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Cargo Commander Review

 
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At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
6.0
6/ 10


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

We liked?


  • Great variety in weapons and abilities
  • Being able to generate custom levels from names is really unique
  • Most achievements aren't explicit (so they're earned from genuinely doing something cool and interesting)
  • Lots of replayability

Not so much?


  • Rough-looking visuals
  • Sloppy animations
  • Choking to death from lack of air 2 feet from your Home Container is the reason I'll go bald


Final Fiendish Findings?

Cargo Commander is a great game with lots of charm and subtle depth, with more polish on the design and mechanics than the visuals. While it’s not the greatest example of this kind of game (Abuse will probably be my favourite until the end of time), it’s a solid one. I have gripes (clearly), but they’re not game-breaking and if you’re focusing on the exploration and fun more than the looks, it won’t bother you at all. Bottom line is, if you enjoy platformers in any way, shape, or form, you should consider picking up Cargo Commander.

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Posted November 10, 2012 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Cargo Commander is an indie game  in every respect. It’s made by two guys working to make a great game. It’s published on a free service, Steam. It smartly utilizes design shortcuts that put level creation in the hands of the player. You can’t help but admire what this game is: a testament to hard work, determination, and hours of blood (I hope not), sweat, and tears. Much like the character in the game.

The technique in Cargo Commander is not something that’s used very often in game narratives: making the protagonist nothing more than Joe Shmoe, trying to eke out a living. That living is an intriguing one: something of a cross between interstellar reclamation and shipyard salvage. And there’s the loneliness too: essentially trapped in the bowels of the universe near a wormhole, only able to communicate with the faceless corporation that pays you, and your dear spouse. It may seem derelict and destitute, but there’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor to be found both during gameplay and during the emails the character receives that propel the superficial narrative. Even the breakdown of the pay/rank structure has its charm (poor secretary). It’s a make-the-best-of-it situation, and in the end, all you’re really striving for is to get home to your spouse, and to become The Cargo Commander (which actually isn’t the top rank, which is weird). The job is a simple one though: traverse Sectors, looking for new containers to to jump on board and scour for cargo. You aren’t the first to do it, and the mutated goons who came before you are still rummaging around in some of the containers. There’s a nice subtext that you can discover if you pay close attention to all of the details.

There’s a very catchy song in Cargo Commander, and I found myself humming it long after I stopped playing.  The sounds and guitar strumming in the Home Container give it a very home-y ambiance. There’s distance scaling with the home-y audio, so the farther away from safety  you get, the farther away it sounds. Coupled with more a higher tempo score when you’re in the containers, and it really feels like  you’re risking your life in a blue collar job. Even the transition from container to space, when you go from sound to nothingness and breaking containers, all the while hearing the character’s heart pound as he struggles to hold his breath and make it to his home container. It’s a cold reality, but someone has to do it, and the audio drives that home more than anything else.

The visuals in Cargo Commander have an indie charm to them, endearing in how rough it all is. Everything looks clunky, and I often found myself staring at the character as I moved my cursor from side to side and wondering why he was twisting backwards to aim. The textures were also typically plain, but considering it really is only two guys working on it, it’s something that can be forgiven. I just hope they’ll either put out a patch that polishes up the visuals, or hire more people to work on their next game. I just feel bad for the character though. Do you remember when you’d make a stupid face, and your mother would tell you to stop it or your face would stay like that permanently? That’s all I can think of! I pity the guy, really. Then again, he gets to live in space, so who’s the real winner here?

If you’re a fan of platformers like Abuse (side scrolling run and gun), the gameplay in Cargo Commander will seem very familiar. You jump around the different containers, gathering cargo and caps, the game’s upgrade currency. The collection of unique cargoes is what ranks you up, while caps are used to buy upgrades while playing through a sector. The platforming is kept very simple, but the addition (and occasional lack) of gravity adds some interesting new elements to navigation of the levels. Being able to enter and exit the containers from almost any direction and angle makes the race to and from the containers an exciting one. There’s also the mutated former colleagues to contend with, some of which are many times your size and still look really swell in their trucker hats. They’re usually worth caps or cargo if you can take them out within the confines of a container, and you have your giant fist (melee attack), as well as a plethora of weapons to find in each sector. You’re  only able to carry two weapons at a time, so there’s strategy in delaying buying more ammo or upgrading particular guns in favor of collecting a gun you want as you proceed farther along each Sector’s levels. And that’s where the real fun of the game is: exploring each new container for cargo, and dealing with enemies, explosives, and other little secrets.

Cargo Commander has taken a very unique approach to keeping players in the game: Sectors are generated by typing words. I managed to create one after my school, GBCDESIGN, and for a few hours, I was the leader. Then some guy with my actual name took the top spot. I need to find this person and beat….their score. Other popular names are Gallifrey (think Doctor Who), PCGAMER, etc. You get the idea. The more you explore, the more chances you have at finding new cargo, which increases your rank, which nets you new bonuses. Protip: youtube users like to suggest BATTLEFAILED for some rare cargo, so there you go.

Cargo Commander is a great game with lots of charm and subtle depth, with more polish on the design and mechanics than the visuals. While it’s not the greatest example of this kind of game (Abuse will probably be my favourite until the end of time), it’s a solid one. I have gripes (clearly), but they’re not game-breaking and if you’re focusing on the exploration and fun more than the looks, it won’t bother you at all. Bottom line is, if you enjoy platformers in any way, shape, or form, you should consider picking up Cargo Commander.


Dan Spiler