The game was first released as an open beta and was later released for purchase with a time-limited demo version available as well. The full version is still being refined, but includes unlimited play and extra features unavailable on the demo
The game engine was designed and built by Dan Tabar (Data), using several open source libraries. The GUI was built by Jason Boettcher, the artwork is by Arne Niklas Jansson (Prom) and the Mac OS X port is by an ex-Rockstar Games programmer Chris Kruger. As of May 2008, the game was described as being in development for approximately seven years, with Dan Tabar quitting his job in mid 2006 to work full time on the project. No versions for game consoles are planned. The game allows several components to be modified using the Lua programming language, such as Scenes (or levels), Actors, Weapons, and more. The current game build is number 25.
Influences for the game include the X-COM: UFO Defense series.
Despite being in development, unfinished playable demonstration versions of the game have been made available to try. The control system for this unfinished version has been described as "too fiddly to be considered entertaining. Others described the game as requiring patience, asking players to "take [their] time and experiment". The game has been compared to other games in the genre, such as GunBound and Worms. Positive reviews praise the detailed physics, as well as the chaotic gameplay.
Cortex Command was the Indie Games Game of the Month for April 2008.
Cortex Command won the Audience Award and Technical Excellence at the 2009 Independent Games Festival.