IGN Review of Cargo! The Quest for Gravity
It's not often you encounter a game so different, so unique, so outright bizarre, it defies definition and categorization. Cargo! The Quest for Gravity by Russian developer Ice Pick Lodge is one of those games. This odd little interactive morsel isn't really an adventure, platformer, a racing game or an action game; it's a surreal mish-mash of all of these as well as a few genres that haven't even been named yet. In concept, the game's as fresh as a 5 am donut and when things go right, it really soars. Unfortunately, due to unclear objectives, clunky controls and numerous bugs, it more often crashes and burns.
Cargo! starts with a female mechanic named Flawkes and a pirate captain called Borkin making a cargo delivery in a poofy, multi-colored dirigible. As they pass over their island destination, they're unexpectedly shot down and marooned and thirty seconds in, it's obvious Cargo! is unlike any game you've ever played. You play as Flawkes and when you regain consciousness, you're surrounded by an army of tiny, bald, naked men. Anyway, these weird natives are very happy to see you (And why not? You're the only woman they've ever seen) and instantly burst into song like the Lollipop Guild from the Wizard of Oz.
These guys (called "Buddies") reappear throughout the game, instructing you in song like so many nudist Oompa-Loompas. With their advice and the shouted orders of the loopy Captain Borkin, you're soon dashing all over the island kicking Buddy rump. You see, in this alternative version of Earth, everything's slowly losing gravity and the only thing that can prevent that from happening is Fun. You find out the Buddies are living repositories of Fun, manufactured by a group of creepy mechanical tiki Gods bent on eliminating Humans and from then on, you do your best to collect as much Fun as possible. There are two ways to go about that: building vehicles and taking the Buddies for a joyride, or kicking them until they float away like chubby kites.
With all this weirdness working to its advantage, Cargo! evokes a lot of laughs early on. You can't help but crack up as you run around the island booting Buddies in the rear and collecting musical notes that when gathered, play snippets of ridiculous Buddy tunes. It's even fun at first to build vehicles. Within the first half hour you're introduced to building and customizing cars, boats, submarines and flying machines, all of which are necessary for achieving your objectives. An intuitive build mode lets you use preset blueprints or buy individual parts and make your own crazy contraptions. The resulting boats and ground vehicles are fun to use, being speedy and easy to control. Subs and flying machines by contrast, are some of the biggest frustrations in the game.
As the game goes on, objectives force you to build and use different vehicles and God help you when you get to the in-air and underwater varieties. The floaty, unforgiving controls on subs, copters, planes and balloons will have you tearing your hair out as you struggle to get where you need to be. The controls (with the standard WASD setup) should be easy, but with sluggish left and right turns, an unresponsive ascent/descent mechanic and the fact that barely brushing against objects makes flying vehicles drop like stones, you have a textbook example of non-player-friendly design.
Adding to the annoyance of fighting with the controls is Cargo!'s confusing method of conveying objectives. Sometimes goals are stated at the bottom of the page but then are surprisingly vague and much time can be wasted running in circles trying to determine how these strange directives can be fulfilled. Worse yet, sometimes when tasks are completed new messages fail to pop up and there's no place else to reference your objective. Related to this, events trigger at strange moments, seemingly unrelated to anything you've done, which leaves you unsure if you're on the right track.
Bugs add to these issues as Buddies get stuck in the terrain, or fail to help you complete your goals. When the latter happens, the only recourse you have (according to the official Cargo! forum) is to revert to a previous save. While the game's graphics and audio make up a little bit for these problems, offering unique, steampunk-ish machines, eccentrically abstract environments and a peppy musical score, the audio does have one unpleasant element. When Flawkes starts spouting totally incomprehensible, philosophic nonsense, she sounds more than a little like Andre the Giant.
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