Mapping Out A Good Time
HIGH The map manipulation mechanism.
LOW A couple of puzzles with extremely vague hints.
WTF How did those huskies survive so long!?
It’s not often that a game comes along with an idea that feels so absolutely unique that I can’t say I’ve ever seen something like it. Carto is one such game.
Players take control of a young girl named Carto who’s been flung from her grandmother’s airship during a severe storm. The ship has been blown off course, so it’s not as simple as grandma swooping down and picking Carto back up. Instead, players must traverse a variety of islands covered with forests, volcanoes, deserts, and icebergs while searching for clues to help reunite Carto with her grandmother.
Carto is a relaxing top-down 2D adventure. There are no enemies to slash or monsters to hunt, just places to explore, people to meet, and puzzles to solve. To progress, players must do something that (surprisingly!) hasn’t been utilized much (if at all?) in a videogame before – manipulating the map.
Each island is broken into multiple squares. Most areas start small, with just a few map squares, but they become larger areas to explore as Carto finds map pieces scattered throughout her journey.
Accessing a god-view top-down map menu, Carto can pick up individual squares, rotate them, and move them to different locations. Need to make a river flow a different way? Rotate that map piece. Can’t reach that location beyond the barrier? Rearrange the map. This idea is incredibly fresh and unique.
Map manipulation in Carto isn’t without restrictions, however – each edge of a map square must match the same type of landscape on the edges of other squares it touches. Water needs to join water, forest to forest, fields to fields, and so on. Even with these limitations, there are enough unique layouts so that the configurations seem almost endless.
Other aspects of Carto are equally well crafted. The graphics are beautiful, like cartoon watercolors. While not action packed, the controls are still responsive and never a burden when leisurely exploring an island or performing numerous map adjustments. It also has a well-told story, including themes of friendship and family.
If I have any criticisms, there are a couple of puzzles that crop up in the mid-game that are a slight hindrance. One required going to the back of a building instead of the front. It was obvious that I had to go to that location, but too vague in that Carto had to search behind it. Another puzzle required a clue in the map menu – only I don’t think that clue ever appeared for me! I had to look up the solutions to both to continue the journey.
…And it was an enjoyable journey. Gamers looking for a fresh take on puzzle solving adventures will absolutely find it with the map manipulation in Carto.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Sunhead Games and published by Humble Games. It is currently available on Switch, PS4, XBO, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Comic Mischief. Parents should feel safe allowing gamers of all ages to play this one! Puzzles may frustrate some of the youngest players, but there’s no violence, fighting, or bloodshed of any kind.
Colorblind Modes: There no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Story is told through in-game dialogue and letters, all provided solely through text. Text size cannot be changed. There were no noticeable audio cues. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
When he does find time to play, Brian’s preferred games of choice are platformers, beat-‘em-ups, or a good adventure game.He still enjoys the retro gaming scene, could talk about the Nintendo 64 more than he might like to admit, and misses playing in actual arcades. Brian also gets to pass on his love of gaming, as his oldest son is just now starting to join the fun.
As for that GameBoy - it’s sitting in Brian’s nightstand, waiting patiently for four AA batteries.