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A Naked Truth: Cargo Released, Impressions

Thanks to everyone who sent this in, tweeted and MSNed me about this. I'd also like to thank you guys for stopping short of throwing rocks through my window.

So, Ice-Pick Lodge, the legendarily high-minded Russian developer behind Pathologic and The Void have just released Cargo, a game I've been looking forward to for almost a year. More so ever since I read Tom Jubert's account of his business trip to visit Ice-Pick's offices (which is a two bedroom apartment in a Moscow high rise) and I fell that much more in love with the guys. If you haven't read it yet, do so immediately.

Anyway, Cargo - The Quest for Gravity (previously "Cargo!"), which you can see above and buy here, is a game about... it's... the... OK, it's probably best if you just read my account of my first hour of play. It's after the jump.

Cargo opens on the above patchwork zepplin, drifting slowly across a flooded world. The crew of the zepplin consists of (1) A captain with a voice like a boot in a blender, dressed like Napoleon except with a Hawaiian shirt and (2) You, a plucky pirate engineer-type lady with, again, an improbably deep voice.

Below is a strange race of people, every one of which looks like a failed attempt at cloning Richard O'Brien. Are they having some kind of celebration for you?

"They've come out to meet us!" cries your Captain. "An offer like this comes once in a lifetime!" It turns out that yourself and your captain represent some kind of post-apocalyptic delivery service, and are delivering some cargo to this very island.

On cue, a stray firework shoots your zepplin down.

Washed up on the shore below you find the band, which on closer inspection I think I saw live once while I was at university. The band's vocalist doesn't sing, instead speaking only in poor quality poems.

"The crash landing was a great success / Our finest, most important minds came to greet our honoured guest
Yet somehow they miscalculated / Your position wasn't triangulated
You landed far from the festivities / And made a horrible mess"

From here, you're prompted to start physically kicking these strange, nude creatures around. Each time you do so they squeal with joy and produce a certain amount of "Fun", which your character collects.

Then it's time to meet the Gods of this strange world.

"I am Manipu," booms the first. "The creator. And your client. We cannot accept delivery! The cargo is only technically here."

Fair enough. Who's next?

"I am Manipu, too," calls the second. "Deus Ex Machina. I assert: the engineer is lousy. She doesn't build or fix a thing - she just kicks arse and chews gum."

Is he talking about you? And wait, he's called Manipu as well? Isn't that a bit confu--

"And I am Manipu," interrupts the third. "Deus Ex Machina, three in one. And I agree to compromise, for I am so full of mercy."

Finally there's this guy. It's not made clear whether he's called Manipu or not, but you're immediately distracted from who he is because by this point the strange bald creatures have found a jet intake that fell off the zepplin. They're walking towards it and getting sucked up and churned into nothing, one after another. You get the sense that this is a bad thing.

Since the Richard-O'Brien-icide is happening on a different island, it's up to you to build a vehicle to get there, a process which plays a bit like Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts if you removed every other line of code.

On the other island you discover there's no way to actively disable the jet engine, and so instead must distract the horrible monsters from wandering off to their doom. Mostly by kicking their arses, but you can also drop the music that can be found floating throughout the game, causing the strange little mutants to assemble for the ugliest dance party.

Before long you'll have amassed enough fun that the game prompts you to bring up the "Stratosphere" menu, and it's here that things start becoming a bit more clear.

Look at this strange rock thing! No idea what it does, but I literally summoned it out of thin air!

In Cargo, the stratosphere is full of strange items and landmarks, and at a cost of fun you can return gravity to them, dropping them into this open world of yours. From the Gods' incoherent jabber, you piece together the fact that the world, our world, has undergone some kind of apocalypse, and gravity has become sporadic, and fun is the only thing that anchors people to the ground, and these Gods created a new form a mankind but it is a bit shit. Or something? Hey, look! One of the items you can pull down is an iceberg!

Pulling down the iceberg triggers an immediate and inexplicable winter across the landscape. All of the water freezes over and the world is covered in snow. But your creatures are either too noble or too stupid to be scared. They immediately set to climbing their new plaything.

Except it turns out iceberg is populated by furious, 14-feet tall penguins! I watch in horror as a penguin devours one of my tiny, smiling fun factories through its anus. Something must be done!

It turns out that "something" is gathering various abandoned crates of cargo, building a car, and driving at the penguins at speed in order to remove the fun that is tethering them to the ground. Of course!

So, that's your first hour of Cargo. It's certainly something, I'm sure you'll agree. I'll be posting a full-bodied Wot I Think early next week, but if this sounds like your cup of tea/absinthe/bleach then the Steam page is right here. Godspeed, gents!

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