I’d like to welcome you all to my newest addiction, Cargo Commander, an action platformer rogue-like with a story that’s subtle but strong. Serious Brew has done something special with this game, from its neat asynchronous multiplayer to its charming single song soundtrack it oozes with personality. I can say right now you should just go buy this game but I suppose I should do my job and explain exactly why. If you’re interested in getting the full low down on the game then continue on, otherwise just hit the Steam page and dish out a ten spot, you won’t be disappointed.
So the premise of the game is that you are a blue-collar working man of Cargo Corp, a Cargo Commander, your goal is to recover Cargo Corp’s lost cargo from all these storage containers lost in space. Using a large magnet you attract them to your base and then action platform around inside them collecting a variety of cargo and slaying monsters who are clearly your predecessors reanimated by horrific space diamonds. As you go you’ll gain ranks by collecting different kinds of Cargo, each rank provides a bonus to make your journeys easier and keep you playing. It’s a pretty simple and basic concept but it works really well because it’s wonderfully executed with engaging extraneous systems and a neat competitive element that doesn’t actually require you to interact with other people.
You see the game is split up into sectors you actually get to create, you simply put in a word and a sector gets spit out, I’m not sure if it’s random or if it’s derived from the letters in the word but each one is different. Once you’ve generated it though anyone can play it and it will play the same for everyone so you can compete on each sector’s individual leaderboard. The person at the top of the leaderboard gets to wear a little crown and everyone else has their corpses left where they died so they can looted. You never actually interact with one another, all you do is just find your rival’s skeletons, watch your score rise up the leaderboard, and sometimes get to wear a fancy hat; as a severely anti-social gamer I can think of no better system. It’s interesting, despite this feature creating a great sense of community within the game it also reinforces the game’s most important theme, solitude and isolation.
That’s what this game does best, create a sense of complete and utter loneliness, it’s something plenty of games before it have tried to evoke but have never done as successfully in my opinion. You never have active contact with anyone in the game be it player or NPC, you only find skeletons and receive emails. Of course isolation means nothing if you don’t know what you’re being isolated from, thankfully that’s well established with the knowledge that you’re doing this all to support your wife and son back home. From the start of the game vestiges of the life you left behind remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing and giving you motivation to keep doing it. The coffee mug you can carry for a speed boost is a gift from your wife, drawings put up in your base are sent from your son, and your wife regularly sends you email inquiring about how you’re doing and asking how you’re enjoying work (she thinks you work a desk job and don’t risk your hide in the rigors of space). They’re the opposite of the emails you get from Cargo Corp which are clearly form emails sent out with only minor variables changed. The fact you only get these small rare emails creates a strong feeling of dread, you get the terrible sense that everything may have fallen apart back home and and all you’re getting is signals from an automated system with no way of knowing if there’s really a company behind them anymore. The game lets you imagine the story as much as it tells it to you, it’s an incredibly subtle and ambient style of storytelling but one that is endlessly effective.
Presentation is something that really cinches it for me here though, especially the sound design. You see the soundtrack of the game is essentially one song, Down the Drain by Doppler Sound, a soulful bit of Dutch bluegrass that’s lyrics speak of isolation and the unknown. This song is constantly playing at your home base and serves as comforting reminder and beacon of your humanity. You see the song emanates only from your home base, as you’re out travelling the containers in the vastness of the space the song gets quieter and quieter as you get farther and farther away. It again adds to the loneliness factor and also just gives a good eerie feeling to the dangerous parts of the game. The visuals are fine too, not as evocative as the music but fine nonetheless. It has a very blocky stylized look to it that certainly gives things a cartoony feel and helps reflect some the levity that’s hidden in the game’s writing.
Cargo Commander is a game that is simple, honest, and most importantly fun. It hides a deep meaningful story behind some clever writing and some fun game gameplay that features great persistence and a truly interesting multiplayer component. The infinite sectors you can explore means the game lasts as long as you want it to and makes it something you’ll be happy to go back to again and again. It manages to do funny and deep at the same time and is just a ton of fun to actually play, as such I can happily say that Cargo Commander gets a 5 out of 5 stars and a full recommendation.