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Have You Played... Cargo Commander?

An overlooked space platformer

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Cargo Commander [official site] is a 2D action game about exploring procedural space wrecks, collecting the valuable materials that sit inside, and returning to your own ship to escape before everything gets sucked into a black hole. That sounds fun enough, but it was full of neat details that make it stick in my memory years later.

For example, you discovered those space wrecks by turning on a magnet and having them crash into your ship. To get inside, you needed to strategically remove walls from your own vessel and leap across the vacuum of space to get onboard them, and then deal with the shifts of orientation as you moved between wrecks clanged together at all different angles.

It also, long before it was trendy to do so, had a kind of ambient multiplayer, letting you compete for high scores with other players on the same generated worlds and sharing death locations so you could stumble across the corpses of your friends.

My favourite part might have been the messages you received between salvage operations from your daughter back home, which covered the entire experience in melancholy.

I read a couple of years ago that the game’s creators would have made more money if they’d spent the development time “washing dishes”, and that’s a real shame. Cargo Commander isn’t an outright classic like other platformers with similar ideas, such as Spelunky, but it belongs in the same conversation as games like Rogue Legacy and it deserved more success.

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Graham Smith

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