Tag Archives: Cart life

Cart Life: A Second Look

On one of my last nights in town, I was heading to a bar with my girlfriend. My year-long stint in the flat, stretched metropolis that is Tulsa, Oklahoma was drawing to a close. I would soon flee the daily grind at Starbucks and return to school in Alabama, putting many miles between myself and my love, leaving what had become a familiar sort of aimlessness in pursuit of a less familiar sort of aimlessness. Her car had just broken down, perhaps in rebellion against the hot, thirsty air. She had a paper due the next day. I had just said something stupid. We both needed a drink.

When we got to the pub and began to talk and drink with some of her friends from graduate school, tensions vaporized and floated into the blackness. Everyone was cool, and the conversation eventually turned to games. Someone asked me what my favorite game was, and I found myself answering Cart Life. No one had heard of it, so I tried to explain. I was rewarded with some polite listening, then a pretty honest assessment of my explanation from one of the group:

“That doesn’t sound at all interesting.”

The comment was not mean-spirited, but honest and jovial. I disagreed, and I tried to explain why. I was a few beers in, probably not in the best condition to explain such a weird game and caught off-guard that anyone was actually willing to listen to what I had to say about it. I realize now that I should have taken a different approach because the above statement really gets to the heart of what Cart Life is and why it succeeds.

Cart Life doesn’t sound very interesting if you try and explain it to someone because it’s not something you can experience vicariously. Unlike most critically acclaimed videogames, Cart Life doesn’t sound any bigger than it actually is. It calls itself a “retail simulation for windows.” It champions routine like the bulbous blockbuster touts its “latest feature.” Sure, all games harness the mundane, to an extent, because no matter what game you’re playing, it eventually turns into repetitive, mechanical activity. But tedium is the black sheep of game design. It’s something that most games try to hide. Unlike every other game ever, Cart Life doesn’t try to dress up as something more exciting.

I want to revisit Cart Life because when I first wrote about it, I did it a disservice. I gushed, but in gushing I spent too much time considering what Cart Life is about and not enough time thinking about what makes it work. There are still many voices clamoring that games need to be more than fun, but there’s not much consensus on what it is they need to be (as if they really needed to be anything other than what they already are). Few would present tedium and sameness as brilliant pillars of game design, and I can’t think of any other game that so audaciously preaches the tenets of banality. A friend saw me playing Cart Life the other day and compared it to Clerks after a few seconds of observation. It’s absurd, but almost perfect. Cart Life is a grittier Clerks, realized in interactive form.

Except it’s entirely different. Clerks also focuses on the mundane, but Cart Life’s is an active, frenetic kind of banality. Cart Life doesn’t stop at boring. It understands that the mundane can be both exhilarating and boring at the same time. Working Melanie’s coffee stand is exciting because of the feverish pace and relentless progression of time, but it’s boring because game actions are interpreted as multi-tiered processes. Cart Life, unlike every other game ever, doesn’t believe a single keystroke adequately represents a significant action. The act of pouring a cup of coffee is broken down into its component mental and physical parts: 1) Remember what the customer ordered.  2) Make small talk.  3) Make correct change. An intense empathy emerges from these methodical motions, and it’s a specific kind of empathy that can only emerge from a game.

You get to the point where you repeat a task so many times that it’s muscle memory, like breathing, and you could probably still improve, but your improvement would be negligible. You’ve plateaued, and this thing you keep doing everyday may not be the most important or impressive thing in the world, but at least you’re performing some discernible service, fitting into society in some way, fulfilling some expectation, maybe improving someone’s day, and while you’re doing it at least, you forget about other important things and feel like everything might be ok and some things could even be beautiful.

Which is why Cart Life never made me feel depressed. Quite the opposite. Before Cart Life, I never considered the idea that a game could inflict such a subtle emotion that so many games strive for but miss because they’re oblivious to it. It’s a focused, active comfort that’s a little bit sad, but more determined than sad. The game doesn’t turn away from this sensation, and it doesn’t try to call it good or bad. It simply presents it as a part of the human condition.

Expressing the mundane realities of bureaucracy is something games could be good at, possibly better at than anything else. There’s a sequence in Cart Life in which you wait at the courthouse for a number to be called, even though there’s no line. You’re wasting precious time that you don’t have and you’ll never get back. The only thing more real than that scene is reality. We spend our time standing in lines that aren’t there. In Cart Life, time doesn’t stop until the end of the day when you jump in the shower and think about profit and loss. Appreciating the game’s nuance requires real sacrifice, and with real sacrifice comes real reward.

