Capsized is a 2D adventure-platformer with similarities to Super Metroid in its atmosphere and some of its mechanics, but at the same time retains a style and feel all of its own. Instead of a sprawling, interconnected world, you move from level to level completing various objectives; such as simply reaching an exit, destroying sacred artefacts, or locating and recovering numerous crew members who also happen to be stranded on the alien planet. The terrain and level design is multi-tiered, and features a deep sense of verticality, instead of being predictably horizontal. So don’t expect linearity; each level is about exploration and you’ll need to venture through dank caves, lush jungles, and even take to the skies with the aid of a jetpack; that is, as long as you’ve collected the necessary fuel to do so.
Considering Capsized was originally developed for the PC, it’s not much of a surprise that the controls don’t quite feel at home on the Xbox 360 controller. The left stick is used for movement while the right stick can be manipulated to aim in a full 360 degrees around your character. Where things get complicated is when jumping, which requires you temporarily remove your right thumb from the joystick and press the A-button to bounce into the air. This causes a lapse in aiming, and makes things feel like a bit of a fumble and somewhat lacking in precision. It’s clear that the mouse and keyboard setup of a PC would function much more seamlessly; keeping movement duties to your left hand, and aiming/shooting to the right. Thankfully, the developer has added a lock-on function that can be administered by holding in the left bumper – but it wasn’t always reliable for us, as occasionally it wouldn’t target the intended enemy nor would it remain locked-on continuously throughout most firefights.
It’s a shame that these disjointed movements can frequently take you out of the experience, because there are satisfying weapons and gadgets that can often steal the show. Can’t see those mysterious creatures looming in the dark? Toggle your flashlight off and on. What about all of the ledges that appear unreachable when you’re all out of fuel for your trusty jetpack? Aim towards the ground and fire off your gravity ram, hastily projecting your character high into the air. There’s also a fun grapple mechanic that not only allows you to swing and swoop over deadly pits and gaps, but also is your means of grabbing objects in the environment – such as rocks, boulders, and other similar structures. These can be pulled around to unblock pathways or used as projectiles until your heart’s content. All of these functions – and a couple more – come together in a unique manner, which is part of the reason Capsized has an essence of its own.
That leads us to the physics. There must be low gravity on the planet because jumping feels quite floaty – intentionally, we’d assume – causing the boxes and crates that you interact with to topple around in odd ways. It seems as if there is no restriction on the way these can be moved through the environment, which is nice in theory, but caused us to run into many glitches and bugs; objects would get stuck in narrow passages, or our character would randomly get embedded on rough edges, forcing a restart. These weren't overly frequent occurrences, though it’s still frustrating when missions require manipulation of objects to solve puzzles and reach new areas. Safe to say, a bit more tweaking would’ve gone a long way.
The environments themselves come to life thanks to a fantastic amount of hand-drawn detail and living, breathing vegetation populating nearly every region throughout the adventure. This can occasionally lead to confusion when enemies easily blend into the plant-life, creating uncertainty about what may or may not inflict damage; but this is just a minor gripe. Even when the bug-like aliens and tribal inhabitants are out in force, the setting is eerie and even feels rather desolate due to the absence of a true civilization. The mood has nothing on Super Metroid in this regard, though it does make a good basis for comparison. It’s ambient, sometimes tranquil, and almost always effectively creepy – with a soundtrack that compliments these vibes even further.
Capsized also features many ways to play outside of the standard campaign mode. Arcade offers up multiple options – such as bot matches, time trials, survival, and even an armless mode where you don’t have the luxury of defending yourself with weapons. Just don’t expect to play these right away though, as you’ll have to unlock them by earning stars in the campaign. This can be done by keeping your time and number-of-deaths to minimum, and also by playing on the harder difficulty settings. And you don’t have to tackle the campaign alone seeing as you can toggle local co-op on or off in the options menu. Playing with a buddy allows better management of enemies, which helped to alleviate some of our control woes, as the confrontations were not as dire. Additionally, leaderboards are intact for those of you who like a little fame with your space-gunnery.
There were moments that we found ourselves completely immersed in the beautiful, though deadly, sci-fi world of Capsized, but at others, the controls were so frustrating that we felt like getting through many of the deviously designed areas was pure luck. The aesthetics were mostly a joy to experience, if a bit redundant at times, and even the comic book-like manner in which the story is delivered – which we almost shamefully forgot to mention – is surprisingly engaging. Top that off with exciting weapons and gameplay mechanics, and it’s too bad that the transition from PC didn’t go more smoothly.
At the end of the day, Capsized left us with very mixed emotions. We wanted to love it and enjoy it to the fullest, but the troublesomely inefficient controls stood tall between us and pure fun. If you think you’re patient enough to get past this hindrance, then by all means, the game assuredly deserves a look. If not, you’re better off playing it safe and avoiding the aggravation altogether, or giving the game a download on Steam, instead – if you possess the necessary hardware, of course. Capsized is surely a good game that just didn’t quite translate ideally from PC to a home console.