstanding. Its level design is good and varied but flawed in later levels and its mechanics are fun but cause frustration. The enemies and weapons are all well balanced and fun.
If you enjoy platform games and don’t mind them having minor problems, then you may just enjoy it. If having some clunky mechanics and a large difficulty spike doesn’t sound appealing, then Capsized may not be for you. It is a flawed but enjoyable game.