Carto: A Real Puzzler?

Carto was reviewed for the Xbox One.

An Island adventure where you’re the boss placing small squares of land wherever you like, meeting new people and doing new quests – sounds great, doesn’t it? As Carto, a new adventure game from Humble Games shows, well, maybe. Depends on how you like to spend six hours.

The Jigsaw-Like Map

Carto is a great game with a different environment with every new game as you can customize where you put part of the island using the map functions that act sort of like a jigsaw puzzle.

The player is constantly changing and working out how you can get to a different part of the island with every new quest and character you meet. This is the fun of Carto, but it also creates a repetitive experience at times.

The map and how it is constructed brings a whole load of customizability to the Carto. When done well, Carto leaves players with the feeling that every play through has a possibility of being different from the last.

Carto Map in action.

Of course, some squares of the island have to be placed in a certain direction, so the story makes sense. For example, say an old man who is lost asks you for help saying “my house is on the east side of the island”. This makes it necessary that the tile his house should be on is at the east side of the island.

This brings a whole new element to the game as certain square need to be lined up correctly. This is great and can also be a problem-solving nightmare – allowing for even the making of spreadsheets for those of you who do that stuff. 

The Art Style

The game art style looks adorable with tiny people living in tiny forests on a tiny island, of course. This gives the Carto its charisma when playing through the game, and it’s what makes the second and third play throughs just as endearing. The style complements the story in every way possible by making everything look childish and soft as if you’re looking at the world through the characters eyes.

Many games seemingly choose an art style because it just plain looks cool. When this happens, it can present the player with a jarring experience that simply doesn’t fit. In Carto, the choice of art style complements the game perfectly – players should have no problem feeling immersed in the world.

The Story

You’ll begin Carto as a young child who has somehow ended up on some sort of island and work your way around. The adorable and creative nature of the island design lend to this, as it is easy to believe that you’re seeing this world through the eyes of a child..

The story is fantastic and really brings the game to life. It can be emotional to a degree, and it can be just your bog standard story as well at times. Even at it’s low points, the story is still the driving force behind Carto. This isn’t the game where you barely notice the story while playing through it. Without its story, Carto wouldn’t be the same.

Although the main character – Carto – doesn’t really speak to many people, they seem to just blabber on to her and get her to do all the tasks they need. 

The Downside – Sound, Quests and Tiresome Repetition.

At this point in the review you’re probably thinking “What is happening here? In the introduction paragraph, this guy clearly this game was super repetitive, and now he’s saying all these great things!” Let me tell you, after the entirety of the first chapter and most of the second Carto starts to get quite repetitive and annoying at times.

The music in the background, which does differentiate from scenes but just loops around over and over and becomes annoying after about two or three minutes. The problem is the same problem we often see in games filled with quests to complete. Most of said quests are nothing more than fetch quests. Fetch quests can be fine when they’re teaching you some skill you’ll need to move on in the game, and fetch quests are rarely as bad as the sequence in Anthem (if you’ve played it you know exactly what I’m talking about). There’s nothing so bad in Carto, but it brings some of the early fun to a screeching halt.

I found myself screaming obscenities at a sheep in the game just because I couldn’t actually find it and then verbally abusing a young child because he never kept an eye on the audacious sheep and got annoyed that I couldn’t progress the game for about an hour.

The Harrowing Last Words

As much as this game is brilliant for kids and quite possibly alright for people who enjoy puzzles I just don’t think that it needs a whole six hour (on average) completion time. There is a point where this game was an enjoyable small fun adventure with a great story and let me tell you the story is good but there comes a point where a game overstays its welcome and this game would have been fine with a one to two hour completion time but unfortunately it just didn’t do it for me and don’t get me wrong you might find it different, but It just didn’t sit with me after a while and that’s all I have to say about it.

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