C.A.R.L. is an action platformer for the Nintendo Switch. It unashamedly harkens back to the classics of yesteryear with solid gameplay and plenty of collectibles to keep you coming back for more. Let’s find out what makes it tick.

You play the role of a cute robot coincidently named C.A.R.L. There’s something amiss at the local robotics factory, and it’s up to you and a human friend to sort things out before they get out of control. The premise is simple; make your way through various stages to defeat the corrupt scientist controlling the factory. 

The game is broken up into four sections, each composed of five levels. The end of each section features a fun boss fight. The stages themselves are set in parts of the factory with amusing twists, like a robotic gym. It keeps things fresh in an overcrowded genre, with humorous signs and objects dotted around the environment to keep you engaged.

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Between levels, C.A.R.L. can explore a home base set in a junkyard. Here, he can interact with various abandoned robots. It provides a deeper experience than expected as you navigate the area and learn more about the nefarious plot. Most robots offer advice or assistance, with plenty of unlockable upgrades to keep your enemies on their toes. 

These interactions and upgrades provide a simple RPG experience that’s fairly light hearted in tone. For example, everyone’s name is spelt with an acronym, just like our hero. If you enjoy the sound of an army general named S.A.R.G.E., then you’ll probably enjoy the humor on offer. There’s plenty to giggle (or roll your eyes) at, and it’s all innocent enough to add to the charm without being overly distracting. 

The controls work really well. This is something that always concerns me when starting a new platformer. As simple as it seems, it’s actually hard to get the perfect balance of jumping and running. I’m forever comparing platformers with the high quality of Mario’s outings, but the developers have done a great job here. It elevates the game above some of its counterparts to create an enjoyable experience.

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Another positive aspect is the large amount of collectibles hidden throughout each level. Your minimum goal is to find three computer parts; attaining all three opens the exit. However, there are also many optional collectibles to test your skills. These come in the form of medals, CDs, green computer parts, and trading cards. A handy indicator shows your progress, giving completionists plenty to do if they want to tick everything off the list. Some items are tricky to find, using hidden walls or labyrinthine pathways to keep you scratching your head as to their whereabouts. Even finding the default three components is sometimes a challenge.

That said, C.A.R.L. isn’t overly difficult. With only 20 or so levels, it isn’t particularly long, either. Collectibles aside, you’re looking at a few hours of gameplay in total. At $14.99, it’s on the cusp of being unjustifiable; I’d prefer to see it at about the $10 mark.

Still, I appreciate the developer’s efforts in creating an enjoyable experience overall. The interface is simple to navigate, and, as mentioned earlier, the character is easy to control. Graphically, C.A.R.L. successfully imitates classic games like Commander Keen, with a strong retro vibe. This aesthetic goes hand in hand with the excellent chiptune music to complete the nostalgic feel. 

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Overall, C.A.R.L is a short and sweet platformer with RPG vibes that captures the fun of classic arcade games from the ‘80s and ‘90s. The quirky humor and many collectibles make this a title that’s sure to keep genre fans entertained.