Capsized review

Our Verdict

An intense and beautifully designed action-physics platformer, which also happens to be dirt cheap.

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I've got to get to my crewmate! I'm flying through the jungle canopy toward his transponder when a spear bursts from the undergrowth. I dodge it with a burst from my jetpack, spin, and snipe the head from the masked native who hurled it. This leaves me facing the wrong way, heading fast for a wall. I ram a baby pincer-blob out of the way, fire my grapnel at a passing outcrop, and use my momentum to swing up the wall toward the transponder signal. And into a huge pack of pincer-blobs of all sizes. The screen cracks as I'm devoured.

Capsized is a 2D platformer, where you're an astronaut shipwrecked on a hostile planet. In order to escape you must first gather any surviving crew and any communications systems that have survived the crash. The Harry Harrison-style deathworld is inhabited by all sorts of beasties, ranging from a wide variety of angular natives equipped with primitive weaponry to the local fauna, which crawls, buzzes or leaps, but is always deadly.

Getting through this world is a matter of learning to use the various tools – grappling hook, kinetic ram (knocks enemies and objects away) – and large arsenal of weapons, to navigate the mostly non-linear levels. All the tools work exactly as anyone raised on platform shooters would expect. The grapnel enables you to swing around like a heavilyarmed Tarzan. The jetpack's gentle lift has limited fuel. The ram knocks you back a bit, but the subject of its kinetic affections back a lot. And the ammo-hungry guns kill things.

The only flaw is that switching to the right weapon using the mousewheel, when the natives are raining spears on you, is like trying to find a pencil-sharpener in a geek's satchel of techno-crap. The game is so reaction-based that having the wrong weapon out tends to hasten your death, so instead of being agreeably gung-ho, you find yourself creeping slowly forward and running away lots.

There's always non-hostile fauna moving in the scenery too: stiltlegged spiders, overgrown hermit crabs and anenome-funnels that shy away on your approach. Even the internal texturing on the landscape resembles the organic, fecund drawings of surrealists like Max Ernst. Electronic music, an oldfashioned interface and hand-drawn layered backgrounds conjure memories of such '80s platform shooters as Metal Slug or Contra, but stepped up to HD and buffed until the game is 90% polish.

The varied, well-designed levels range from flashlit tomb-crawls to low-gravity atmosphere exploration. With these, and variety of secondary game modes – co-op, deathmatch, time trials, survival and a wonderful no-guns race – Capsized is an example of what can be done with a handful of old-school game mechanics if a developer has excellent taste.

The Verdict

An intense and beautifully designed action-physics platformer, which also happens to be dirt cheap.