It’s unusual for me to find a platform game that I would call fun (see my review of ilomilo for more on this), even more unusual that I should return to it again and again. But that is exactly what has been happening with Call of Carlos, a free Windows Phone game that features a jumping diamond miner, his versatile pickaxe and some fast-rising molten lava!
Surely it can’t be the promise of virtual riches as Carlos collects the diamonds, so what is the attraction? Could it be the gameplay? Has someone finally found a platform arcade game that a confirmed strategy fan can go back to again and again without feeling dirty?
What Is Carlos’ Call?
A few years ago, pre-Windows Phone, I was using a low-spec Android device. Sadly I was unable to play the majority of games that were then available, but one that I did enjoy was Gem Miner.
After reading the initial description of Call of Carlos, I has expected to find a quite similar game – but in fact, it is very different. Games like Gem Miner are quite tactical, requiring careful planning to use oxygen and money wisely. Call of Carlos, meanwhile, is much closer to a Super Mario or Pacman in terms of its arcade roots. The name Manic Miner also springs to mind, but this is a game with only one way to lose a life.
So unlike his mining colleague on Android, Call of Carlos isn’t digging for gems and rarities – instead, he’s attempting to grab as many diamonds as he can before being caught by the fast-rising lava!
Note that this is a non-Xbox Live title. Call of Carlos doesn’t have achievements that can be unlocked to improve your Gamerscore.
How The Game Plays
Call of Carlos is a fun game that draws you in with the urgency of the task and the ease with which the challenges can be approached. Starting at the bottom of a mine shaft, you must guide Carlos to the exit, avoiding the rapidly approaching molten lava.
This is achieved by rocking your phone left and right to direct Carlos, while tapping on the screen to direct the miner to swing his pickaxe and leap across chasms. Doing this successfully can prove difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it you should get right into it!
Older gamers may feel some familiarity with Call of Carlos – the approach isn’t unlike the 1983 Spanish game for the 8-bit platforms of the MSX, Commodore 63 and Sinclair Spectrum of Bugaboo the Flea (later repackaged as Roland in the Caves on Amstrad and Schneider computers across Europe).
Successful escapes are possible – but there are multiple routes through the mines, with those that yield diamonds naturally offering the most points. Additionally bonuses are awarded for fast completion times, the number of chains created (that is, the number of consecutive pickaxe swings) and the length of the longest chain.
As the game progresses, escape becomes more difficult, with the path to the exit becoming harder to navigate, the length of the levels and the speed of the lava seemingly increasing!
Graphics & Sound
Audio is limited to an intro chime to each level, the sound of pickaxes swinging and the boiling of the lava, with the occasional “ping!” each time you collect a diamond.
Graphics are cartoony and detailed, with Carlos himself the stereotypical Mexican complete with stubble, maracas and sombrero. Effort has been put into the “landscape” of the mines, with skulls, cobwebs and other details placed in view partly as a distraction and partly to make you chuckle!
Despite my initial disappointment, Call of Carlos is a good fun game with cartoony graphics that perfectly fit the tone.
While the sound might be quite basic and the levels prone to repetition fatigue, the user interface is challenging enough to keep the game interesting. You get the feeling that there is always going to be a way to complete the level – it just depends on how athletic your arms are feeling!
So, a good game that is fun to play – a rarity for single player titles. You might look “a sight” to any observers wondering exactly what it is that you’re doing, particularly if you opt to play in public, but you certainly won’t look any more ridiculous than a Wii owner.