Cart Life (PC)
Let’s get this straight right now: Cart Life is not a game by any traditional meaning of the word. It is not fun. If you choose to play it, it will be unfair. It will be monotonous and repetitive. It will seem pointless and unwinnable. Succeeding in the game brings little reward and less feeling of accomplishment. It will depress you. I am absolutely serious about that. If you are depressed or prone to depressive episodes, give this game a pass.
Rather than a game, Cart Life is a remarkably accurate simulator of what it is like to work and live as a retail/food service employee. In a lot of ways, it’s the inverse of The Sims. In The Sims, your character works to live, with jobs being abstracted away and the action happening at home during a character’s free time. Cart Life, on the other hand, is all about your character’s job and the mundanities of everyday life near the bottom of the socioeconomic scale. Don’t get me wrong. There are fun and social activities your character can do. Going to a bar, heading out to eat, spending time with family, you are free to do all that. But all those things cost money and time, two resources your character has in perpetually short supply.
Instead, you will find yourself primarily doing your character’s job, and that is going to be boring as hell. If you like making change in your head and repeating ad copy verbatim, then you are the kind of soulless drone 99% of corporations are looking for and you will do great at this game. If you are a normal human being, you will start to wonder why you decided to play this game in the first place.
Surprisingly, there actually are reasons to play this game. The pixel art is exceptional, even more so being in monochrome. Genuinely touching moments are peppered through Cart Life as well. Interactions with your customers are can be interesting, heartfelt, and funny, while at other times they can be frustrating. The chiptune soundtrack is interesting, though eventually repetitive. Though, given the game’s nature, any failings of the art, characters, and sound seem perfectly at home. Sadly, the biggest shortcoming of Cart Life is a technical one. Significant bugs remain in the game, including a few that will cause a crash to desktop.
Cart Life should be played, but not for fun. It is an experience I found comparable to reading one of Franz Kafka’s longer works. I don’t know that I ever want to do it again, and I certainly won’t go through it again for fun. But I got an emotional experience from it that was personal, and that is a sign of true art. (Richard Hofmeier) by Matthew Snider