The Cargo Commander’s entire life is ruled in a small box, softly suspended in a sea of other boxes. Day in and day out the Commander’s job is to attach his home to other abandoned box-vaults with a powerful magnet in order to pillage their treasures. You fight off evil mutated co-workers and lunge yourself into the unbound empty space to find the vantage point in every wave. Uncertain how you will do it again, you escape an impending wormhole for the fifth time gasping for air, and you make your keep.
Serious Brew’s new PC and Mac title, Cargo Commander is a unique survival platformer that follows a proud husband and father who takes a job at Cargo Corp as a means to support his family. That is about all we learn about our hero, you can see he has a full beard and big eyes if you zoom in close, but his personality is quite unknown.
Cargo Commander is a shooter-survival game based on collecting various treasure throughout a lost space environment. Each level, or sector, has predetermined waves of abandoned vaults for players to travel through. This is mainly a single player experience, but there are two game modes I must discuss; one more than the other, the standard and “Journey” modes.
The standard mode, which all players must engage until they reach level 6, follows the Cargo Commander at his job in a small crate. This quaint homey little hub has a bed, a giant-crate-summoning magnet, a workbench, a navigation system, and everything else you need to endure your quests for loot. The only contact to the other breathing humans is through the console’s email system. The company and your loved ones write to you, very often. Emails are a nice channel to learn about the world around you. But ultimately it is not too necessary. The workbench and the navigator, however, hold a more practical purpose for collecting treasure.
The workbench is the go-to, all-in-one store for upgrades and ammunition. Extra health, larger clip sizes, faster reloads, everything you could want to improve can be purchased at the price of the precious red caps you find killing ex-company workers, mutated into orange and black, glowing, red-cap-wearing monsters.
The navigator keeps track of what sector you’re in, and the high scores of all the players within that sector. When you play Cargo Commander online you can instantly earn your place on the leaderboards just by playing. There seems to be no other difference to online and local play, which is also available.
The cycle is as follows: Players summon crates with the magnet and use the drill attachment to enter the wreckage from any side of the box. The player guides the Commander to kill enemies for caps and collect treasures until the inevitable wormhole slowly crushes the entire chain to bits. The player then must make it back alive to the home crate to re-fuel and summon the next wave, each containing fewer caps and more enemies than the last. After about five or six waves in a sector the Commander gets a sector pass opportunity. Collect this special sector pass to gain access to another sector. After collecting (or not collecting due to the wormholes) players can continue to play waves in the current sector for a higher score.
In Journey mode, players start off in their home hub and continue in a never-ending chain of boxes that push the commander foreword with a greater emphasis on survival. Workbenches are still available throughout the environment to upgrade as you pass by.
A nice twist in Cargo Commander is the player can pick which sectors to unlock next. It is commonly either based on popularity, or which ones your friends are playing, that seem to be the main categories for searching. I chose some less popular sectors at first to get some first place rankings to feel special, but now I have a hunger to claim first place in a more popular sector.
Another quirky and fun design in the game: As you work your way up the ranks in a sector you often find the still freshly killed bodies of other players (and sometimes your own, if you play often). On a trace level it’s usually a good indicator to proceed with caution. You can usually loot the corpses for caps and ammo too, but sometimes that’s the whole setup, eh?
The soundtrack shifts pace depending on where the Commander is and what’s going on. The home crate has a catchy cowboy frontier tune, and the abandoned boxes have no music, but rather a rally of drips and creaks, and my favorite, the malfunctioning intercoms. The game also includes a battle theme for when the pressure of swarming enemies kick in. Something is still missing, however, with the soundtrack. It’s above average, but the game could just use more of it.
Cargo Commander’s controls are very easy to learn. They follow a WASD-key movement setup with the mouse controlling the gun-arm and its firing modes. In space, it is easy to move around and the amount of time the Commander has to hold his breath seems fair. The quick replenishing of the lost air makes it very easy to make time for those last-second treasures.
Space control is also the point of my first complaint, however. In the transition between boxes; the camera, and therefore the gravitational influence, rotates to the fit a default position unknown upon entry. This mechanic, mixed with the player’s will to enter the box from any point may cause frustration when a player is stuck between two crates, wasting valuable time just trying to maneuver.
Second, as a smaller note, the game’s arsenal seems just a tad too small. Each weapon has a diverse application, but for a game that had so much work put in it deserves a few more weapons to help players customize their Commander’s to perfection.
Cargo Commander is a fun idea for a game that was very well executed by Serious Brew. I find myself playing every night trying to get the high score of a sector, and after you get used to the controls you can seriously move through boxes collecting more and more treasure. While the game could be fleshed out more in certain areas such as the soundtrack and weapons arsenal it does not interfere too much with the well established gameplay.