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Have You Played... Cortex Command?

Brain strain

Featured post A side view of a pixelly cartoony warzone, with a bunker underground. On the surface, little men and robots shoot at each other. A flying ship hovers on the left, and another explodes in the centre.

I wish I enjoyed Cortex Command more than I do.

It has a terrific premise. You’re a brain, competing with other brains to mine gold from different maps by directing and remotely controlling robots. You can control them directly, flitting back and forth as needed, digging tunnels and building walls and, of course, shooting the hell out of each other in the Worm-esque fully destructible levels. Each robot has a specific chassis but can equip anything, from a humble peashooter to a deadly heavy laser, including all manner of ballistic and energy weapons (plus mining tools that are devastating in the right situations).

It makes for lots of physics-based shooty havoc, especially when you blast limbs off each other but still keep on fighting, comically inaccurately. You can buy more robots and weapons with gold as you mine it, or try to guerrilla your way through by stealing enemy guns (particularly appropriate for my favourite faction, the extremely fragile Ronin, who are actually human, with poor modern weapons and a habit of breaking both legs and bleeding to death) and shooting down their airdrops.

But the tactical side was always hampered by your robots needing so much micromanagement. Miners need to be supervised a bit, but co-ordinating any meaningful assaults or strategies usually just ends in frustration, and pales next to storming the enemy base in person with a series of Jenkinbots. And the endless maps are definitely a plus, but the short campaigns and lmited continuity meant I rarely bothered designing a base because it was too fiddly and I’d never be in there for long anyway.

There’s a really cool mod called Void Wanderers that puts a sort of Mechwarriors spin on it as you fly a mercenary spaceship around with a persistent crew and inventory, but that too suffered the same limitations despite the more interesting structure.

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