REVIEW: Carnival Games (Nintendo Wii)

Carnival Games
Genre: Mini-Game Collection
Publisher: Global Star Software
Developer: Cat Daddy Games
Release Date: 8/29/2007

Been a while hasn’t it? For a little over a month I’ve been int he process of moving from Minneapolis to Washington D.C. Getting settled into my new house and surroundings was higher on the priority list than video game reviewing. I’m back now though, so you can all pump your fists in the air and let out a little cheer. Time to shake off the ring rust and write something.

I’ve never been a “party gamer,” but Carnival games was one of the few Wii titles I was especially looking forward to. I think it’s because I missed the MN State Fair this year and I’d usually go to that with a bunch of friends and stuff my face with food I would never put into my body the other 364 days of the year. With the State Fair comes carnie games, but as most of those are rigged and expensive at the fair, I never really played them past my first year of living there. With the new video game by Cat Daddy (Makers of all those Tycoon games for the PC), I knew I could play things like Skee Ball and Ring Toss whenever I wanted. With over two dozen games on this disc, and the addictive Wii controls to boot, I knew this would be a game I would at least want to play, if not add to my collection.

So how was the game? Was it a diamond in the rough that should be sought out rather than looked over, or was it a high price purchase that gave me little reward…just like a real carnival? Let’s find out.

Let’s Review

1. Modes

One of the first things that happens when you boot up Carnival Games is you get a barker selling you on all the options available. There are two basic modes of play: Single Player and Multi-Player. Within each mode, is an arresting number of options.

Single Player mode allows a solo gamer to play any of the carnival games he or she wants, in whatever order they choose. Depending how good you are at specific games, you can earn prizes and tickets. There are three levels of prizes you can earn in a game. If you collect enough prizes of one level in a specific game, you can upgrade to a larger prize. Eventually you can trade in the highest level of prize you can win (large) for the GRAND PRIZE for each event. This usually also unlocks something for you, which is a nice treat.

With tickets, you can can unlock customizing items for your character. Ninja masks, clown noses, elephant feet, and others await you. Currently we have a chicken ninja and pirate monkey in our character designs. Like most games though, the female characters have a lot more options awaiting them than the male designs.

There are two versions of Multi-Player mode. The first is called Head to head, and here one to four of your friends play a single event to see who is the best. The far more popular choice is Competition, in which up to four of you play in a series of five randomly determined mini games. This is enjoyable, except like in real life, there are some events that are nigh impossible to even score in, much less do well. Nothing sucks life out of a fun competition than when Coin Toss is the next game. Still, every collection of mini-games has their weak spots, and this is no exception.

The options here are nice. Single player lets your learn and master games at your own pace while unlocking stupid yet cute items for your personas. Multi-player is the real meat of the game, but by not letting you have the ability to choose what games you’ll be playing can take some fun out of the whole thing. With this option, Carnival Games would have been unbeatable. Instead it’s merely enjoyable instead of crazy awesome.

I will say that out of all my friends, this game is currently the second most popular, behind Wii Sports. That says something in its favor.

Modes Rating: 6/10

2. Graphics Rating

Okay, this is not a pretty game. What Wii game is besides Zelda:TP though? Carnival games definitely looks like an N64 or early 1990’s PC game. Of course thw whole point of the Wii is gameplay over graphics, but its no denying this is one ugly game.

The problem is the character models are ugly and obnoxious. Now i can totally understand this for the carnies. I mean carnies are after all, stereotyped as a half step up from toothless Ozarkian hillbillies.The playable characters are very blocky and the lack of arms is a bit disconcerting. It works for the Miis, but not for the personas you have in this game. Here it just comes off creepy and a lot of it is the difference in graphical style.

The actual games themselves look decent. It’s hard not to make an accurate boller coaster game or balloon darts in 2007. Still, the colours are drab and unappealing.

Graphics are definitely the weakest part of Carnival games. It’s probably the ugliest in my Wii library after Alien Syndrome.

Graphics Rating: 4/10

3. Sound

I love the sound in the game. The voice acting is spot on, from the barker’s eggagerations and massive use of hyperbole to the creepy carnie voices saying things like, “Hey, Bowler Coaster is in your blood.” The music sounds like it was ripped straight from the midway. What this game lacks in visual appeal, it more than makes up in aural quality.

Sound effects are subtle but equally enjoyable. The sound of milk bottles crashing over. The blips of an old arcade machine, the spraying of seltzer water. These are things that Carnival Games does exceptionally well, and they’re sounds you normally wouldn’t hear in a video game. I was impressed by nearly ever game and how much it sounded true to life, even if it didn’t look it.

Sound is always a big factor in real life carnivals. The ability to sell a game as winnable instead of the reality of being rigged. The barker hyping up an event or attraction that is going to be underwhelming, but his words and emotion convince you to buy tickets anyway. Carnivals are built on words and sounds, and much like reality, this video game sticks to the winning formula.

Sound Rating: 7/10

4. Control and Gameplay

I’ve noticed third party games games just aren’t as good as Nintendo made ones when it comes to the Wii controls. This statement is fairly obvious, but Carnival games seems to be the exception here as it handles incredibly well. There are a few games where the game seems impossible, but that’s by design and emulating the real game rather than poor controls or a lack of collision detection.

