Has anyone else been playing this? I finished it today, principally because it’s short (about 6 hours) and I wanted the catharsis of deleting it. In fact I enjoyed the latter so much that I’m redownloading it from Steam to delete again. It’s basically Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts with gorgeous art design, a terrible engine, awful puzzles and no sense for how to make a game out of its component parts.
For me, the experience of playing it was like travelling on a slow train, enduring a mild toothache. The voice actors are all intensely annoying, sounding mildly sedated and distanced. Here’s an example of the game’s dialogue: one tripartite gods says something about how, since the world is flooded, they’d be better off with a plumber than an engineer. After the game gives you back control for a second, the lady engineer says, in her slow, low-timbred, zero inflection voice “What do I look like a Mario to you?” Arguably that might count as a joke, I guess?
The vehicles are all agonising to use as whatever you build will feel slow, clumsy and awkward. Designing them is largely pointless, as the game gives you plenty of blueprints that more than get the job done anyway, and the process is too reliant on trial and error. Often when I tried to modify one of the built-in designs, I was unable to connect components that were connected on the original design. The best option seems to be extending existing blueprints, though as the game crashed frequently when I was building my vehicles I didn’t derive much enjoyment here either.
There’s neither sense nor logic to any of the game’s puzzles. How do you get the factory to start? Duh, summon a train from the sky. How do you use the colour the train delivers? Adoy, float it over the eggplant’s chimney (though be prepared to lose all those expensive components you used to do it). How do you start the volcano? It’s obvious, endure the terrible submarine, wander around the ocean collecting naked, bald dwarves, lead them into the volcano, repeat 4 times, then play a poorly implemented Pipe Organ version of Guitar Hero. Those descriptions sound charming and fun, but I’d argue the experience of playing the game strips away the pleasure entirely.
My suspicion is that the game is intentionally annoying. There are things that might be bugs, like the disappearance of islands the player has summoned that would be useful in the finale. It’s a beautiful world, but even though it’s quite tiny you can see only a small way ahead at any time and they don’t give you a map, making navigation a chore. As you play, messages like “Are you having FUN yet?” pop-up on the screen* and the final cinematic (at least for the ending I got) implies fairly blatantly that the game’s theme is a critique of pursuing pleasure. “Wouldn’t your six hours be better spent doing something else?” it asks. If so it’s an imbecilic notion. Only Batman lives a life entirely devoid of frivolity.
The Void is challenging, off-putting and very rewarding; Cargo strikes me as shallow, brain-dead and surreal at about the level of a schoolchild who’s just seen their first Monty Python skit.
Sorry for writing so much, but I find it so disappointing that this is my reaction to an Ice Pick Lodge game. I’d love to be told that I’m an awful idiot who’s completely wrong about Cargo.
*So often that I began to develop a nervous tic, like Henry in Party Down.