Carota! mixes puzzling fun with more than a few flaws
On its iTunes page, Carota! is described as an “SNES-styled puzzle game” which was inspired by the likes of Pipe Dream. However, instead of connecting pipes to contain a slow-but-steady ooze, you are instead helping Thaddeus the Cabbit make his way back to the surface after being knocked down a hole into what looks like the wrong side of the tracks in Wonderland. To do this, you must twist and maneuver tiles into place so that he can reach the goal.
Of course, that’s the simple version. Solving the puzzles in Carota! is actually considerably more complex, as there are many factors to consider with the tiles. For one, Thaddeus must clear (i.e. cross) a certain number of tiles before the exit will open. And often only tiles of a certain color/type will count. You’ll also find yourself frequently needing to turn and even move the tiles as he makes his way across them, seldom straying from his straight path.
Oh, and the tiles begin to sink as soon as he steps on them, and Thaddeus cannot go back to a tile he’s already crossed. Further complicating things are the addition of tiles with special attributes as you progress. Slippery blue water tiles sometimes require you to know what move to make immediately after the stage begins, and the bouncy mushroom tiles may mark the end of the road for you, as they will toss you into a pit in no time at all.
There are a lot of elements to manage in the course of getting Thaddeus from Point A to Point B. The touchscreen controls manage to be up to the task, but only just. On more than one occasion we would find that the game would simply not respond when we touched the screen to either move or turn a tile, or even press a menu button. In addition, being able to move fast is a must, yet in attempting to drag tiles, the game often can’t keep up. This becomes even more problematic as you cannot drag a new tile across a sunken one, meaning that movements must be quick and precise.
It is by no means impossible to do, but it often feels as much like one is fighting the game as they are playing it.
This isn’t helped by how unclear some things are at first. During the opening level, we experienced repeated frustration as the drawbridge marking the end of the level would open, yet no matter what, we could not get Thaddeus to cross it. Only later– and by happenstance– did we learn we weren’t trying to get him onto the drawbridge, but into the hole behind it, necessitating an extra tile movement.
In addition, other details which would have been useful to know were revealed to us, but only after we had figured them out and made use of them ourselves. Interestingly enough, this improved as the game went on and we were given useful info before it was to be applied, but why they would hold back at the outset of the game is anyone’s guess.
Another issue is that in less-difficult stages, it seems that the number of panels needed to be cleared as a prerequisite to opening the exit can feel rather high. As a result, it comes off as though they’re padding the levels as you repeatedly move Thaddeus around in circles. This goes on until enough extra tiles have come and gone that you can leave, and by that point, it begins to feel a bit boring.
All in all, Carota! is a moderately fun puzzle game, though it can get fiendishly difficult, a factor not helped by the controls. But between that and the padding sensation, we aren’t left with any overwhelming eagerness to replay it.