Cortex Command

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Demo Download
Data Realms

09 IGF Winner in the Audience Choice and Technical Excellence Categories

This is retro. It's a sidescrolling combat game with graphics that look out of the early 90s, a very classic look in turn-based strategy (which this is not), with little soldiers gunning at each other in what at first glance looks a bit like a cannon game, but isn't.

This is novel. Everything is destructible, the control system is original, you can switch bodies instantly while setting other bodies to routine tasks (like patrol or defend), and the physics feels real.

This is frustrating. It's a WASD interface, but "W" really means "fly with my jetpack," not "up", so most of the time you're tapping W while using A or D to fly -- and aiming and facing with the mouse. It's an interface that takes some getting used to, and I suck at this kind of thing anyway, but if you spend the time to get good at it, it's quite flexible.

This is deep. A huge variety of weapon systems and tools are available, which can be used in a wide variety of ways which, coupled with the ability to shift bodies quickly, creates a large number of potential tactical approaches to the game. It's "Cortex" Command because somewhere you have a bunker containing your naked brain (which you use to control one body at a time), and the ultimate objective is to find the opposing player(s) bunkers and destroy their brains; it provides a bunker-construction system which is flexible and large, and similarly offers a wide range of potential strategies. You can see that you could play this game for years, and still discover new strategies, and be surprised by the strategies of others.

This is a work in progress, as the developer warns you -- seven years in progress, apparently, and still on-going. And it shows; AI pathfinding sometimes causes opponents to pile up at obstacles, and in general, computer opponents aren't too smart, but on the other hand, they don't have any problems manipulating the awkward interface, so I guess it balances out.

The campaign game is well conceived (though not many levels are yet extant), and skirmish against AIs is fun, but it looks to me as if the multiplayer skirmish game could be brilliant -- deathmatch with far more strategic options than the limited verb-set of FPS titles allow. However, there are some problems here: multiplayer is at a single machine (no net version planned, apparently), with the screen split ala multiplay on a console -- and since there's no support for multiple mice, you pretty much need to have multiple gamepads connected to your PC, which for sure I don't have.

This is what indie games ought to be -- quirky, a little retro, highly imaginative, original, and pressing the envelope of what games do.


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Good to see CC mentioned here

I've been a follower of Cortex Command and of Play This Thing for a long time. It's nice to see this reference finally show up.

But yeah, CC is a ton of fun. It's insanely enjoyable to hook up at least one gamepad, build an interesting bunker, set the AI to Insane difficulty (which controls spawn rate at this point) and play a co-op game of protect-the-fort. The sheer destruction caused by shooting down enemy dropships is fantastic. The way that every little bit gib and particle is fully physically simulated makes for some absurd situations. There's great thrill in trying to dodge the rain of shrapnel when a dropship explodes overhead, and it's quite hilarious to get thrown back when an enemy's severed head collides with your chest at maximum speed.

There's also great support for modding, with a ton of in-game editors for maps, gibs, sprites, and so forth. Poke around the official forums to find downloads for all sort of awesome addons, including orbital lasers and giant mechs. Lua support was recently added, further expanding the possibilities.

Awesome game for those who can see past its current WIP state and enjoy the massive amount of depth it offers.


This looks like, which is a great 2D fighter, much more fast-paced, but without all the construction. And it's free, except if you want to pay for some features.

Great potential

I've played CC, and although it is great fun it is far too incomplete to be more than a five minute diversion to a single player. I have not had the chance to play with a friend, but I imagine it is awesome. I await updates with anticipation.


I feel horrible for saying this, but I downloaded the demo _twice_ now, and never got out of the first room in the intro level. I don't know what it is. I love complex games, I adore the idea of the fully destructible world... but MAN, I just can't steer that thing.

Sorry, don't let that hold you back from checking out the game, but if someone like me (who writes page-long forum posts about how dumbing down game interfaces is the cancer of modern game design) is complaining about an incomprehensible HUD, something's wrong.

The same thing happened to

The same thing happened to me -- six or so months ago though, I should try it again.

Is CC the Dwarf Fortress of 2D RTTs.

Obtuse UI, But Not Impossible.

Huh. Well, I generally assume I just suck at action games in general, but I certainly managed to get through the tutorial (slow as it is) and at least play long enough to get my ass handed to me. The UI struck me as difficult, but not impossible.