Melanie, a single mother, struggles to start a new business and gain custody of her child. Andrus, an immigrant, scrounges for his first rent check, subsisting on hotdogs and cigarettes. The stories are affecting, but they resonate because they could be about anyone, and the mechanical system that supports them is everyone. We all master a sequence of steps within the constraints of our problems. We are united in apprehensive repetition. When you finish a day’s work of Cart Life’s grueling mechanisms, the absence of activity is palpable. Melanie’s family doesn’t talk much. Andrus’ cat talks even less. You don’t have the time or energy to explore. There’s not much to do but go home, pass out, rinse and repeat. The characters are made of the things they have to get up and do every day. Empathy swims in Melanie’s coffee cup, nestled within the folds of Andrus’ newspapers.

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Cave Story, John Cleese and the Creative Process

The cave has developed into a symbol that simultaneously represents romantic, childlike wonder and a melancholy, even ominous, loneliness. For me, the first few moments of Cave Story are the most affecting. A child stands alone in a cavern. I make him jump some spikes, then run under some bats. I find a heart locked up in tube-shaped container. I set it free. I pilfer some guy’s gun while he’s sleeping. After a few minutes, I wonder how long the boy had been in that cave. Probably a long time. He must be hungry.

In those first few screens, before the aforementioned pilfering takes place, the boy is defenseless. His vulnerability is illuminated like pale skin under a relentless, beating sun. Somehow, this makes the prospect of pressing forward all the more enticing. Within its introductory moments, Cave Story successfully taps into those two disparate manifestations of the cave symbol: the unsettling melancholy of isolation and the excitement of exploring uncharted depths. It really nails the tone that I think most of us crave in a game’s introduction. That feeling of being thrust into an entirely unfamiliar setting. I wrote a song about the game before I even finished playing it. I recruited my sister to draw her interpretation of the song, which resulted in the picture above. Of course, I would soon find out that the boy is actually a robot, so he doesn’t need to eat, and the rabbits are actually called something else that’s not “rabbits.” In the end, my song doesn’t really make much sense, considering its source. Nonetheless, the creative seed was planted, and all it took was about an hour of play.

The Two Modes

In this inspiring lecture, Monty Python’s John Cleese cites studies done in the sixties and seventies by the psychologist, Donald Mackinnon, on creativity. According to one of the comments below the video, Cleese’s lecture is over two decades old, but I think it’s one of those few things that is truly timeless. Cleese deftly aligns his personal observations of creative people in action with Mackinnon’s research, which found that creative folk were no more intelligent than non-creative people. They “had simply acquired a facility for getting themselves into a particular mood, a way of operating…Mackinnon described this particular facility as an ability to play (starts around 5:20).  Framing his argument with Mackinnon’s research, Cleese asserts that creative people generally operate in two different and distinct modes: “open” and “closed.”

By the closed mode, I mean the mode that we’re in most of the time when we’re at work. We have a feeling inside us that there’s much to be done, and we have to get on with it if we’re gonna get through it all. It’s an active, probably slightly anxious mode, although the anxiety can be exciting and pleasurable.” As I devoured Cleese’s words, I thought of how I felt when I played Cart Life. Time moves quickly, and it doesn’t stop. Profits are incremental. Melanie tires quickly. I have to sell enough coffee in time for her court date, so she can keep her child. Cart Life, by implementing strict time constraints and forcing you to persevere in the face of repetitive tasks, makes its rewards of exploration and emotional connection more meaningful. This sounds to me like Cleese’s closed mode.

