Cart Life, one of the most incredible games ever made, is coming back.
I discovered Cart Life eleven years ago. Some guy called Richard Hofmeier followed me on Twitter – a new follower was not that unusual an occurrence. But it was unusual that I clicked back through random dude’s Twitter bio. I discovered Hofmeier had released a game called Cart Life several months earlier and the trailer was wild. This was how I described my reaction:
And I was thinking: hang on, that doesn’t look like a game, it looks like the sort of stupid “ideal game” I fantasised about when I was 7 years old, where the game is so brilliantly immersive it has fractal detail.
I downloaded the free version and gave it a whirl. Reader, I was shocked. I had never experienced any game like this in my entire life. I wrote:
Cart Life depicts life as a street vendor. Each of the three playable characters (only two available in the free version) have a different business and a different life. This is the crucial point. Cart Life breaks out of its narrow confines as a “retail simulation” and bulldozes into bigger questions about personal ambition, determination and work-life balance.
Everything about Cart Life seemed to break game design taboos. It was the first game I played, for example, where a purchasing menu didn’t pause time. I rang all the village bells and sent an emergency communication to Rock Paper Shotgun begging them to take a look, which they duly did. Soon enough, Doug “JS Joust” Wilson encouraged Hofmeier to submit Cart Life to IGF. It won three awards. And I even flew to the first IndieCade East to meet Hofmeier because I really was that much of a fanboi.
However, the success of Cart Life was the ruination of Cart Life.
It was a hugely ambitious work that was infested with bugs and soon enough everyone was banging on Hofmeier’s door to fix the game. While many bugs were fixed, Hofmeier eventually pulled it from Steam and turned it over to the masses as open source. But even the source download disappeared in time, although it seems someone saved a copy on github.
Now independent game developer AdHoc Studio is working with Hofmeier to bring Cart Life back to Steam. Wired has some detail on how this came to happen but, in a nutshell, AdHoc cofounder Pierre Shorette thinks the game is too important to fall into obscurity. There’s a Steam page already and an announcement trailer I’ve embedded below.
It’s really lovely to see Cart Life being brought back to life.
I bought Hofmeier’s followup project Type Dreams and still haven’t played it – although I was wise to download a copy before it too disappeared from itch. Maybe Type Dreams will also make a comeback. I can only hope.