Carcophony

There's panic on the streets of London. Panic on the streets of Birmingham. But don't just wonder to yourself. Bring order to the traffic chaos.* Create optimal traffic flows on 5 tactically-different maps* Increasingly difficult waves, bonuses and added surprises* Co-operative and competitive modes for up to 4 players* Optional extra challenges, high score tables, and game options

Developer GLPeas' mission statement more or less reads: fun(ction) before form; innovate, don't immitate; and no guns. For the most part, GLPeas succeeds with Carcophony, a unique puzzle game where the player must operate traffic signals to get colored cars to their destinations. It's certainly a novel concept, one I've not seen in the genre, and that alone makes Carcophony worth a look. Unfortunately, I have difficulty deciding if the game meets the first stipulation of that above statement, as the game is lacking in certain aspects where puzzle games really need to succeed.

Carcophony offers five maps with differing street patterns to play on: New Town, Spaghetti Junction, Ring Road, Cross Roads, and Magic Roundabout. Only the first three are accessible in the demo, but silhouettes of the final two tracks indicate a further ramping up of the difficulty as the grid more and more resemble pretzels with their twists and turns. Each map consists of some outer road loop with a few streets running along the inside. There are often traffic signals places at the intersections where the roads; pressing the A or B button rotates a turn signal to allow for traffic to come through. The player selects which signal to activate via a cursor, and the cars themselves will move on through the green lights looking to take the shortest path to their destination. White outlined cars enter the field along the outsides outskirts of the doughnut and are assigned a color once they enter the highway system. The simply goal of Carcophony is the ensure that the cars stay moving and make it to their destinations without too much gridlock, because once a traffic signal has ten cars waiting for it to turn, the game ends.

I rather like the concept behind Carcophony, and its execution is fine. What troubles me is that the game is neither all that challenging nor much fun. Carcophony is a slow moving game, and spinning traffic lights around lacks challenge and interest. While the occasional ambulance bonus for rushing the vehicle to the hospital can give the gameplay a momentary kick, it's quickly back to the drudgery of identifying where the lines are forming and seeing the cars through the blockage. Each wave requires a specific number of cars to be processed, but I could not discern any difference from wave to wave in the way of vehicle distribution or speed. Carcophony does start rotating the grid around for some reason upon completion of each wave, but that's more of a mild nuisance than anything else. As much as I wanted to enjoy Carcophony, three demo plays told me I could not. Despite being an innovative puzzler and doing what it does fine, the mechanics just weren't enjoyable or interesting enough for me to purchase. That said, Carcophony likely is improved with its local multi-player modes. The game offers competition and cooperative modes of player for up to four players, and I can see it having the appeal of a sedated ChuChu Rocket! with other people to compete against to gather cars. While the game itself may not be taxing, the addition of human opponents would likely stir things up a bit.

Carcophony is an odd duck. The name suggests panic and chaos, but the relaxed pace and low key soundtrack end up putting me to sleep rather than stimulating my mind as a good puzzle game should. It's a nice idea that just fails to captivate its audience, but I can see how in certain situations (namely multi-player) where the game may hold appeal. While the somber background music works against its favor, the graphics and presentation are competent, and the unique premise itself does hold some sway. Carcophony is definitely worth looking into for the puzzle fan and those looking for more easy going entertainment, but the game just didn't hit it off with me.

★★★☆☆
July 28, 2010
October 22, 2009 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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