By contrast, the open mode is relaxed, expansive, less purposeful, in which we’re probably more contemplative, more inclined to humor, which always accompanies a wider perspective, and consequently more playful. It’s a mode in which curiosity for its own sake can operate. Because we’re not under pressure to get a specific thing done quickly. We can play, and that is what allows our natural creativity to surface.” This probably applies most directly to something like Knytt, but it’s also how I felt when I played Cave Story. The game isn’t really open in the way we typically throw the word at games. It’s a fairly linear platform shooter. And yes, Cave Story provides clear goals, but it lets you forget them and shove them into the back of your mind. It lets you see the cave. It doesn’t tell you how to do anything when you start, so mechanical discovery accompanies aesthetic discovery, which allows the pleasure of learning a new language. Furthermore, the mechanics encourage creative play. As I progressed, I ended up switching guns sometimes as a direct response to the game’s stimuli, but other times I would opt for the strategy that brought the most interesting results. I can use the bubble gun to play defensively, but only if I’m quick and careful. Or I could opt for the sword because it only takes a couple good shots, but I better not miss. Cave Story’s gunplay provides immediate feedback to your performance, leveling up and down as you take damage and dish it out. There’s no obligation to adhere to a single strategy.

A State of Play

As I continued to absorb Cleese’s lecture, I kept thinking that the terms we use to categorize games (linear, open-world, etc.) align closely with these “moods” or “way[s] of operating” that Cleese discusses. Is this game linear or open-world? Are you playfully exploring, or are you ticking things off a list so you can get to the point? This is oversimplification of course, but it stands to reason that gameplay can facilitate a creative mood, but not all gameplay is (or even should be) creative. An achievements system, for example, seems to rely heavily on the closed mode. Chasing a platinum trophy might force you respond to a game differently, but it doesn’t really make you play creatively. It just gives you the satisfaction of completing something that’s possibly challenging, but undeniably completable, like washing dishes or doing your taxes. This sort of play sounds boring when you tell someone about it, but it’s not a bad thing, and sometimes a clear, achievable list of goals is exactly what someone needs. As, Cleese says “It’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent (like thinking). And it’s also easier to do little things that we know we can do than it is to start on big things that we’re not so sure about.

When people talk about their best gameplay experiences, they often turn to relatable experiences. “I played Fallout 3 without killing anything except the Radroach in the beginning!” “Oh yeah? I played through Fallout 2 as an idiot.” I don’t mean relatable in the sense that we can relate to them, but relatable in the sense that certain experiences lend well to narration, and the players themselves are often instrumental in making these moments in a game’s narrative interesting.  Through gameplay, the player engages in a creative process, and the result is an addition to the narrative, which can either highlight a game’s strengths or spotlight its breaking points. Cleese says that creativity is impossible in the closed mode, but I think his overarching discussion suggests that creating a finished product, or molding creativity into something tangible, requires both modes. Theoretically, if you remain in the open mode all the time, nothing substantial or polished will ever get done. But if you constantly remain in the closed mode, you’ll never create anything interesting. It makes sense that engaging gameplay makes use of both modes, as well. In the Fallout series especially, you’re checking things off of a list, but only to give yourself an excuse to explore every nook of a fascinating universe. You’re thinking “I don’t just want to play this game, I want to play this game in a way that’s interesting. I want to craft a unique experience.” That’s the creative process at work.

Musings

Too often we get stuck in the closed mode,” says Cleese. What I like about being a barista, or writing, or making music is the sense that the alteration of some minute detail can create an entirely different experience. But most of the time, while I’m at work I get stuck in the closed mode, thinking about how many dishes I have left to wash instead of allowing myself the time to free-pour a pristine latte. Similarly, I think we get bogged down with games sometimes because there’s simply too much to do. What was once an inviting ocean of exploration becomes an endless list of chores. It probably all has a lot to do with how a game introduces itself. If a game immediately tells you how to do everything and then asks you to go through the motions, then isn’t it also instructing you how to play? Does front-loading a tutorial encourage a player to remain in a closed mode? As Cave Story shows us, those first few moments can make all the difference.

For a long time I’ve thought that games give us release through explorable narrative. I know they can provoke an emotional response or intellectual stimulation, but ultimately, I didn’t think they could help me create something outside of criticism, since I’ve never made games myself. Now, I think that games can help us think creatively, and thus help us create. Creativity  solves the problem of the absence of art, and gameplay is essentially creative (though sometimes this aspect is less emphasized) problem solving.

Lately, I’ve been trying to think of the creative process as more of an exploration than a dogmatically structured exercise, and I think it’s made me more productive. When I’m recording, instead of trying to find the perfect sound, I search for an interesting sound and then accept it for what it is. Of course, then PLAYTIME IS OVER, and it’s time to switch to the closed mode and shape that sound into a larger, somewhat coherent structure. I’ve also been trying to view gameplay, in general, as more of a creative process, as I did intuitively with Cave Story, and I’ve found my experiences on that front more rewarding as well. Of course, this approach can’t work for every type of game, and ultimately, both the creative process and gameplay are different for everyone. So it’s probably best to take all of these words with a grain of salt. And then forget them. Except the ones that Cleese said.

