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Good SF/horror story, but did not quite live up to my expectations, November 21, 2015
In Capsule, you play a Sandman, the single person awake on board a gigantic ship freighting millions of cryogenically frozen people towards potential salvation on the other side of a black hole. Going about your routine one day, you notice an anomaly in one of the cryo-storage sectors.
It's not the world's most original plot, but I'm a sucker for abandoned spaceship horror (well, not abandoned in this case, but you know what I mean), and it's a powerful story, well told. The strengths of all of PaperBlurt's games that I've played are writing, coding and artwork, and this game is no exception. There are even extremely attractive animated graphics at crucial moments. Background colours are used as a simple but effective way to evoke a mood.
In terms of style, the writing may not be the best ever, but it has a vivid, slightly unpolished strength. Unfortunately, there are a couple of typoes, too. There are several moments that ring psychologically true: for example, the protagonist's musings on how the administration went about choosing porn for the ship's entertainment sector. There is a lot of good comedy, and the horror is almost always well-written with exactly the right amount of detail, rather than relying on schlocky effects.
PaperBlurt's trademark style swings strongly, and sometimes that results in a miss. For example, the description of the fate of your predecessor does come off as a bit too try-hard, going for either horror or dark comedy but only achieving cheesy. Similarly, the narrative voice doesn't veer away from all-too-human things like bodily functions; mostly this works, but a gratuitous bit of scatology in an otherwise effectively horrific scene brought me out of the moment. Style is ultimately a matter of taste; perhaps that scene works for other people, but it didn't for me.
My main problem was with the endgame. (Spoiler - click to show)While it doesn't come out of nowhere, it has no organic connection with the plot that has come before (the tribe of awakened passengers). Ending a piece of interactive media is hard; it may feel like more closure is expected from a game than from a piece of static media. The various endings of Capsule all have definite closure, but the story still ends up feeling slightly disjointed.
Also, I felt the game wasn't clear enough at one point: when the computer said that there was a 98% risk of fatal outcome on entering the Loop, I assumed that that referred to the ship as a whole, not to me personally, which predisposed me against the game more than a bit: I have nothing against unhappy endings, but I do have a problem with being given three choices of endings, only to find out that all resulted in a negative outcome. My assumption was wrong, but I still think the writing could have made this clearer.
Also, other reviewers (mostly for the sequel) have pointed out the lack of realism in having only a single caretaker on board the ship. I'd like to add that certainly, some future technology should be able to protect that caretaker from almost certain doom, too.
Again, the writing in some of the endings was a bit swing-and-a-miss, feeling more silly than anything else.
It feels like I've just been listing a bunch of problems with this game, and that is unfair. The writing is very good (bar one or two glitches). Technically, it's a masterpiece. The mood is abundant, and there is a sufficient amount of interactivity, even if it felt like most of the meaningful choices were clustered around the very end.
Recommended to everyone who enjoys dark, ambient spaceship thrillers.
On to Capsule II - The 11th Sandman.