Love it or hate it, this devilishly tricky puzzler deserves your attention.
In a very rare and welcome piece of good news, the first thing I have to say about Cargo-Bot is that I've never played anything like it, and for reasons that go far beyond the genre of the game or its styling. Produced entirely using the Codea development platform released last year, Cargo-Bot is the first game to be published by the developers of the tool.
In Cargo-Bot you assume the role of a humble warehouse picking crane whose sole function in life is to take a variety of different colored crates, and then re-arrange them into a variety of configurations across the game's many stages. All of this activity is set up in advance by entering the game's highly visual Scratch-like programming language into a serious of rows at the bottom of the screen.
How does this work in principle? Well, much like the toy-grabbing fairground machines that dip into a bucket only to drop your Winnie The Pooh toy just before it hits the prize tray, you enter directional commands to steer the crane into position, before unleashing a command that has it drop down and grab whatever lies beneath. Subsequent commands move the crate into its new position in order to meet the demands of the level.
Now if things were as simple as just placing directional arrows and drop-down commands ad infinitum, the game would be both unsatisfying and rather pointless. Instead, efficiency is the key to success on each stage, as you'll only be provided with four, limited-instruction programming rows with which to play around with and achieve the desired result.
It's tempting to say that things are made easier by the use of the loop commands and conditional statements that can be used to determine where the crane moves. These might instruct the crane to move only if it's holding a certain-colored crate, or move in a certain fashion if the picker is empty. The fact is, building these programs is brutally difficult, requiring you to intricately nest statements within programs in order to maximize efficiency and achieve the highest award on each level.
The difficulty levels range from the still-tricky tutorial section to a rather entertainingly titled 'Impossible' series, and we think we'll take the developer at their word on this latter section. It'll take you some time to get to grips with the logic underpinning the game, but this is a title aimed very much at those who enjoyed the challenge of the algorithmic route-planning masterpiece SpaceChem.
So it's challenging (and perhaps a little too much so), but if you want something different that also highlights the extraordinary potential for placing game development in the hands of players, then we can't recommend the game enough. The good news is that the game is free and, we suspect, aimed more at directing people towards purchasing the development platform itself. We can only recommend downloading the game yourself, and experiencing one of the more unique puzzlers on the App Store.
What's Hot: Unmissable, in its own special way! For those who like the toughest of challenges, Cargo-bot would like to have a quiet word with you.
What's Not: A brutally unforgiving learning curve.