Carcophony is a 1-4 player game where the aim is to control traffic lights (red or green, no orange here!) to aid the flow of traffic. Cars spawn as a colour, and the idea is to get those vehicles to their respective colour-coordinated home. As there are multiple spawn points on the increasingly-complicated maps, and each colour has a home far away from each other, the difficulty can quickly ramp up. The trick to the game is that the lights don’t automatically change colour – the only thing that can change the flow of traffic is you, so you are expected to be watching all your stop lights carefully to prevent backlog! To make matters worse, the gameboard can rotate slightly, forcing you to be aware of the map, rather than just “corners” or positions, and even worse, the occasional ambulance might need through, so you better be able to accommodate the emergency! The game ultimately ends when you have failed to let traffic flow smoothly, and a backlog occurs at some point on the map.
The gameplay is well designed, easy to understand, and introduced gently through a clear tutorial, and the difficulty slowly scales up through the levels. The single player, while trying, does not get nigh-impossible until a fair ways in, and serves as a good way to relax, or as a venue for training up for multiplayer.
Artistically, the game meets its goal with flying colours: The art is simple, smooth, and subtle. The choices of colour were spot on – nothing is glaring or ambiguous, and the simplified graphics are an excellent choice, much like how highly detailed Monopoly pieces would be more of a distraction than of any use. The cars travel smoothly, and when traffic becomes too deadlocked, the cars flash dangerously red accordingly. The music is of similar design, and at the risk of repetition, is simple, smooth, and subtle; Gentle piano music plays at a reasonable tempo, sounding quite unlike the brute midis some other XBLIG show off.
The game has a simplicity to its design that offers itself well to replayability, but ultimately, a game’s lasting appeal depends on its multiplayer, and this game is well aware of that. Offering both 2player co-op gameplay and 2-4player competitive (sadly only local), the raw gameplay stays the same, but with the added “threat” of good combos dropping road hazards onto the opponent’s map. If you’ve got a few sly friends, multiplayer on this game shouldn’t be missed.
I concede that this game is not for everyone; because the game screen can often get “busy” with multiple lights demanding your attention, if you prefer your casual games to be casually-paced, you might find this a tad too twitchy for you. But, if like me, you don’t mind the occasional cacophony, you might just fall in love with Carcophony.
You can check out a video of the game here.
Carcophony scores – 10/10
Download a free trial here