Cortex Command

I'm guessing that planet is pretty small, if I can see the elevation of a single peak and the outlines of individual trees...

Cortés 2099, by Data Realms, is a 2D shooter mixed with some strategic turn-based elements in which space mining companies fight for the control of precious resources, much like a 22nd century gold rush, if you will. We are greeted at the title screen by the only planet we will ever see and by a sci-fi score, nothing out of this world (haha, j0k3), but it suits the experience. The best way to describe Terminator Attacks! is by reading the reports of one of those mining companies, RAM OVERLOAD, which in 2072 decided it had had enough of this blogging bullshit and publicly stated “screw you, guys, I’m gonna go dig for gold on other planets.”

We're in a gold rush, but this gentleman can go first, because he is player 1.

We’re on a gold rush, but this gentleman can go first, because he is player 1.

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The moment we decided to land on one of the mining sites (those shiny dots on the planet’s surface, presumably because there’s so much gold there it can be seen from space), a rival company decided to do the exact same thing, on the exact same site. “Dem bastards!” we said, and lo, they now had a name.

They came, they saw, they opened a can of whoop-ass on us, they probably came multiple times later from all the gold they inhaled off the desert’s surface, and so RAM OVERLOAD had to admit defeat. This was, however, in the sands of the Burraki Desert, the shiny dot to the west. There was another place to the east, the Dvorak Caves, and that’s where we crossed paths again with Dem Bastards.

Flying dicks, fossilized turd-tentacles? I shall name thee Freudlandia.

Flying dicks? Fossilized turd-tentacles? I shall name thee Freudlandia.

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So, in Gold Huffing, humanity no longer inhabits their own bodies. Instead, it transplants its brain into a robotic body which can also control other robots telepathically. Only one robot can be controlled at a time, but they also have an AI able to follow simple commands… from your cerebral cortex. Get it? Get it?

Ahem, in a nutshell, if, during an expedition to a mining site, that little pink brain-in-a-vat-on-a-body gets blown to pieces, you’re done. You have a total of 10 available brains in a campaign, which for the purposes of this game we will ignore as belonging to human beings with a past, a life, probably a family, ambitions, aspirations, hopes, dreams, etc. They should have read the fine print.

As I was saying, we crossed paths with Dem Bastards in the Dvorak Caves, and this time our marksbots managed to shoot the enemy’s brains out (literally) before they did, which is in essence the whole point of the game.

The planet’s two mining sites were now evenly distributed between RAM OVERLOAD and Dem Bastards. Sounds nice, fair and square, right? Fuck them, I want EVERYTHING!

Well, shit.

Well, shit.

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We failed spectacularly at trying to take over their base, which had been fortified by now, since they distributed their funds between this and trying to take over the Dvorak Caves in the previous turn. Every turn you get a chance to distribute funds between expeditions, building (thank heavens for auto-build), and planetary surface scanning. I recommend you never overlook the latter, lest you fancy landing at the bottom of a cliff, or on a sharp peak. The AI doesn’t fuck around in Tripping At Every Pixel, so get ready for some serious resistance.

When it comes to invasions, however, I’m either pretty good at defending myself or the AI decides to enter retard mode. Dem Bastards decided to do the exact same thing and take the Dvorak Caves from RAM OVERLOAD, the result was humiliating (for them).

I keep seeing the red icons as big fat zeroes, and now you can't unsee it.

I keep seeing the red icons as big fat zeroes, and now you can’t unsee it.

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So, nothing chang- Oh but what’s that? A third mining site? Psyche! RAM OVERLOAD victoriously crushes the brain of its rival and claims the Metankora Highlands for itself. With double the income, we’re bound to take over their base easily.

Here I come to Rambo the shit out of you, bitc-

Here I come to Rambo the shit out of you, bitc-

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-ohhh... snap.

-ohhh… snap.

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Yes, it’s the same dune. Our adventurous brain-in-a-vat-in-a-body probably rolled down the dune more than it had time to walk. The obvious retaliation is easy to foresee, and the next five turns can be summed up with the following picture:

Except instead of cats it’s soulless corporations, instead of paddles it’s money, instead of ping pong balls it’s brains, instead of a table it’s a planet, instead of…

.

They came to us, we blew them to pieces, we went to them, they blew us to pieces, repeat ad infinitum. Eventually, however, private 3V3RYM0M3N71L1V315460NY entered the stupidest backdoor ever built, took out all the guards in his/her/its way (except for Laurel and Hardy up there) and reached the enemy’s brain.

Headshot! Is there any other?

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The moral of this story is never nail your brain to the ceiling. Nothing good can come of that.

Now, you might be thinking “this looks like an awesome game!” You would be correct, in theory. There are little things that make this more frustrating than fun.

The most glaring issue was that every single fucking pixel of terrain can make you trip, block your path, or prevent your jetpacking up a shaft (which, by the way, only works at top speed if you have no guns… and no legs). And it’s not just the pixels, it’s the movement itself. The puppetry, the controls, the weight, etc. The kind of quick thinking that Hasta La Vista Brainy requires is definitely not compatible with very buggy movement and puppetry systems. “Oh but it’s not a bug! It’s a feature! Because the physics syst-” Screw the physics system. A game has to FLOW first and foremost. If your movement is being hampered to a bothersome degree of frustration, your physics/movement relation is weak. This isn’t QWOP. We’re supposed to be focusing on shooting, digging and defending bunkers, not on whether our robot is able to put one foot in front of the other.

Granted, the website clearly states that this is an alpha. It has been out as such for a long time. Movement, however, is a basic function that in my opinion should be tweaked before anything else. If the flow of the game does not improve, I’m afraid that despite all the neat features and ideas to be added, the final version will still feel like I’m trying to wrestle out of a quicksand pit every time I take a step forward.

4/10

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