Review: Cargo! – The Quest for Gravity (PC)

Psychotropic Drugs Not Included with Purchase

Just a typical day in the world of Cargo!

Ice Pick Lodge, the guys who brought us the creepy and weird game The Void, have a new game out. Cargo! – The Quest for Gravity, a creepy and weird game about… well, I’m still not sure exactly what it’s about even after playing through the full title. In Cargo!, you play as a waifish steampunk engineer named Flawkes, who is stuck on an island ruled by three mad machine gods with a hatred for humanity and a strong desire to produce FUN (the local currency, most easily acquired by kicking little naked men in the rear) at industrial levels. Like I said, I still don’t really know what it’s about.

The first thing you will notice about the game is that it’s refreshingly bizarre. In a gaming market dominated by color palettes featuring wide swaths of brown and gray, Cargo! will definitely stand out for it’s bright vibrant colors, bizarro character design, and nearly nonsensical plot. The machine gods have somehow brought about a second flood (the first one involving a giant boat and a careful collection of two of every animal… ever), and, having wiped out most of humanity, are in the process of trying to create the perfect race. Their idea of the Übermensch being a little different than the last lunatic that tried this sort of thing, we now have a world filled with naked little baby-men known as Buddies.

Worst. Band. Ever.

Depending on the player, the Buddies can be seen as cute, strange, or, in my case, downright creepy. They’re about as smart as lemmings, and have about the same survival instinct. The only thing they’re really good at is producing FUN, the aforementioned currency that you need to harvest from their squat little bodies. Along the way, you’ll learn that time has stopped, gravity has been greatly weakened, and the earth has stopped spinning on its axis. Guess whose job it is to fix all this.

So, What Do You Actually Do?

Chillin’ with my main girl.

You run around harvesting as much FUN as you can get your hands on, which you then use to weigh down all the crap that floated into the stratosphere after the machine gods screwed up gravity (apparently FUN is pretty heavy stuff). FUN is also used for another purpose, one of the game’s key features, which is to purchase parts to build vehicles. At different points throughout Cargo! you will need boats, cars, planes, and helicopters to get to your next destination. Along with blueprints you’ll find scattered across the island to build these vehicles, you also have the option to design and build your own. It takes a bit of getting used to, but pretty soon you will be building all sorts of crafts including many multipurpose rides (you can finally have that hovering submarine you always wanted!).

The vehicle building is similar to Spore’s creature creator, and just like the creature creator, is perhaps the funnest part of the game. The vehicles themselves don’t always control very well. Okay, let me clarify that. They rarely control very well, but that doesn’t mean they don’t manage to be fun anyway.

Is That it?

The machine gods. Not pictured, the machine devil who is much cooler than these guys. Guess you’ll just have to play to see him.

And that’s sort of it as far as what you can do in the game. Build stuff, collect FUN, bring down objects from the stratosphere, repeat. The game world is, unfortunately, small, with the open-world element being something of an illusion. You can race across from one end to the other in less than a couple of minutes. You fly up into the air, but there isn’t all that much to do up there. You can explore the underwater areas, but aside from one mission, there isn’t much to do there either. All this is done with controls that often feel clunky and less than responsive. You will eventually adjust and get used to this, but those first couple of hours can be very frustrating.

The game also doesn’t run particularly well. I played on a computer that runs everything I throw at it smoothly at the higher graphics settings, but for some reason Cargo! suffered from poor frame rates no matter how low I set the graphics. Even the opening cinematic stuttered along painfully, and should I try to take a screenshot, the whole game would freeze for a second or two. The game looks nice graphically, but not enough to justify such poor performance.

And then there is the dialogue and voice acting. This could just be me, but the endless rhyming through which most of the game’s conversation takes place was painful to sit through. Sometimes I would just be annoyed, other times my mind would wander, as yet some new asinine point was being made by one of the machine gods or the Buddies’ musical band (though calling them a musical band is something of an insult to all music bands that have existed).

Main character Flawkes. Not to be confused with badass super mutant Fawkes from Fallout 3.

The voice acting isn’t particularly pleasant either. This could be due to poor writing or direction or just plain bad acting, but whatever the reason, it was often best described as cringe-worthy. And when it wasn’t just bad, it seemed an entirely ill fit for the role. The player character Flawkes in particular managed to break any sense of immersion every time she’d repeat one of her limited range of strange comments. She’s a skinny, pasty-skinned young woman with a voice best suited for a 60-year old heavy smoker who reads tarot cards at the local flea market. The first time you hear it, you imagine that maybe you just need to grow accustomed to it, and at times it almost works. But usually, you’re just left scratching your head wondering who they let cast this game?

So Is It Worth It?

Nothing like flying through a liquid rainbow with a dozen naked little men.

Does the game have problems? It’s absolutely full of them. Is it fun? Not for the first few hours, no. Did I like it? Well, I’m looking forward to playing it again a little later today after finishing this review. Cargo! – The Quest for Gravity is one of those games that, despite it’s many problems, manages to stand out enough with what it does right to make it worthwhile. It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it deserves extra points for daring to try something new.

Sure it should probably be three times as long, have a much larger world to explore, and could use some serious fixes in its coding. But it also has massive streams of multicolored paint shooting out across the ocean creating a liquid rainbow. It lets you kick around a race of creepy little baby-men, create wacky vehicles, and upset annoying mechanical gods while doing the bidding of what I can only assume is the robot devil. It has a refreshingly unique female lead (she actually reminds me a bit of Sora from the Kingdom Hearts games). And at only $20, it may be worth overlooking its problems for a taste of something a little different.

Final Verdict: I can’t recommend it to everyone, but if it looks like your sort of thing, give it a  shot.


Comments
3 Responses to “Review: Cargo! – The Quest for Gravity (PC)”
  1. zakirov78 says:

    it is strange that you have problems with game perfomance. Possibly you have “options -> soft shadows” enabled, this can affect perfomance much.

    • Armand K. says:

      I found the most helpful setting was to change the screen refresh rate to instead of the predefined numbers. It’s running a bit smoother now, but still feels a bit jarring. That said, I’m still enjoying the game. Messing around with all the different vehicles is a blast!

  2. segmation says:

    I like games that include wacky cars! What wacky cars! Check out my blog at: http://segmation.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/wacky-wonderful-art-cars-www-segmation-com/ and thanks for allowing the comments

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