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Carto Review


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206133364_Cartologo.jpg.38cb0888dbe904e2da69f164be07d1e2.jpgWhat if, instead of opening your map to check your position or the distance to your target, you could simply rearrange the map to instantly bring yourself to the target? That's more or less the premise of Carto, an adventure-puzzle game where you play as a young cartographer capable of rearranging a map of the world in order to explore. It's a clever, easy-to-understand puzzle formula complemented by adorable graphics and a cute story in this brief adventure.
You play as Carto, a young girl and novice cartographer who is separated from her grandmother due to a storm. The storm also scatters pieces of her map all across the world, and now she must explore to find the missing pieces and return to her grandma. Carto is an awfully cute game with a charming, light-hearted narrative. You meet and interact with a variety of side characters all living their own little lives and oftentimes there's some problem Carto can help them with, but this isn't a typical save-the-world quest. It's a relaxed, casual story brimming with adorable charm that is just all around pleasant and fun to hang out in.
As mentioned the gameplay revolves entirely around rearranging the map in order to explore, unlock new map pieces, and repeat. There's an important caveat here though: when map pieces touch they have to match, meaning a forest piece has to touch a forest piece, a mountain piece a mountain piece, etc. This one rule is enough to provide plenty of inventive challenges. Carto isn't a particularly demanding puzzle game, but you'll likely encounter a few head-scratchers that give you a moment's pause. Thankfully, since there are so few gameplay mechanics actually at play, you aren't likely to get stuck for long. Sometimes the puzzle hints are a bit too vague and you may need to rely on trial and error, but if anything these particularly obtuse puzzles help spice up the gameplay a bit.
Carto is fairly short—most players will probably finish in around five hours or so, maybe a bit more depending on how quick you are with puzzles or how long you take to read all the dialogue. The premise could probably have sustained a longer game as each new area Carto explores adds new little twists to the map formula, but the game also doesn't feel too rushed. It'd be nice if it were longer but the length works as is.

The pleasant, relaxed tone of the story—and really the game overall—is matched by an absolutely adorable hand-drawn art style that is cute, colorful, and cuddly. It's also particularly charming in motion. The animation is simple and cartoonish in the best ways possible that will instantly endear players to Carto and her adventure. The soundtrack matches this atmosphere with a fun but extremely chill sound that can't help but make you relax. All of the presentation has a storybook charm to it that makes the game suited for all ages.

Carto is a great example of taking one gameplay idea and fleshing it out into a whole adventure. The map manipulation mechanic is simple and delightful, full of clever puzzle opportunities that make you rethink movement and adventuring in video games. It's a fairly brief, leisurely kind of game but it works beautifully and develops an absolutely charming vibe that puzzle fans shouldn't miss out on.
Rating: 8 out of 10 Map Pieces
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