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Why Freeware Games Matter

Freeware is freedom. Its resources are limited, but its only master is design. If a freeware game is bogged down by excessive content, then this is a product of its own vision, not consumers’ pocketbooks or executive greed. Freeware is the Cave Story that a man fawns over in his spare time for five years. It is Dwarf Fortress, challenging, rather than stymieing the potential of the human imagination. It is Cart Life, an empathetic artist‘s heartbreaking, yet hopeful, realism. These developers, nay artists, deserve to be paid for their work. But one of the reasons their work excels is they have made games that needed to be made rather than sold. They carried on, though they were never guaranteed a dime of support. There are so many component parts expected of modern games—music, art, writing, oh yeah and the “game” part—I’m surprised anything coherent ever gets done. A freeware game of substance is nothing short of a remarkable triumph of the human spirit.

Most commercial games would have greater impact (and would probably be more fun) if they took a fraction of the time to play through. I spent some time reviewing Triple A games, and in that span of time I reviewed some clunkers and some gems. My experiences, regardless of each game’s competence, all shared a common thread. As soon as I got whatever it was that the game wanted to say to me, its message was dampened,squashed even, by hours and hours of excessive content. I still play Triple A games (currently enjoying Final Fantasy XIII-2 in a terrible sort of way), but I don’t often write about them anymore or even play them all the way through. In general, commercial games are bogged down by more content than they need because that’s the standard.

The music industry’s loudness war is a similar phenomenon. Consumers expect music to maintain a consistent volume across an ever-increasing variety of devices, and publishers want their tracks to be just a bit louder and have just a bit more punch than the other songs on any given playlist. To keep up, sound engineers are forced to use more compression, so they can continue to boost volume and sell albums. As a result, music production, in general, has grown louder but less dynamic over the years. The commercial games industry’s equivalent of the loudness war is a sort of “hours war.” Commercial games are expensive because games are becoming more and more expensive to make. Since big-budget games are so expensive, players expect them to take up a certain, quantifiable amount of time. It rounds out to about a fifteen-twenty hour (or thereabouts) minimum time slot for a sixty-dollar price tag. But even that isn’t enough, really. According to consumers and critics, a game should ideally feel infinite and unlimited. In order for you to get your money’s worth, it should have the potential to take up more time than you have. Fortunately, the loudness war seems to be losing steam, but I’m not so optimistic about the hours war.

At first the idea seems strange, but the appeal of purchasing content we might never see is understandable. We’re just trying to stretch out the time that Electron Dance appropriately deemed “those honeymoon hours,” in which a game still feels like an exciting expedition into the unknown. Skyrim is one of those games that seems like it’s meant to be played forever. Isn’t it strange that we expect games that are meant to be played forever? It’s kind of exhausting to think about from a consumer’s point of view. And from a developer’s point of view, it must be pretty limiting in an “arrow to the knee” sort of way. Why should a game spend a ton of resources on wearing out its welcome instead of just ending and probably making a more meaningful impact? Skyrim fills its world with a staggering number of locales and NPCs. It takes a few minutes to remember where you are and where you should be going, about an hour to get your bearings in any given play session, about a day to make any discernible progress. Much of this time will be spent rifling through an inventory screen.

On the other hand, a strong argument can be made that games provide experiences that aren’t meant to be finished, as they allow us to continuously pursue expertise in a certain skill set. Playing Dwarf Fortress, a freeware title by two brilliant brothers, is sort of like pursuing fluency in an alien language. When you first look at the screen, you don’t see what you’re meant to see. After hours of patience and persistence (and access to the internet so you can get to the game’s wiki), the setting and its inhabitants gradually start to seep into the mind’s eye. Dwarf Fortress is another game that has the potential to be played (and possibly developed) forever. Nonetheless, it has a clear beginning and end. In fact, with its gigantic procedurally generated fantasy realms, it provides endless beginnings and endings. Because no matter how many clever strategies you implement, you will lose, and your fortress will fall. Dwarf Fortress is a phoenix of a game, with the capacity to enthrall over and over and over again, thrilling a player’s devoted imagination in fresh, wondrous ways with every rebirth. This game exists because two visionaries have devoted their lives to it. In a commercial setting, with a mandated development time and release date, it would have been an entirely different entity. By dismissing modern graphics, the developers have freed themselves to focus their attention on the game’s capacity for simulation. The result is a new standard for game mechanics and the transformation of keyboard characters into a sort of high art. Dwarf Fortress is an ever-evolving creature of artistic energy and technical prowess. It is a life’s great work.

