Have You Played… Cart Life?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Cart Life is one of the few games that seems like a natural precursor to Papers, Please. It tackles the grind of daily life, portrayed through mechanics and aesthetics that capture the blurry, bleary repetition and extraordinary tangents that spring from work and survival. It’s free.

It’s also one of the few games that seems like a natural sequel to The Sims. What if EA’s game of life weren’t about climbing the social ladder but about attempting to cling on to the bottom rung. It’s The Sims in the age of food banks and austerity, and yet it doesn’t feel entirely like a kick in the teeth. Cart Life is beautiful, as well as melancholic, and while it’s interactive elements can’t match the satisfaction of Papers, Please and its rubberstamping (what can?), the frustrations are part of the overall effect.

The game is now available for free, along with source code. Here’s why you should play it:

If these people were Sims, they’d be the ones who got into the pool right before some bastard sold all the ladders.

That’s something I could never bring myself to do to Melanie and Andrus, the two characters I’ve spent time with. I care about them and am desperately building ladders, trying to guide them out of the water, lending a hand as they choke on the chlorine contamination of the rat race. I don’t know if I can and in Andrus’ case, all my efforts only seem to push him further into the centre of things, away from solidity and into nightmares that become increasingly difficult to differentiate from waking life. Bleak but believable, Cart Life can feel like misery on tap but if that’s true, it also makes the player feel like the bartender, doling out more punishment in the form of existence and hope.

Right now I’m slamming my face against the biggest stumbling block that writing about Cart Life presents. It all sounds utterly depressing and why the hell would anyone want to play it? In a move learned during my toddling years, I’m going to stumble past that block right now and tell you why you should play Cart Life and then tell everyone who might be interested to play it almost immediately afterwards.

And to follow my stumbling, you can click here for the review.

10 Comments

  1. TimePointFive says:

    I’ve been hoping someone would squash the game-breaking bugs when he released the source code. They are really bad, and this game is amazing.

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      Aerothorn says:

      One of the problems with the AGS engine (which Richard will never use ever, ever again) is that any substantial patches break save games.

      That said, yes, these definitely need to be fixed. I’m optimistic that someday they will, but it may take a while.

      • Xune says:

        Should that really matter though? Melanie and Andrus’ stories are a week long and if you’re playing as Vinny I’d imagine people would far prefer to start again in a functioning game than continue in a broken one, I know I would.

    • Eukatheude says:

      Yeah, gave up on it because of the bugs. The fact that it *literally* feels like work did the rest to persuade me not to persevere. It’s a shame because it did hit a few of the right feeling buttons.

  2. aergistal says:

    You fail RPS! You post this now when our consumerism spree is already over. It’s too little, too late.

  3. Laini says:

    I wanted to like it but I found the time limit far too strict, it feels like you have to know what you’re doing and get right on it, which maybe is the point but it doesn’t make for a very fun experience.
    Or I’m just rubbish at it :P

  4. alms says:

    Last time I tried, it was ridden with bugs and next to unplayable. That might have been a number of those time units you terrestrian bipeds call years.

    • Janissaire says:

      Wow,a Superior being coming from a unknown world.

      Why you don’t reveal yourseflt to the world and save us from the monster trying to kill us all.

    • Janissaire says:

      Oh,save us from the monster who try to enslave us.

  5. Frosty840 says:

    ::sigh::
    Add me to the “paid money for it, but the bugs that made it unplayable were never fixed” pile.
    A damn shame. I could see how good the underlying game was from the brief moments of it that worked, but when anything is as massively buggy as this…
    A damn shame…