When you consider its high res graphics, immersive soundtrack and physics based gameplay, it’s tempting to view this interstellar action platformer as a thoroughly modern production. In many respects, however, Alientrap’s 2D adventure is influenced by the games of yesteryear. This becomes apparent when you locate an extra life, collect a bonus star or dispatch an enemy by leaping onto his head. One zero-g boss battle in particular recalls the side scrolling shooters of the 16-bit era. This isn’t to say that concessions haven’t been made to modern sensibilities. The check point system is excellent, death is of little consequence and you can access a compass if you’re having trouble locating your next objective. The lower difficulty levels will serve you well if you’re simply in the mood to experience what the game has to offer.
You commence the game by crash landing on a tree covered world that looks to have been crafted using the digital equivalent of pencils and watercolours. As elegant as they are intricate, the environments are further enhanced by a wonderfully tranquil score and the ambient sounds of the forest. Within an hour or so of landing, you’ll stumble upon some truly tragic scenes, most of which are handled with quiet and sombre dignity. You’ll be less impressed by the fact that blood splatters onto the screen whenever you approach death. Not only does it obscure your view, but it is sadly at odds with the overall tone of the game. At its best, though, Capsized is tremendously touching.
You’ll spend your time locating your fellow astronauts, collecting parts for your stricken starship and destroying the ancient artefacts that are interfering with your instruments. This is generally achieved by bustling from left to right, plugging your enemies full of holes and solving the occasional puzzle. Mechanically speaking, Capsized isn’t particularly original, but it does offer up plenty of variety in terms of weapons and equipment. The number one item in your (seemingly bottomless) kitbag is a versatile grappling line that allows you to lift, drag and throw boulders and other large items. On one level, you may use it to clear a blocked tunnel, on another to fling a crate into an enemy. It can be used to swing from one precarious perch to another or to form a makeshift shield, which you’ll certainly be grateful for when the arrows begin to fly. You can also look forward to using a jetpack, a gravity gun, a personal shield and more.
After a handful of levels, you’ll build up an impressive arsenal, with each gun offering a different rate of fire, degree of damage and area of effect. One of the more interesting weapons, which behaves like a giant aerosol can, is particularly handy for fending off swarms of alien insects. You’ll encounter a range of exotic adversaries, including urchin-like cave dwellers and rhino-like speeders. Your principal adversaries are a humanoid race known for their golden masks and deadly aim. These guys will dog you from start to finish. Some enemies seem quite manageable during daylight hours, but become genuinely threatening when you encounter them in the darkness of the caves. Keep an eye out for the plant life too as this is one planet on which the flora can be almost as dangerous as the fauna. There are also a number of entirely passive creatures, which contribute enormously to the game’s wistful mood.
Capsized also includes several unlockable challenge stages. While blasting your way through a bot match or dashing madly through the darkness in search of oxygen can’t possible match the pathos of the single player campaign, these modes constitute an enjoyable (if repetitive) distraction.
The game isn’t without its frustrations. Like many physics based titles (LittleBigPlanet and Trine spring to mind) Capsized sometimes requires you to be a little too precise. The mouse and keyboard controls are reasonably well implemented, but you may be tempted to switch to a controller (which is also supported) during some of the more frantic or finicky sections of the game. Finally, while the code is generally stable, you may encounter the occasional game-breaking glitch. The levels are reasonably short, though, so this shouldn’t be a deal breaker if the concept appeals to you.
Capsized invites you to immerse yourself in simple but compelling world. If you’re on the hunt for something revolutionary, you may be disappointed, but if story, aesthetics and variety matter to you, this will be a difficult invitation to decline. Why not overlook the occasional rough edge and enjoy playing a game with heart?