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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 on its own, but Cargo Commander was full of neat details that make it stick in my memory years later.

For example, you discovered those space wrecks by turning on an enormous magnet and causing them to smash into the hull of your ship. To then get inside, you needed to strategically remove walls from your own vessel and leap across the vacuum of space. If this wasn’t already dramatic enough, you then needed to deal with the shifts of orientation as you moved between the wrecks, each of which has clanged together at a different angle.

Cargo Commander 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 made these roguelike runs melancholic.

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 those near the top of the genre.

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Graham Smith

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