Capsized is a great game, but stay away from the XBLA version
When I began playing Capsized on Xbox Live Arcade this week, I had never played the original version that launched on PC to some small acclaim in 2011. I couldn't shake the feeling that something felt wrong when I played the console version.
There were moments of greatness, and the physics-based mechanics of the game seemed brilliant, but I was also constantly frustrated. It wasn't until I booted up the PC version that I realized what was going on: the XBLA version is a sub-par port of a good game.
Good game, meh game
Capsized is a game about fast-paced combat and exploration on a beautiful 2D alien world. Our dainty spaceman of a main character is marooned on an alien planet and sets about saving his crewmates and surviving the attacks of the locals. Each level is essentially a 2D physics sandbox filled with enemies, powerups, and a goal to accomplish.
You can go these level in any way you please. You can explore each crevice for every powerup and secret weapon, or you can leap headlong into a pit and dive down into the depths of the level, guns blazing. It's not just about choosing your own path through the level though, combat is also open-ended.
This is due to Capsized's take on the gravity gun, a weapon that can be used for anything from launching yourself into the air, picking up giant boulders to use as shields, or swinging through the level Tarzan-style.
Capsized would have been a completely standard, simple 2D shooter/platformer without this feature. There's not much else about it that sets it apart, but the gravity gun turns gameplay on its head and ensures that every encounter is unique.
You can yank an enemy out of the air and shoot it across the arena. You can launch a boulder at your foes. You can latch onto a nearby landmass and zip out of the battle. You can pick up a stone slate and use it as a shield. And with a little skill you can even pick up a rock and continuously jump on it, higher and higher into the air like a hoverboard. It gives the game an openness that feels like you're tackling problems in your own unique way.
Whatever my complaints about the XBLA version, Capsized is still a good game, but you should buy the definitive version on PC.
Many of the greatest console 2D shooters, if not all of the greatest 2D shooters, tend to have amazing sensory feedback. In Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, there's a practically a fireworks show every time you kill a single enemy. In Contra 3, your character's entire body recoils with every shot, giving the guns a big, hefty “feeling.”
At the same time, these games have to balance that against negative feedback. The player needs to know that they were hit/damaged, but if the feedback is too harsh then it becomes frustrating. The PC version of Capsized got this balance correct. The XBLA version got it entirely backward.
When you fire weapons in the XBLA version, it feels similar to the PC game: A little laser shoots out of your gun and makes a tiny “pew” sound, or whatever the sound effect for that particular gun is. There's not much feedback. However, in the XBLA version, the feedback for getting hit is much more severe than on PC. The controller rattles and the screen flashes red with every hit. In other words, the game makes a big deal out of your failures, but says little of your successes. It seems like a slight difference, but it's enough to make combat less satisfying, and more frustrating.
Good sensory feedback is like having an encouraging cheerleader on your side, applauding every successful shot and consoling you after every damaging hit. Bad sensory feedback is like having a snotty kid make fun of you when you fail while ignoring your victories.
Capsized is also game best played with headphones, a setup that's much more common the PC than consoles. The same applies to the music which is subtle, ambient and best experience through the intimacy of headphones, with the rest of the sounds around you blocked out.
Stick with PC
The game's controls are more comfortable with a mouse and keyboard, and the aiming reticule works much better with a mouse than with a joystick. The reticule can move all over the screen, which means you can aim at enemies simply by hovering the mouse over them. The reticule is stuck about 5 feet from the character with the controller setup, making aiming far more difficult and, again, frustrating, as you waste ammunition shooting wildly.
Capsized is a good game, but you won't want to pay full price for the second rate version of the game on XBLA. If at all possible, pick up the PC version instead.