Ask people what superpower they want and you will likely hear the same answers. Flight. Superpower. Invisibility. You’re less likely to hear about anything unusual – like the ability to literally reshape the planet to suit your needs. Such a skill is at the core of Carto, a leisurely adventure game that gives you tremendous power but not that much responsibility.
First released in October for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch and PC. Carto throws you out as the eponymous cartographer. At the beginning of the game, Carto travels the world by airship with her grandmother, who is a card lover herself. Lightning strikes the airship. Carto falls out along with many pieces of map and wakes up in an unknown land. A familiar beginning, but Carto is blessed with the unfamiliar power of total spatial reconstruction.
CartoThe map appears as a series of tiles associated with the terrain: forest, coast, what do you have? At any point in time in the game you can open the map, pick up these tiles, rotate them, move them and place them elsewhere. You can even do this for the tile you stand on for easy transport around the world. The only catch is that Bejeweled
It’s very similar Hasthat the fundamental mechanic can ask a question about the nature of perspective, the limits of observation, and the shaky foundation upon which everything is built that we can – and don’t – perceive.
How you design the map has a real impact on the world you traverse and is critical to solving it CartoMystery. The core mechanics of the game – picking up tiles, rearranging them as needed – remains the same, but the individual puzzles are not repeated. Suppose someone mentions a meeting at a pier on the north bank. The pier tile is currently on the south side of the island you are on. OKYou think, I have to find a place for it on the north coast. Easy enough. Take the pier tile and connect it to the island you are on so that it faces north. You won’t find the exact same dilemma again, however.
For other puzzles, you can put river tiles together in a neat circle, restructure the map into flocks of sheep, or place forest tiles according to the exact direction a fallen tree is pointing. And the only way to find out what to do is to interact with the environment by speaking to other characters or reading literal signs every now and then. It’s a brilliant little trick that can keep you busy with any corner of the world.
Sometimes the puzzles depend on environmental features that are a little too subtle to register. The game doesn’t always clearly communicate your goals. At one point I spent what felt like the length of a slow-paced DC movie wandering through a forest. A quick visit to ole google told me to be careful which way the trees swayed in the wind … but the trees swayed back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Even after the scam (sue me), solving this puzzle required some frustrating trial and error.
All in all, CartoThe puzzles have hit the sweet spot so far. Even those with painfully straightforward solution methods (create a usable dirt path through, get this one, join the dirt path tiles) do a few tries to pin down. They’re never too easy, but you never feel stupid about missing an obvious answer. If Goldilocks was looking for a puzzle, she would end up playing Carto.
All of this is wrapped in the warm embrace of a twee aesthetic that goes beyond the already very twee visuals. A walk through the trees hums with the same crickets you would hear while staying in a cabin by the lake. Solving a puzzle triggers an optimistic, minimalistic musical cue. You befriend a worm that looks like it crawled out of Eric Carle’s beautiful head. There is a lingering comfort that makes you feel like nothing bad is really going to happen.
The stakes are not particularly high anyway. Yes, your ultimate goal is to reunite Carto with her grandma, which sounds serious. But Nana keeps in touch through notes scrawled on paper planes. (See? So twee.) As the nights stay long and the days get colder, Carto is exactly the kind of little cozy game I want to get lost in. And when I’m done, maybe a budding cartographer will help me find my way back to our bigger, broader, less reassuring reality.
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