Carto finds her way into the desert
Games,  Review

Carto review

Journey with Carto as she tries to find her way back to her granny in a world of moving landscapes. After a big storm, Carto fell out of her granny’s plane and landed, unscathed, in an unknown forest. Fortunately, map pieces are scattered over the world, so with the help of some friendly locals, hopefully, she can make her way back to her grandmother.

Carto won’t be alone though, when she landed on the island she met Shianan. It’s Shianan’s 15th birthday, which means it’s time for her to ship off, literally, and start a new life. It is a coming of age custom of her people, but Shianan is scared and doesn’t want to leave. She asks Carto if she’d like to join her and, together, they can try and find her granny.

Gameplay

At its heart, Carto is a puzzle game, and at times it is quite tricky. With the ability to move the map pieces and rotate them completely, sometimes the possibilities seem endless. There is a very satisfying sound when you do solve the puzzles, though and makes you feel a slight tingle of accomplishment. I am very grateful for this Let’s Play video though, as there was one puzzle that, even after following through the steps, I don’t really understand what the solution was.

Rotate pieces of the map to solve puzzles in Carto
Rotate pieces of the map to solve puzzles in Carto

Don’t let the difficulty of puzzles stop you. After playing for a while, you will get the hang of how the puzzles work and start to think of life in 90-degree increments and get more of those ‘aha!’ moments.

I have seen some reviews that mention the puzzles being too repetitive, but I would disagree. The game introduces you to the puzzle mechanic and builds up on it throughout the game. I never came across a puzzle and thought it was overdone, rather that it was familiar and I understood how to do it this time.

The controls for Carto are not to everyone’s liking, but I didn’t mind them. It is keyboard only (on PC) and uses arrow keys for movement. There have been some complaints about this for people that prefer to play with WASD, but the devs have advised that players will be able to change keybindings in a future update. Even though I had no issues with the controls, it would be nice to be able to use the mouse. Especially when using the map to pick up, move and rotate pieces. This would be far easier with a mouse than keyboard.

Art and sound design

With hand-drawn graphics, Carto is a delight to look at. The backgrounds are gorgeous, and the characters all very cute. The map pieces have different types of designs to indicate various types of terrains; the art for these is also lovely and makes them easy to use. There’s also a cute farting sheep, so what’s not to like.

Carto has a cute cast of characters
Carto has a cute cast of characters.

Speaking of farts noises, the sound effects are great with little ploppy noises for dialogue and paper noises when moving map tiles. There’s also a lot of less obvious ambience in the background that is lovely to sit and listen to. The soundtrack is what you would expect from a peaceful adventure game. Adventurous and uplifting. It makes you want to go on this journey with Carto too!

Summary

Carto is such a charming and unique game. Building the world around you, tile by tile is something I’ve never encountered in a game before, and it opened up my mind a little to different ways of thinking about puzzles. Carto, the character, is cute and curious and full of wonder at this world she’s ended up in. The story and character design make you feel compelled to help her out on her quest. At about 5 to 6 hours, Carto is on the shorter side and a great length for a few puzzles sessions. The perfect game for a weekend.

Want to know more?

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Platforms: PC (Humble and Steam), Switch, PS4 and Xbox (including Gamepass for both Xbox and PC)
Genre: puzzle, adventure

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