Cargo Commander Review

November 29, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Serious Brew
Publisher(s): Serious Brew
Platform(s): PC
Review Platform: PC
Release Date: November 1, 2012

Space is a lonely place for Serious Brew’s Cargo Commander. You won’t meet a lot of people while floating in the vacuum, harvesting wayward cargo containers for salvage. You will, however, earn a great many points. In fact, you may even claim a spot on the famed High Scoreboard, a creature thought long-extinct before the great wizards of the indie new-school nurtured it back from the brink. So set course for a new sector, flip the switch on your magnet, and hope you can survive the obstacle course of 2D platforming that is about to crash directly into your ship.
  • An infinite supply of levels
  • Every sector has its own online scoreboard to keep on top of
  • Fun zero-gravity segments
  • Most every wall in the game is destructible, meaning you make your own paths
  • Physics can be a pain when trying to enter an awkwardly oriented container
  • Very limited number of weapons/gadgets to work with makes for very repetitive core gameplay
A day in the life of the Cargo Commander is a lonely one, accompanied by a single, somber, acoustic tune and not much else. Cargo Corp. has shipped you out to find and collect 88 pieces of cargo and you’re not allowed to come home until you do. Your ship is similar to that first studio apartment you lock down after college - it’s tiny, cramped, and you’re biggest accomplishment in homemaking is that you went out and bought a coffee pot. Breaking up the monotony and crippling loneliness is the ability to activate a magnet which will pull giant crates of detritus crashing through your walls with the possibility of new cargo and one more step toward home.

You start in a pre-ordained sector, where the game takes you through the simple steps of calling in containers and properly scavenging their contents. Cargo Corp. provides you with valuable instruction on things like “jumping” and “holding your breath while in space,” both of which are cargo commanding staples. The nail-gun shoots nails, which will be infinitely more valuable to you than your hammer fist, a melee affair of limited damage output. If you’re lucky enough to find a shotgun, magbomb launcher, or the elusive revolver, on one of the derelict containers, you can expect things to go smoother. All of this is well and good, but it’s your drill that will save your life or, if you’re not paying attention, be your downfall.

Most every wall in the game can be drilled through, even exterior walls, meaning that how you progress through each individual container is open to experimentation. Every container you pull in is randomly generated, so you never know what you’re floating into. Some containers have gravity, some don’t. Most will be filled with some manner of monster to avoid or confront. A great many will have cargo waiting for you, but some won’t. The key to being a successful cargo commander is proper planning and not getting in over your head.

There are many different sizes of containers and the larger the container does not necessarily mean the larger the haul. This is where the strategy behind Cargo Commander shows up. Setting foot into a container gives you a full view of the entire room (provided you don’t find yourself in an unlit container) and some will have a sizable amount of cargo, others will have very little, and more still will have only a few angry monsters lying in wait. When confronted with a large container sporting only a single box of cargo, do you make the dash for it, drilling a direct path in and out, or do you bypass it to explore the next container, which has just crashed into this one? You only have so much time before one of the ever-rampant wormholes opens up, urging you back to your ship before everything falls apart and leaves you floating in the gaping maw of space.

The Cargo Commander has lungs of steel and can hold his breath for a short time when caught outside of his ship or a container. This allows players to make daring leaps from container to container when they want to bypass a section entirely, or when a wormhole has left them desperately dashing for home. While the Cargo Commander knows a thing or to about surviving in vacuum, enemies don’t, and drilling a hole into an exterior wall can be an effective means of eliminating monsters when you’ve run out of ammo. Of course, you’ll have to jump out into space yourself to collect whatever caps they drop before they’re sucked up by the wormhole.

Caps are used to upgrade your commander’s gear, making his laborious task incrementally simpler. Health can be increased, as well as movement speed and a heavy investment in your drill will see you cutting through walls at breakneck speed. You can also purchase ammo from your upgrade bench, which would behoove you, as it is in rare supply out among the interstellar trash cans.

While bringing back any cargo will increase your score, ultimately your goal is to find new cargo. Each sector only has so many different types of cargo and once you’ve found as many new items as you think you’re going to, it’s best to set course for new territory. To do this, you’ll need to have found a “sector pass” in one of the containers. From there you can choose from sectors created by other players or enter a name and create your own. Finding new cargo earns you points toward increasing your rank, which unlocks new goodies for you ship, such as the aforementioned upgrade bench and even a maintenance module which can be used to repair your ship free of charge. Handy when you’re constantly calling cargo containers to crash into it.

Cargo Commander is a great title with very few hiccups. Traveling to new sectors, trying to beat other commanders’ high scores to earn your literal crown is a load of fun when you never know what activating your magnet will bring. There are plenty of goodies to gather (including, but certainly not limited to, the occasional lobster) and the ability to drill through walls coupled with the impending doom of the wormhole makes for a strong sense of urgency. While the lack of weapons to find and mostly passive upgrades means that the core gameplay is very repetitive, each individual container is a new level and the uncertainty of what comes next will keep players interested. Best of luck out there in the infinite abyss, commanders.

Final Score “Press F to Relieve Stress” 7.0
While Cargo Commander isn’t the most visually stunning game I’ve played, it has its own charm and that is enough to keep it from coming across as ‘ugly’. There are still, however, improvements that could be made.
There is a lot to be said for Cargo Commander’s moment-to-moment gameplay. Rushing out to the furthest container possible and then making a mad dash back home when the wormhole warning goes off can be hectic and the solutions you can come up with to surpass that chaos will make you feel like a rockstar.
For a game with infinite levels and a long line of cargo to collect before you can say you’ve really beaten it, $10 is far from a raw deal. The lack of variety in the core gameplay, however, will put some gamers off.
While one track does not make an album, the lonely acoustic tune playing throughout the game is well-written, catchy, and suits the atmosphere of the game perfectly. The lack of variety in the music and quiet of the game are in themselves a testament to the success of Cargo Commander’s audio designers.

Review by Jeff Ellis

I'm a freelance writer and game reviewer with a year's experience working in the game industry. I've been playing games longer than I've been able to read. In fact, I learned how to read by watching my brother play JRPGs on our Nintendo. I also learned geography from Uncharted Waters: New Horizons. Facts that I probably shouldn't be proud of, but I am. You can read more of my writing over at First Word Problems and keep updated on the site and me via Twitter @1stwordproblems. All Articles byJeff.
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  1. This looks awesome! Great review!!


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