After spending so much time in control of three little people in spacesuits earlier this summer with Pikmin 3, it felt like a natural transition to explore another alien planet with a bubble-helmeted hero in the downloadable Capsized on Xbox 360. The games couldn't be any less similar, but it can be tough to think up these intros some times, so give me a break, OK? Anyway, if you've got a few hours to kill, a strong love of the SNES platformer and enough patience to deal with a few (minor) frustrations, then you may want to give Capsized a look.
As the name suggests, Capsized puts players in control of a spaceman stranded on an alien planet, with only some pretty intense weaponry and a real knack for jumping to save him/herself. A cute, stylized intro sets up the game, and once you are in control little notes explain the various systems. Everything from vanilla jumping and shooting to alt-fire, wall jumps and the ever-useful gravity gun get little explanations. After slogging through Mario & Luigi: Dream Team's impossibly long and overly detailed descriptions of how to do everything, Capsized mini nudges in the right direction were more than refreshing.
It won't take long for the average player to get the hang of things, and from there it is up to you to explore as you wish. The game has a definite Metroidvania feel to it, though it can be a little more open-ended than the "find this, go here" formula. With plenty of little secrets and out of the way places, Capsized often toes the line between the Metroidvania formula and something less structured, more along the lines of Waking Mars on iOS.
In exploring the planet, there will be a few things that irritate, but never totally overwhelm the experience. My two main complaints were some of the shooting and the physics. With shooting, each weapon works well in both regular and alt-fire mode, but it becomes instantly clear that Capsized started life as a PC game. Even with a lock-on button, blasting at the flora and fauna never feels as exact as it must have with a keyboard and mouse, meaning that nearly every time you see an enemy, you'll probably take some damage before you can get your shots in. If by the end of the game I still hadn't mastered the lock-on and shooting mechanics, I can't help but feel it will be a problem for others as well.
The other issue I had was with the physics. Both the awesome gravity gun and the jumping mechanics fall prey to some weird, floaty physics at various points. Even though this is an alien planet with alien gravity, the jumping, especially when wall jumping, feels almost unencumbered by gravity, and it can lead to overshot jumps or simply just too much hang time, both of which can be deadly. The gravity gun is slightly more annoying. Ninety percent of the time, it did what I wanted; it caught the right objects and pulled, pushed or flung them exactly as I envisioned. It is the other 10 percent of the time that can get teeth grinding in rage. Trying to fling a rock or pull a piece of subterranean junk is maddening when it... just... won't... work, but as obnoxious as it was, I was never truly "stuck" because of it. A little patience with the physics always yielded results, which is something, right? Even though I dedicated two paragraphs to the two main issues I had with Capsized, neither really hurt the fun much and I still really enjoyed the game beginning to end.
Beyond the exploration, running and gunning, what really sells Capsized is its overall vibe. The part of me that loved SNES platform games like the Super Star Wars series or Earthworm Jim immediately felt right at home, and in a climate where "retro" can often mean "meh," it was, well, just a nice game. It plays just like the games you remember, provides a decent challenge and doesn't wear out its welcome. And as a download-only title, Capsized's sticker price of 800 Microsoft points (have they started actual currency yet?) means you can guiltlessly dive right in for less than what it costs to go to the movies these days. Capsized won't blow any minds, but it is a solid purchase for any Metroidvania lover, indie game enthusiast or SNES throwback fan.
Final Rating: 76%. A throwback to SNES platformers for your Xbox 360.