It is worth saying that independent game development has already offered an answer to the time-sink problem by providing smaller, more thoughtful, titles at a lower price point. In addition, indie titles are practically given away periodically, bundled together and sold at a minimum as low as a few dollars. Similarly, mobile games offer an opposite end to the fifteen-hour minimum spectrum, but this development market has its own limiting burdens to bear. Mobile game developers are encouraged to provide instantly gratifying experiences that can be picked up and put down in a matter of seconds, so tons of people will throw a dollar their way. Of course, there’s always room for an explosion of innovative flair (like Sword & Sworcery EP) that transcends expectations.

It is important to purchase games, if one can afford to, because it is important to support those who make games for a living. Freeware compliments and enriches the commercial games industry, but it cannot displace it. However, it is also important to experience art for art’s sake, and freeware is just that. Paradoxically, it is both easier and more difficult for freeware to reach its audience. We inevitably engage with purchases differently than we do with something that simply presents itself to us. By spending money on something, we have already committed the time of our labor. To match this commitment, we feel an obligation to spend an adequate amount of leisure time before we dismiss this purchase and move on to something else. A freeware game, on the other hand, has a smaller window of time in which to prove itself. Without the prior monetary commitment, the player feels no obligation to enjoy it, so it is more easily dismissed. Sometimes it’s important to step back and remind ourselves that there are things worth paying attention to that won’t cost us anything more than a bit of our time. We are so unbelievably lucky.

(As for supporting developers, Bay 12 Games constantly works on Dwarf Fortress and accepts financial support. Newer versions of Cave Story are now available on multiple platforms. Cart Life has paid versions that contain additional content.)

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Cart Life by Richard Hofmeier

(Edit: I revisited this game in the interest of taking a more careful look at what’s important about it.)

First, watch this. More importantly, listen.


Awesome, right?

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you that I just spent the afternoon of my precious day off from the Starbucks where I work to play a retail/life simulator that meticulously recreates the process of pulling an espresso shot. What the hell is wrong with me? The fact that I’m subjecting myself to this may speak to Cart Life’s genius, but then again, maybe it just shows how skewed my perception of “fun” is. I’ve actually had a pipe dream of designing a game based on the barista/café experience for a couple of years now, but the scope of Cart Life is so much wider than anything I had imagined.

There is simply too much to be said about this game to review it properly. It is bleak, subtle, unassuming, somewhat grating, and at times frustrating all at once. But it somehow ludicrously manages to be fun as well. Have I mentioned that it probably makes the most poignant statement about real world, day-to-day existence I’ve ever seen in a game? The free version offers two playable characters, which I can already tell translates to hours upon hours of play. One of the characters is Andrus Poder, a guy with a cat named Mr. Glembovski, who works at a newspaper stand. The other is Melanie Emberly, who is going through a divorce and trying to get custody of her child, Laura. So far I’ve only played as Melanie, who resolves to start her own business—a modest coffee stand downtown—to prove she is capable of providing financial stability for Laura.

Cart Life really isn’t about coffee shops, but first off I’d like to talk about the game as a café/retail simulator because it’s the most clever I’ve ever seen or heard of and probably the best ever made. The retail experience it presents is riveting and frustrating and brilliant. When you encounter a customer, you can introduce yourself, ask him/her a question, or go straight to the sale. If you’re tired or hungry (you probably will be), then making the sale is the only option you have. But if you’re really tired or hungry, you don’t even have that option. This mechanic in itself speaks VOLUMES about the retail experience.

