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Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.5.8


Cargo Commander
February 8, 2013 | Franklin Pride
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They Keep Coming
When dealing with a game like Cargo Commander, you have to ask yourself whether it's the game you like or if it's the random postcards from ILuvBagels368. In this case, it's both. Cargo Commander is a space-based platformer with gravity shifts, a few guns, and generic enemies to foil your careful looting. On its own, the game is pretty average. And then you get your first letter. Whether it's from your wife, your son, company headquarters, or even a postcard from a fellow player of the game, reading these notes is the only real reason to continue the treasure hunt.

The way it works is that you find random blank postcards while drilling through the walls of cargo containers and recovering the cargo inside. These postcards can then have a message written on them and be submitted into the sector for other players to find and read. What makes it an awesome feature is that the grand majority of players have interesting and sometimes role-play messages. You'll find a postcard where the writer expresses how much he misses his wife and wants nothing more than to return home with a shiny new medal, a postcard where someone wrote poetry about the depth of space, and occasionally a piece of ASCII art. Should you add your own contributions to the mix, others will eventually find your own piece as well. It makes the game feel quite social for a single-player game.

Which is good, really, as the game itself is pretty simple. Each level (sector) contains a series of container waves that you need to explore, loot, and get out of before they're sucked into a wormhole. You always seem to have enough time to check each out, especially on larger container waves. Your character does this by drilling through a wall of the container, dropping inside, orienting to its local gravity (warning: can cause nausea), and then blasting your way past any hostile aliens while gathering the cargo inside. You do have upgrades you can buy, but none of them are anything more interesting than an increase in a base stat like how long you can spend in space without dying.

The levels are at least reasonably unique, though. Every sector is procedurally generated from its name, which means that there are an infinite number of sectors to explore, and that every player going to a specific name like "NinjaInSpace" will have the same series of containers and challenges. This translates into the layout of monster gems, traps, and cargo inside a container, the number of containers per wave, and just how fast the levels go totally unbeatable. The only real challenge for the game is to beat your fellow players' scores, though, as you can switch levels or replay the level on death without losing any experience for your character.

Unfortunately, the game doesn't really look all that good. The detail on monsters and the main character is rather lacking and there are only a few different pieces that are reused for every cargo container. In addition, each cargo that you pick up is represented by the same blue box in the container and has a small 2D sprite to represent it once it has been successfully looted. The monsters also only have a few varieties that either hit you or blow up in your face. It's a pretty spartan game.

The sound and music fares a little better, but you'll notice something pretty quickly about the game. It only has one music track. That track loops endlessly unless you're looting containers and can get very repetitive. Still, the sounds are quite nice. There are a few variants on crystal smashes, monster kills, and weapon sounds, and the sound of a container being destroyed around you is always quite epic. The only real gripe is that you can't really have that many distinct sound in a game with this little unique content.

So why play Cargo Commander? Mainly because it's fun in short bursts. You won't find yourself entertained if you play for hours straight, but the occasional run on a level a friend has a score in can be quite fun. The postcards are also a nice addition, as it's more of a treasure hunt to find as many of those as you can than to hunt the cargo. Overall, it's an average platformer that relies quite heavily on its social aspects. If you don't like platformers or aren't the type of gamer that likes to take a break and read now and then, this isn't the game for you. If you are, Cargo Commander will tide you over until it's upgraded or someone does it better.

Pros:

Plenty of unique sectors
Shareable messages
Easy to compare scores with friends

Cons:

Sectors are comprised of too few unique pieces
Gameplay is too simple

Franklin Pride is a game development graduate and professional programmer/consultant for the Unity development engine. He is currently developing Chainsaw Ninja In Space in addition to numerous projects for his clients.



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