Something’s gone terribly wrong on Whatever Spaceship You’re On. Heavens! Well, to the escape pods, then. No sense in staying aboard what amounts to a space viking funeral.
Unfortunately, you end up crashing on the planet below. This planet is big and nasty and full of crazy, mostly hungry, sometimes angry, alien life. There is an inexplicably hostile species of aliens that keep trying to murder you, something they’ve been successful about in regards to most of the rest of your crew. You, as a tiny astronaut, are armed, ready to search for any survivors, and attempt an escape from this insane world.
The mechanics are simple enough—each level consists of a unique map, with caves, cliffs, and other improbably pointy bits of terrain. There is one objective per map, explained briefly and clearly by the loading screen. As an aside, the loading screens themselves are lovely, and I spend far too much time sitting at each one, doing what most would describe as “basking.” They’re covered in a lovely plaster of art showing a brief progression of events that led to the tasks presented to you, and the thrums and swells of the music remain present. Awwwwww yeah. The music. So good.
You hop about on two-dimensional maps, with varying gravity, scenery, enemies and weapons. The standard fare is present: small, annoyingly quick enemies, big ones that are really difficult to beat, flying ones, ones with acid flamethrowers…the usual. The weapons and power-ups are also nothing to write home about—machine gun, pistol, lasers, rockets, homing rockets, and one lovely gravity vortex cannon. There are some good times with physics puzzles and push-block-to-open-path stylings, and these serve nicely to break up the rather frantic pace of the fighting bits. Most of them are solved via use of the lovely grappling hook, which doubles as an object-moving device and a surprisingly effective method of traveling.
However, this is only from a mechanical perspective. What is so excellent about Capsized is that it takes all the relatively ho-hum platformer-shooter-shenanigans and makes them so worthwhile aesthetically. Sight, as discussed earlier, is extensively engaged, as well as the sound.
Capsized is a well-realized game, mainly because it was made by two people, one programmer and one artist. The visuals and art style are charming and whimsical, presenting an alien world in bright and vivid colors, each befitting quite nicely the type of area you’re bounding around in, with bizarre creatures wandering around and generally paying you no heed. The exploration that the relative openness of the maps affords is only exclaimed further by the visual touches in little corners of the world.
Crashed bits of the starship you fled from, piles of debris, small alien villages and various other little tidbits that show you quite a bit about this strange place you’ve impacted upon. It is truly an alien place. However, this visual stylization does sometimes hamper the more physical parts of the experience. Often, where the ground technically is and where the ground seems to be is slightly discrepant, which can cause some trouble. One flaw that I could not escape from was the brightness of a certain couple levels involving a mountain range that is made of buoyant, naturally ocurring gas plants. Hoooo goodness that was shiny. There were a few points where I could not rightly tell what was going on, where I was, or what manner of voracious beastie was devouring me. That last bit happens a lot. But seriously, Video Games, tone down on the bloom effects, please.
Don’t get me wrong, the game is pretty and the visual style stands out among the often-crowded independent game marketplace. Too many games have fallen back on a standard of retro-styled visuals, mainly for good reasons: nostalgia is a powerful force, and low-tech visuals are far easier for a small team to work with. But it comes alive when you can hear it. The music. I must re-emphasize how excellent it is. I don’t know much technically about music, so I’ll just stick to describing it as such: “My WORD that’s good music.” The game’s just really well put together, with guns going “zap” and “plonk” just the way they should, aliens launching arrows and threats at you with alarming gusto, and the little astronaut is highly responsive to the controls, even when being flung about by a grappling hook.
So, what am I slowly stumbling toward here? I’d say Capsized does a good job taking a relatively outdated model of a game and touching it up enough that it’s enjoyable even without this pretentious talk of aesthetic experiences. They got enough of it right. It’s nothing that will change the face of video games as we know them, but by my word it is a good time.