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Phil Savage

Dec 07, 2012

Cargo Commander

Alone in space, with nothing but emails from loved ones, uncaring corporate missives and an endlessly looping folksy theme song for company. Such is the life of a Cargo Commander.

Far from menial labour, it's a perilous task. When you activate your ship's magnet, a wave of containers come crashing into it, breaking off panels to provide easy entrance. And, because we're in space, those containers are full of dangerous mutants. Every workplace is going to have some jerks.

The key satisfaction of the 2D platforming is your ability to create your route. You'll face impassable obstacles, low gravity, no gravity and hordes of mutants, but your commander has a drill that enables him to remove walls and platforms. Can't reach the cargo you've been employed to collect? Take out a side panel, jump into the vacuum of space, manoeuvre around the container and re-enter through the top. Just try not to think about how you're able to survive without a helmet or navigate without propulsion. Trade secrets.

Cargo Commander review
Somewhere in there is a 'sector pass' to the next level.

You explore each wave, collecting precious cargo, killing enemies for their hats (which serve as currency for upgrades) and grabbing new weapons. Eventually a wormhole will open, dragging everything but your ship into the void. This leads to some fantastic moments as you desperately drill your way out of a container and plunge into open space, hoping to make it home before your air runs out.

It's fun, if a bit lightweight. The waves of containers get larger and more complex, the mutants tougher and the ammo more scarce. Die and your score, caps and upgrades are reset, and you wake up in your bed ready to start all over again.

While you're free to make another run through the same waves of containers, you can also travel to a new sector. Cleverly, there's an online aspect to this. Pick a sector that's been played before and you'll be given the same layout and cargo as everyone else, enabling you to compete for high-scores and stumble upon (and loot) the dead bodies of other players. Alternatively you can create a new sector, letting the game randomly generate unique waves.

Cargo Commander review
Hopefully this cargo will be the ultra-rare Alien Sex Toy.

It's a great feature, but one with a structural problem. You gain promotions (earning permanent upgrades) based on how many of the 88 different types of cargo you've collected. It encourages you to do the bare minimum: collecting each area's six items, finding the pass that allows you to unlock more sectors, then ending the day and travelling somewhere new.

An inadvertent commentary on job satisfaction it may be, but it means there's no compelling reason to progress to the harder waves beyond high-score boasting. There are some great ideas at the heart of Cargo Commander, but the game gives up the reward without ever pushing the risk.

Cargo Commander

A fun platformer that gives random generation an online twist, but lack of depth stops this from being a job for life.

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