released on Oct 27, 2020

Carto is a tile placement adventure game where you explore the lands you placed and discover the secrets while exploring. What will happen to the world and the characters when you rearrange the tiles of the map?

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Sights & Sounds
- It's really hard not to gush over the gorgeous storybook visuals. Given the prominence of books and paper within many central story and gameplay elements, it makes a lot of sense to adopt the style of another printed medium. It admittedly would have been interesting to see what it would look like if everything had a cartographic style, but that would have robbed the visuals of their color and cuteness
- I'm a little split on how I feel about every edge being kinda squiggly, but it wasn't bothersome enough to really matter. It enhances the "softness" of the character and environment designs, at least
- While not universally true, I typically expect a fairly chill and relaxed soundtrack in a puzzle game. Carto's music offers no surprises in terms of mood in that regard. It's still an interesting set of songs, though. What really struck me, if you'll pardon the pun, was the impressive diversity in percussion. Drums, chimes, maracas, triangles, tambourine, either a xylophone or marimba (both?), and perhaps even a glockenspiel get layered into some really complex rhythms. Sure, there's a healthy dose of woodwinds, strings, and synth, but the tracks that got me tapping my feet were the ones where the percussion section was going wild

Story & Vibes
- The plot follows Carto, a little girl who travels the skies making maps with her grandmother in their airship. But they're no ordinary maps; these are collected in a magical atlas. They have the power to combine, divide, and shuffle the world itself by reorganizing map pieces
- Being that Carto is a curious little girl, she wants to try it out for herself. For reasons unknown, she combines a thundercloud piece with a piece containing their airship, resulting in Carto falling from the sky with the atlas. Unfortunately, scraps of paper are torn from the atlas and carried all over the world by the storm's winds
- The narrative takes form as Carto tries to make the atlas whole again, meets a wide range of colorful characters in need of help, and attempts to track down her grandmother
- It's a very cute story, and it's pretty much devoid of bad vibes outside of the conflict that's set up in the initial cutscene. That's not necessarily a bad thing for a puzzle game, but it does make the plot less engrossing. Instead, most beats are fairly chill and positive, centering around helping people. The absence of intrigue makes the game less "spicy" and its action less motivating

Playability & Replayability
- If you read the plot description, you may have already correctly inferred that Carto's primary puzzle dynamic involves arranging map pieces on the grid to reshape the world. Sometimes, you'll need to listen to characters who point out specific landmarks in cardinal directions relative to each other in order to make a location or person appear. Other times, you'll have to arrange pieces in a certain way to reveal new sections of the map (e.g., lining up two broken bridge pieces to make a bridge piece appear between them)
- As the map pieces are almost always 1x1 squares, the main restriction on placement is the geography of each side. Mountains must touch mountains, water must touch water, plains must touch plains, etc. Any side is allowed to be unconnected to anything
- I really did like this puzzle format. It ensures that almost every solution is as unique as the player that generated it, and it offers a blank enough canvas that the story has an easy time taking shape within its confines
- This changes in the game's final section, where pieces become, for a lack of a better term, "Tetris-y". This ramps up the difficulty a touch and makes the puzzles more interesting. Although not my favorite section of the game, I liked this final puzzle the best as it actually required some effort
- That last bullet belies my primary complaint about Carto: it's really easy. There are, of course, a few clever puzzles (the Library section was by far the most inspired), but I was able to autopilot large portions of this game. I like the feeling of "eureka" moments after I've been stumped by a devious puzzle for a while, and Carto simply couldn't muster the difficulty necessary to provide those

Overall Impressions & Performance
- Carto is a game of soft edges, literally and figuratively. In the context of the audiovisual design, this works fairly well, but the plot and gameplay suffer from an overly gentle approach. These qualities certainly make Carto a more relaxing experience, but also a less enticing one
- It ran well and looked nice on the Steam Deck

Final Verdict
- 6/10. While Carto promises an extremely cute and eminently chill playthrough, don't go in expecting much challenge or excitement. It's probably a better game for those who go in with a better mindset than I did, but I was left wanting a bit more at almost every turn
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A fun puzzle adventure where you play as a girl that has the power to rearrange the tiles that compose the map. It's a very interesting mechanism that not only leads to some clever puzzles, but it's incorporated in the storyline as well. They were a couple of instances where the objective was a little vague, but overall the puzzles were mostly fair. I also wish it was a tad longer, but overall a great little game.

Un juego muy bonito de encontrar a nuestra abuela, un viaje precioso con diferentes puzzles que alteran nuestra posición y condiciones del mundo. Música que acompaña y hablando ya de jugabilidad puzzles interesantes, un gran juego para jugar y recomendar a nuevos jugadores.

Recomendado. ✔

the artstyle is cute but i was expecting a more challenging experience. whats here was creative enough to at least be enjoyable, but having to talk to the extremely generic characters all the time as well as the slow travel really hampered the whole experience. im not really a fan of the "wholesome" vibe of these kinds of games so that didnt help anything. the slow-paced nature and the generic characters ironically make me feel LESS relaxed lol

Carto is exactly as it appears -- a quaint, charming tile-laying puzzle that does not outstay its welcome. The puzzles are pleasantly designed but never particularly taxing, the art and vibes are solid. It never wowed or impressed me, but I enjoyed my time with it, and you probably will too.

Extremely cute artstyle and storytelling. Loved the characters and the gameplay while not difficult is satisfying and the mechanic with flipping the world around is fun to explore with.

Definitely give this a go