What do a coffee stand, divorce hearings, COPD, and selling newspapers have in common? Indie developer Richard Hofmeier’s Cart Life features them all. This “retail simulator” deals with more human situations and hard decisions than most blockbuster games.
This “retail simulator” deals with more human situations and hard decisions than most blockbuster games.
While cruising Giant Bomb’s website reading news and watching some videos I came across a Quick Look for Cart Life. After watching the Bomb crew play the game for a bit, I was interested enough to go and download Cart Life myself.
The game is available in three purchasing tiers. The free tier gives you the game with access to the first two characters, Melanie Emberly and Andrus Poder. The second tier costs $5 and it includes the game, Melanie, Andrus, and includes a third character, Vinny. It also includes the full soundtrack, and an additional game Lawn Defender. The third tier has everything the second tier has and also includes three books from Eddie’s Bookstore, and an original cartoon by the Cart Life’s author, delivered in a silver canister. (Being the frugal consumer I am, I went with the free version.)
Struggles of Andrus
I fired up Cart Life and was confronted with the option of whether to play as Melanie or Andrus. Since the Quick Look featured Melanie, I decided to give Andrus a try. Andrus is an immigrant from the Ukraine who moved to the U.S wanting to start a new life. Having only himself and his cat, Mr. Glembovski, Andrus buys a newspaper stand with the dreams of getting his own place. I spent the next hour or so balancing Andrus’ needs and responsibilities. These included buying groceries and cigarettes, eating sleeping, and smoking only to mention a few.
Cart Life forces you to manage Andrus’ finances, his nicotine habit, stock and run his newspaper stand, and care for Mr. Glembovski. This tiny snapshot of the life of an immigrant struggling to form a new life was heartfelt, and sympathetic. I grew to love Mr. Poder as I spent more time with him. I felt for him and his plight. It made me sympathetic to the people out there in real life that have these trials in their life.
Hardships of Melanie
After spending some time with Andrus, I switched over to Melanie. She is a divorced mother living with her sister trying to get 50/50 custody of her daughter, all while trying to open up a coffee stand. I spent time with her and her daughter, went to divorce court proceedings and spent long days with her making drinks and figuring out change. When you get a chance to see someone’s life in such an intimate way, you feel yourself experiencing their problems in a way you never thought possible. I never thought a divorced mother’s struggle would ever affect me on such a personal level. I felt deeply for the characters. I wanted to do anything in my power to help them. I’ve died a million times, and made a ton of hard decisions before in video games but I’ve never felt such an emotional impact and weight than when I let one of the characters down. It was crushing when I had to sell my wedding ring for money to get coffee supplies. I was worried sick as Andrus desperately looked for Mr. Glembovski when he ran away. Not since the Walking Dead have I cared so much about my actions and decisions.
It made me sympathetic to the people out there in real life that have these trials in their life.
Cart Life may seem like a simple retail simulator, but it is much more. You find yourself struggling alongside these characters. They feel like family, and you are just as concerned about the events of their lives as they are. I never thought a game could make me feel the crushing weight of divorce, but Cart Life managed do something special. It turned a video game into an insightful and sympathetic portrait into the hurdles in one’s life.