At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Richard Pilot PC/Mac Alientrap Alientrap 1-2 (Share screen)
Requirements
PC Only: Windows XP/Vista/7, Dual-core processor (Intel Dual Core 2.0 GHz or AMD Athlon X2 5200+ 2.6 GHz), 1.5GB RAM, 1.0GB hard disk drive space, DirectX 9.0c-compatible video card

Capsized review

For those of who haven't heard of XNA before, here's a brief run down; it's a framework that allows anyone who can code the ability to make their own PC, Xbox 360, and now even (Windows Phone 7) mobile, games easily. It is the heart of the 'Indie Games' section on the Xbox Live Marketplace. The fact that anyone can get it and because the indie marketplace is hidden away on the Xbox Dashboard means that even those great XNA games don't really reach the spotlight. More recently, however, a number of popular and well crafted games built using this framework have come out of the woodwork, the biggest one of note being the excellent Magicka. So whilst I still have mixed feelings on XNA games, they seem to be increasingly getting out of the blanket 'amateur' label that I have bestowed upon them. It was with this mindset that I fired up Capsized, an XNA game developed by Alientrap and distributed on Steam.

The art style lends itself well to screenshots

The art style lends itself well to screenshots

Landing on a foreign planet, you set off in search of alien ruins and your lost crewmates. Capsized's art style is gorgeous and more importantly, it is lovingly detailed from the backgrounds to the dangerous and very alien looking flora. Alientrap have done a great job of crafting an alien world and from the first level, Capsized really sets the tone of being stranded in the unknown. This high level of quality is also reflected in the animations, plants pulsate and give off gases and a level of fog covers the ground. Because of its almost hand-drawn style, lighting never really comes into play, but one of the missions, set during the night, requires you to get out your torch and the effect used there is striking. Particles effects also look amazing, from the jets of your jetpack to the glow of your grab tool. The game's story is told out through a motion comic, shown at the beginning and end of each level or during the loading screen. Again, this adopts the same art style as the rest of the game. The menus also have the same treatment with gorgeous animated backgrounds; overall Alientrap have done themselves proud. Suffice it to say, Capsized is a very nice looking game.

So what tools do you have at your disposal to explore this harsh environment? Initially you are armed with your trusty blast pistol, but as you go on your suit gets a number of abilities. First and foremost is the hook that allows you to shoot out a hookshot-style beam. This can be used for all number of handy maneuvers such as swinging out across deadly pits or getting to hard-to-reach places. More importantly, it can be used to grapple objects; this is extremely useful for pulling blocks and rubble out of tunnels that you frequently need in order to make your way through the game. The hook has another useful feature; objects that are grappled can get thrown forcefully, great for smashing up large obstacles in your path, or to fling at enemies. Speaking of which, you'll need more than your blaster if you are to survive against the locals, who are not too friendly with your presence. Hidden away in Capsized's levels are weapon upgrades such as a rapid fire blaster, laser gun and other nasty tools of destruction.

The olympic torch has made its way to this alien world

The olympic torch has made its way to this alien world

Capsized is primarily a game of exploration, with each stage being pretty much open from the beginning, leaving you to explore the multi-level environment. Utilising your weapons and suit abilities, it is up to you to track down your objective, whether that's a target to destroy or crewman to rescue. I enjoyed the sense of exploration that Capsized gave me and really liked the journey that the game took me through.

Unfortunately, Capsized is not without its fair share of technical issues. The biggest for me was that your experience of the game can be directly correlated with the power of your machine. The first time I ran the game, it was incredibly sluggish and whilst the machine I used wasn't the top spec, it should have been more than capable of running this game. Due to the limitations of the XNA platform, the game provides little in the way of graphical customisation with the exception of v-sync and resolution options. Even the latter showed the lack of optimisation in this game, as playing the game in a 4:3 resolution caused a few titles to be improperly aligned, which made it look a little unprofessional. The worst part of this poor optimisation is how this impacts gameplay, specifically aiming. Most of the important moves, such as weapons and grappling, require the cursor to aim. However, when the game begins to under-perform, this control is so poor that it is difficult to target anything, which at times lead to the game being unplayable and at the very least, stunted my enjoyment of it.

I think he'll need something bigger than a plaster for that wound

I think he'll need something bigger than a plaster for that wound

When played on a powerful enough machine, Capsized is a great adventure into the unknown with a nice combination of platforming, exploration and combat. At times though, it feels like this game would be more at home on the Xbox 360, which, considering this is a XNA game, it's surprising that it's not already. The controls feel more suited to the twin analogue sticks of the console's controller and there are moments when the game's presentation slips slightly which is all the more noticeable when you consider how great the game looks otherwise. Available via Steam, the game is more than worth the price of admission, just make sure your machine is powerful enough to play.

Ratings

Overall Capsized is an excellent platformer, with striking visuals, that charts an eerie journey to an unknown planet. It is let down by some alarmingly major technical problems and a lack of polish. 8/10

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