C.A.R.L. (Xbox One) Review with stream

Created by the same team that released the indie hit A Robot Named Fight along with a YouTuber, C.A.R.L. is a classic platforming action game that takes a lot of notes from retro DOS titles like Jazz Jackrabbit and even Cave Story. It is a new, retro-style game well done and has plenty of personality to call its own.

Just about everything is associated with an acronym including the main character. Playing as a goofy robot named the Computer Automated Resource Locator, it is your job to navigate the hazards of each stage, perform plenty of environmental puzzle platforming by hitting switches, and collect tons of optional items all from a classic 2D side scrolling perspective.

In addition to collecting the bolts that drop from defeated enemies that act as upgrading currency, the gimmick behind this retro throwback comes from the numerous collectables hidden within each stage. Whether it is collecting baseball cards that provide detail about every character, to finding secret arcade joysticks which unlock re-skinned classic arcade titles, there is something new to collect in every stage.

In between stages, the player is given freedom to roam the hub world and talk to NPCs. This is how the player can upgrade CARL. Unfortunately, my biggest complaint comes from this hub area; it is too big and takes too long to get to where you need to go. Additionally, it is confusing to remember which character can upgrade what so you might need to tediously check each station before you find the right one. I found myself not wanting to cash in my upgrades until I had a stockpile just because I didn’t want to navigate the hub area.

CARL is also a character unto himself. Armed with a simple laser pistol and a single jump, this robot will eventually get stronger and gain new abilities. His running animation steals the show. Instead of running, he shuffles his feet in a comical way that never gets old. The only downside is the loose play control that comes with it. His jumping and feet shuffling animation make him feel like he is always on ice which can make tight platforming more difficult that it should be. To compensate, the player is given unlimited lives and will restart from a checkpoint that is usually just seconds away.

Unfortunately, there is no way to pan the camera so it is easy to be cheated with an occasional blind jump. There are some slight pacing issues as well.  For example, the game indicates which items that were missed in each stage with a silhouette before entering it. I struggled to find a few things in the early stages and eventually just gave up. It wasn’t until I unlocked new abilities later the game, like the double jump, was I finally able to collect these out of reach items. Some players might like the “use that new ability to get the new thing” Metroid-like gameplay but I found replaying entire stages to be a bit tedious if you wanted to get everything. Often times secrets are hidden behind walls that look solid but can be walked through without indication so you might be left scratching your head regarding the location of these secrets. Bosses are also tough, to the point of being unfair, and you cannot skip their opening speech with each attempt.

Even with some quality-of-life issues, C.A.R.L. is still a fun, retro platformer at a budget price. It isn’t anything you have not played before and hitting dozens of switches gets old after a while, but there is something about a simple platformer that constantly upgrades with the player that is appealing.

SCORE: 8/10

Also Play: any version of Cave Story

Don’t Forget About: Kero Blaster

Sort Of Reminds Me Of: Avocuddle

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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