To quote GamesAreEvil’s illustrious editor-in-chief Pete Davison, you can survive quite comfortably away from the mainstream sphere of triple-A juggernauts. Most independent games are akin to those Chinatown restaurants you find off the main avenue. They’re tucked down tight alleyways and along corridors, next to the VCD emporium with decade-old posters of HK heartthrobs taped to the windows. While dining downtown almost always provides you with a quality steak, it’s the nooks and crannies that offer the exciting flavor.
A new and exciting taste sensation is Cargo Commander from two-man outfit Serious Brew, geared up for a PC release on November 1. Set aboard a lonely salvage ship in debris-strewn sectors in the inky darkness of space, a player is tasked with exploring derelict containers for rare loot. Spelunky in space is the closest I’ve come to a fitting parallel. Or some sort of chunky score-driven Metroidvania-lite. At the end of the day, your loot guarantees a place on the online scoreboard, as well as garnering experience for levelling and allowing for upgrades and supplies to be purchased.
The giddy thrill of Cargo Commander is the actual traversal through the network of containers that crash into the sides of your salvage ship, often at odd angles and always in number. Drilling through walls, space-hopping, searching the bodies of perished players — yes, that’s built into the online aspect of the game — as well as fending off alien interlopers with a variety of weaponry is made all the more hectic when wormholes appear and begin to collapse the very containers you’re trying to salvage items from.
Throttling the luxury of languid exploration means players are forced to use logic as much as their platformer skills. Will you cut through three internal floors to get to a cargo box, or drill out through the side of the container, space-hop around and come in through an outer wall? Will you take the time to break down some walls for the return to the salvage ship when the worm-holes open, or will you see if you can survive in the vacuum by propelling yourself back home, discharging your weapon as rudimentary propulsion? Given that the containers collide with the ship and each other in differing positions, the variation of internal gravity dictates players need to figure out critical paths that take into account one container’s up is another’s down.
It’s interesting seeing Cargo Commander deploy in the engine wake of indie darling and Kickstarter triumph Faster Than Light, as Cargo Commander does share that same roguelike risk/reward concept, as well as eking out funds to purchase upgrades and systems. Much like Faster Than Light, the capacity of Cargo Commander to turn a coffee break session into a dirty great hour-long binge of one-more-turn excuses speaks to a sense of clever, distilled fun.
Watch out for our exclusive interview with Cargo Commander’s developers tomorrow.
Our occasional “What I’ve Been Playing” articles provide brief, completely subjective, personal impressions on the subject of titles our contributors have been playing recently and found interesting or worthy of note.