I bought Cargo Commander on a bit of a whim the other day. I caught a link the trailer on Rock, Paper, Shotgun and I was blown away by the style and look of the game. While the bigger budget games waste a lot of trailer time giving you a feel for their cinematic glory, indie games like Cargo Commander go straight for the true gamer’s jugular – they show fun gameplay in action.
Cargo Commander does not disappoint. A roguelike at heart, the game plays like its own unique spin on the genre. Spin being literal since moving from room to room ala your typical roguelike seamlessly spins the camera to adjust to different centers of gravity. It looks really trippy at first, but it is easy to get the hang of, and makes every new room all the more exciting to explore.
The game is randomly generated, but has several interesting mechanics to keep you coming back for more and more. Similar to another roguelike favorite of mine, Binding of Isaac, there is a huge shopping list of unique items to find. While Cargo Commander’s items don’t offer the player any new bonuses or abilities, they do help provide flavor to the game. There is a cold, bleakness to the game’s setting that is only made all the more apparent when risking your life in the darkness of space rapidly moving from one crate to another is all done to acquire things like pimp shoes.
The items you can find are unique to specific sectors, which are randomly generated maps that you can replay for a higher score. You’ll quickly find most of the items available in a given sector, which will boost your level and unlock new things, but replaying the sector allows you compete for high scores against other players. As another nice bonus, you can name your own sectors to create semi-private playthroughs to compete with your closest friends.
I love the style, feel, and gameplay of the game. However, it is pretty unforgiving and the combat seems a little rough around the edges. The game works as a 2D shooter if you are forced into a combat situation, but ammo can be extremely limited. It also doesn’t help that a bad move can leave you tumbling into a crate loaded with enemies, usually to your death. This gives the game a nice little challenge once difficulty does start ramping up, so I don’t mind it, but it can feel a little lopside. Of course, unlike most roguelikes, replaying the same sector does allow you to anticipate where you died previously and improve your strategy.
In the end, Cargo Commander is an incredibly fun little game that will offer a ton of replayability for those who want to really master it. This is exactly what an indie game should be, and exactly the type of game that every gamer should support. Not only does it have a great style and offers a nice twist to the genre, but it also just plain fun.