Saturday Spotlight: Cargo Commander

This week’s Saturday Spotlight is loose and rambling. I’m afraid that you may encounter more of this from me over the next couple of months. The day job that allows me to support the (admittedly slight) costs of running Arcadian Rhythms has been making greater demands on my time over the past six weeks, and this is likely to continue for some time. As a result my head isn’t fully in the game of videogames. Hopefully the fact that I’m going to focus on writing short Saturday Spotlight pieces will mitigate this a little.

If you’re a reader just happening by the site I’m sorry about the self-indulgent intro. I felt the regular readers of AR deserved to know what’s been going on. Now, on to Cargo Commander!

Cargo Commander 1

It would’ve been all too easy for Cargo Commander to pass me by.

Nowadays I don’t read too much gaming press. Frankly, I find it a struggle to keep up with any of the major sites, trampled as they by the dread footfall of marketing colossi. Even Rock Paper Shotgun is a pain to keep up with. Oh, for an RSS feed that separates out the critical wheat from the marketing chaff.

But this grumbling is beside the point. I am old and I don’t have much free time: join the queue, grandpa.

Tom Chick of QT3, one of my favourite game reviewers, wrote a preview of Cargo Commander last year. The game never got a full review on Quarter To Three but the preview made it sound like an interesting title, even if the elevator pitch of ‘Michael Bay directing the spacewalk scene from 2001’ was less appealing.

Still, it wasn’t until I read this short piece on SecondQuest (later unpacked and explored a bit more here) that I perked up and paid attention. Apparently a mechanically sound, imaginative, procedurally-generated platformer / exploration game isn’t quite enough to get me to buy in, but if you bolt on a loose plot that explores themes consonant with its mechanical conceits I’ll be hammering at your door.

You’re best off reading the pieces I’ve linked to in order to find out why this game is worth your time. I will add that the game exhibits a few modern PC bugbears that mightily aggravate me. First up: it doesn’t detect and set to your monitor’s resolution. I’m using an old LCD TV as my primary monitor and it doesn’t display anything not at its native resolution, so games which launch fullscreen at anything other than 1680×1050 require me to flip to my other monitor, set the game to windowed, then close, flip back and relaunch.

Okay, so that’s a problem specific to me. Less specific to me is the fact that the game has gamepad support but this doesn’t fully extend into its UI and menus. Sometimes you can’t select every option with the gamepad and have to reach over for the mouse. Not the biggest problem in the world, though if I were playing Cargo Commander in my living room via Steam’s Big Picture I’d be pretty annoyed to have to fetch a mouse whenever I wanted to read a glossary entry.

Otherwise, though, it’s a rather splendid game of exploration, salvaging and dying alone in the cold vacuum of space.

Cargo Commander 2