When I was a kid and I was asked by adults what I wanted to be when I grew up, my response was more often than not: An explorer. The idea of discovery new lands and possibly even species of animals was something that always excited me in my early years. Eventually, my lustful gaze reached beyond the confines of our own planet and into space, and though I found the sense of exploration to be markedly absent from mainstream games, it was used decently in other games, such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and the Mass Effect series.
Earlier this week, I received ‘Capsized’ from Alien Trap games (published by Namco Bandai) and it looked to be everything I dreamt of as a child melded with the action-packed exploration of Castlevania. It has charming visuals, a variety of weapons and even a very Half-Life like gravity gun, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, nothing really goes wrong with Capsized, but nothing really pushes you to keep playing the game either. There are no thrilling moments, no rewards for playing and there is no story. Worse than that, there is an obvious clash between the game’s soundtrack, visuals and gameplay that prevents the player from being immersed in the game. I came into this game really wanting to like it, as it promises so much to like, but ultimately found myself constantly bored, and underwhelmed. It’s a shame too, considering that the game was primarily developed by just two people.
Capsized opens with no text, and no speech or narration, just a very succinct comic book style series of images. It’s literally pictures of only the major story events, with no further exploration or explanation. Space ship in space. Space ship hit by glowing green asteroid-like projectile. Startled astronauts. Escape pods. Escape pods launch. Astronaut is on alien planet. It’s pretty boring.
Not to worry, the lack of a story will surely mean more attention was given to the core gameplay, right? Well yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s very exciting. In the time I spent with Capsized, I was simply given new weapons, without any real need for them at the time. Sure they made fighting the random insects a little easier, but there was never any real strategy to using the different weapons against any enemy in particular.
The alien planet itself seems to be a never-ending monotonous maze of plants and moss, and due to the fractured feeling of the separate levels, you don’t feel as though you are actually exploring a whole planet, just a series of repetitive tunnel mazes. The level design could have really been amazing. Instead of small, separate levels which don’t feel as though they connect, a massive hub with separate realms could have been used, like in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. This would have allowed for more variety in the level design, as well as giving the different weapons and equipment an actual use.
Gameplay-wise, Capsized does what it does well, but doesn’t feel as though Alien Trap Games were setting the bar high enough. That is to say, it feels as though they mastered making the beginning stages of the game, but failed to keep the action and gameplay exciting throughout. There are no bugs or glitches in Capsized that I found, but the afore-mentioned gravity gun can be fiddly at times, and many of the game’s moves and inputs require holding one button down while pushing another, which can make for some frustrating experiences, like hanging from a roof and trying to evade alien attacks as you shoot at an enemy. There are other times where the in-game physics don’t work very well, or at times, too well, as heavy objects like stone statues drag along the ground and eventually push your astronaut rather awkwardly, when a few minutes ago a similar puzzle may have been simple enough.
Visually, Capsized does have its charms, but as mentioned before, there is an awkward clash of styles between the game’s various design elements. The art direction could almost be called “cute” in some circumstances. The astronaut you play as has large eyes, and a small round body. The spaceship and escape pods are also small and round, lending that cute feeling to them. The planet itself, is a mix of highly-detailed tunnels and plant-life, and is extremely intricate in its design. The aliens and even the strange natives of the alien planet are also cute in their own face-eating, dart-shooting kind of way.
The only problem that comes from the art direction is that is doesn’t truly capture the feeling of isolation and fear that one would experience in the protagonist’s situation. Instead of dark, menacing enemies and environments, everything looks pretty peaceful, and possibly a great place to colonise, if it weren’t riddled with Metroid-looking bugs.
The soundtrack in Capsized is great, but once again, really doesn’t feel as though it belongs in this game. It’s actually quite relaxing, and more suited to a casual game, or Minecraft, then a game about trying to survive on an alien planet. It’s full of relaxing electronic melodies and a lot of soft synth chords. The tracks are long and extremely slow, and while I would love to give it a listen on its own (much like I did with Fez and Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: The Game), I simply can’t say that it belongs in this game. You might think that the visuals and soundtrack could oddly complement each other, but they don’t. The graphics are cutesy, but capable of action (if the gameplay was better), and the music is one-step away from being in an Animal Crossing game.
- Charming graphics and art direction give the game its own identity
- Relaxing electronic soundtrack
- No story
- Sloppy, almost non-related mission structure.
Capsized is a competent game, but with a major lack of atmosphere. What really matters in a title like this is the gameplay, which ultimately proves itself to be rather tedious and ultimately, quite boring. Despite the high quality of the game’s individual design departments (graphics, sound and gameplay), Capsized feels like a mess of good ideas haphazardly thrown into a final product.
I like ice cream, burritos and coffee separately, but mix them all together in a bowl and you have a pretty big mess, and one that’s not tasty.