The game offers a near perfect deconstruction of the physical and mental process of preparing and selling a coffee beverage. When you sell someone a cup of coffee, you enter a step-by-step process, the first of which is a multiple choice question that asks what the customer just ordered (a. bagel, b. babysitter, c. coffee, d. you get the idea). In the next step, you have to type out a sentence displayed on the screen: “THE COFFEE IS DARKLY ROASTED” or “CAFFEINE IS A STIMULANT.” For the last step, you’re asked to calculate in your head the amount of change you owe the customer. The game also takes into account the type of drink the customer ordered. When you sell an americano, you have to set the grind, smooth the grind, tamp the grind, pull the shots, pour the shots into the cup, add the water, put the lid on the cup and hand the cup to the customer, using the arrow keys. This process reoccurs every single time you sell a cup of coffee. In addition, you can’t make cappuccinos or lattes until you’ve remembered to purchase milk from the grocery down the road a piece.

You may be thinking this sounds like the worst idea for a game since pro bass fishing. BUT YOU’RE WRONG. The whole process is pretty frantic and fast-paced. As you go through these (admittedly meticulous, but that’s sort of the point) motions, an 8-bit tune urges you on in the background, a timer runs and a customer patience meter rapidly depletes. If the meter gets low enough, you don’t get a tip. If the customer’s patience depletes completely, you don’t make the sale. At the end of the sale, you are notified if you achieved your best time, which urges you to move just a bit quicker with every sale. As you get used to what’s coming and your actions turn into muscle memory, a sort of rhythmic adrenaline rush emerges from the experience, not unlike the actual feeling you get from working a busy hour at a café.

All that said, Cart Life is really about people. It’s about balancing self-preservation with relationships and emotional stability. I spent my first night as Melanie wandering around in a seedy industrial district, trying to find the hardware shop where my sister, Rebecca, told me I could purchase a coffee stand. When I found the place and tried to go in, I got a notification regarding the store’s hours. I checked the menu to find that it was 2 a.m., and Melanie was starving and bone tired. I hadn’t spent ten minutes playing this game, and I was already failing. Those first few minutes told me three important things about how this world operates:

  1. The game gives you just enough information. The rest you have to figure out on your own.
  2. The clock doesn’t stop ticking, and it moves fast.
  3. This is not the sort of simulation that pats you on the back and makes you feel all warm and capable of conquering the world. It’s the other kind.

I had Melanie walk home because I didn’t want to waste money on a cab. I arrived around 3 a.m., passed out, and briefly wandered a nightmarish dreamscape before I was awoken the next morning by Rebecca with Mel’s sleep meter only about halfway full.

I spent the next few in-game days trying to get Melanie on her feet. I walked her daughter to school and back and asked around town to figure out what to do next. That, in itself, took me almost a full day. I purchased a permit from the courthouse to set up shop in the downtown area. Then, I bought cups, napkins, a coffeemaker and an espresso machine at the “Superstore.” By then, I didn’t have enough money left for the stand itself, so I had to pawn off Mel’s high-end watch and diamond wedding ring (she didn’t need it anymore anyway, right?) just to get started. On some days I spent most of my time simply learning new locations, and I paid for my indulgences in exploration with precious time, as Mel’s custody hearing drew ever closer. An hour or two in, and I hadn’t even made it to the retail simulation part (described above in annoying detail). I had spent all this time just living life, learning people’s names and getting started, and I was completely and utterly engrossed.

In a new, unfamiliar environment with new, unfamiliar people it is downright daunting to complete even the most menial of tasks. Add a stressful situation like the one Melanie is facing to the mix, and the challenge of day-to-day life increases exponentially. This is an aspect of the human experience that Cart Life knocks out of the park. In his extremely positive write-up on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Adam Smith poses a really good question, “It all sounds utterly depressing and why the hell would anyone want to play it?”

Hmmmmmmmmmm. There must be something in us that wants to help people. Or perhaps we want to believe that if the downtrodden simply have the drive to help themselves, then they can, if they just keep going. Or maybe it’s strangely comforting to see the toils of modern existence wrapped up in an aesthetically pleasing pixilated package with a killer soundtrack. Regardless, the game draws you in and doesn’t let go. Even when you stop playing, you’ll keep thinking about it. Cart Life is not hopeless. It’s too beautiful to be hopeless. It is unapologetically and, at times, punishingly real.

Edit: I know I wrote about this game because it’s free, but the paid version is only $5 dollars, and it gives you another character to play (which in this game translates to another deep narrative), as well as a digital copy of the excellent soundtrack. If anybody deserves your money, this guy does. 

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