Carto has a unique gameplay hook — you can rearrange the world map in real time to solve puzzles — but it smartly doesn't rely solely on it. You play as a small girl who's separated from her airship-flying grandmother, and must use some map-altering abilities to reunite the pair. However, this simple task has you traversing all manner of locations, where you'll meet lots of interesting characters. Despite the game's brevity, you'll grow fond of the supporting cast as you solve their problems.
The puzzles themselves aren't too taxing. You can zoom out at any time for a view of the whole map, where you can move and rotate pieces of the environment to suit the situation, or add new tiles you've collected. Meeting the requirements of side characters will reward you with new places to explore as each map gradually builds in size and complexity. It's not a challenging game, but solving each puzzle is satisfying, and what seems like a narrow concept leads to some great ideas. In a way, it's a shame the game isn't longer to allow the mechanic a little more room to grow. There's so much potential that isn't quite reached here.
But, again, the map-moving puzzles are only part of the appeal. A real strength of Carto is its cast of NPCs, written with real warmth and charm. The world they inhabit is also surprisingly well fleshed out, even though you can breeze through it in six or seven hours. This is a puzzle game, but it also tells a sweet, worthwhile tale about tradition and companionship. Combined with lovely visuals and chilled out music, this is a refreshing, relaxing game that's worth marking on your map.