We did find a bug or two in the game. The longer you play the game, the more like a graphical error will occur where the midway (screen where you choose between various games) will be blurry and unreadable/watchable. You’ll have to exit out of the screen, sometimes all the way out of the game and then continue. This only happened twice in the time we had the game, and both immediately after there was a pretty big “wii-tard” moment, and it hasn’t happened since, so I’m going to chalk it up as a one time thing but still warn consumers it did happen and could potentially happen to you as well.

Games all play very similar to how they would in real life. In Balloon Darts you hold your controller like an actual dart. With Pigskin Pass, you’ll throw the football as you normally would. Just don’t let go of the wii-mote. There’s a lot of games where you’ll underhand throw like one would in softaball, games where you overhand throw something, and even a game where you will shake the wii-mote until your arm feels like it is going to separate from your socket. It’s great!

Gameplay-wise, I have to say that Carnival Games is the best non Nintendo games I’ve had the pleasure of playing. Where other games have “issues” like Super Monkey Ball or Bust A Move if more than 2 people are playing it, Carnival Games is damn near flawless, even with all four players hammering on their controller like morons. If you’re looking for a collection of mini games that doesn’t involve Mario or other fictional characters, Carnival Games is going to be your best bet.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 7/10

5. Replayability

Like most Wii games, Carnival games is best suited for multi-player use in the longer scheme of things. Single Player mode is fun but also a bit tedious and frustrating to play through at times. Because some games are based entirely on luck, it prevents a gamer from ever really connecting or enjoying what they are doing. At the heart of each video game, there has to be a degree of skill involved that a player must learn and master in order for it to be something of quality. Otherwise its just gambling. Alas, some of these mini games don’t have them and its simply a waste of time to play Lucky Cups knowing you will never get better at the game. Instead, you’re just at the mercy of the Wii.

Multi-Player mode is what will keep you from turning this in to your local EB or independent gaming store for credit. The games are all fun and addictive, and even if you do get a night impossible game, at least you’re all laughing and bemoaning the evil of it.

With roughly 30 games you can play (25 to start; you have to unlock the rest_, Carnival Games can consume a lot of your free time. Luckily all the games are short so that even if you only have a five minute break, you can get that Skee Ball fix you’ve been craving.

I actually prefer this to the Mario and Wario mini-games I’ve played in the past few years. With solid controls, a highly original concept and a bit of childhood nostalgia all rolled into one, Carnival Games is going to see a lot of play by those that crack its case open.

Replayability Rating: 7/10

6. Balance

The mini games in Carnival Games are either hit or miss. Out of the 25 games that you can choose from at the beginning, two are damn near impossible to ever do well at. The other 23 are pretty well done, even if there is more luck than skill with some. As long as you avoid Lucky Cups and Collection Plate, you’ll find the games to be pretty balanced and fun. Some are even easier than in real life since they aren’t partially or fully rigged like you’d see in a real carnival.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that with the myriad of games contained on this small disc that quality was not sacrificed for quantity. Each game has their own rules, but the physics are sound and you’ll find each game to be pretty instinctual. With some games, the better you get, the tougher the AI/difficulty of the next stage gets, which is great .A little variety in these mini games goes a long way.

I find there to be some sort of irony here that Carnival Games is more enjoyable, less frustrating, and less creepy than a real carnival. The only missing is food that are heavily saturated in fat being impaled on a stick.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

This is the only carnival game I can think of. Considering its 2007, it amazes me something along these lines hasn’t been done before. The concept seems like something that would have originally appeared in the 8 or 16 bit days. The fact this is the first time a game of this nature and genre has appeared gives it high marks in this category.

The Wii controls are fairly nice as well. It’s interesting that some games, like Hole in One, have similar controls to Wii Sports, yet there is enough difference in gameplay to allow the two games to stand apart.

Carnival Games was a much needed breath of fresh air in my opinion. It’s what developers SHOULD be doing with the Wii. Try new things, new genres, new innovations and entirely out there ideas for games. This is not the system to put your latest licensed cartoon character game or fifth or sixth sequel to a franchise series. Don’t waste the system’s potential: make something new.

Originality Rating: 10/10

8. Appeal Factor

So far, I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy this game. Even people I know who don’t so much as touch video games got addicted and heavily into Carnival Games when I put the wii-mote in their hand. It’s a wonderful party game and its one of those rare games that manages to appeal to everyone while still maintaining a pretty consistent level of quality across the board. This is exactly what I wanted to see from the Wii, and makes Carnival Games one of the rare games of 2007 that hasn’t let me down horribly. Play the game, let your friends play the game, teach a monkey to play the game. The end result will be the same: You will have fun.

Appeal Factor: 10/10

9. Addictiveness

Although it is quite easy to get into the game and play certain activities over and over again until your limbs hurt, there are some that just take you completely out of the enjoyment factor. We’ve covered some of them earlier, so there is no need to beat a dead horse. Multi-player mode also has that randomization factor where you can’t control what you play, and that’s a bit enough. Especially since “Day at the Races” seems to come up in every competition.

Single Player mode does get a bit boring after a while as the only reward is custom bits for your character,. The few super events you unlock like Super Balloon Darts and Super Hoops are a bit underwhelming in terms of a “prize” for getting really good at the events. The originals are superior to the special versions and you’re rarely touch them after the first unlocking.

That being said, here’s a youtube video of us playing on Friday. Watch my friend Vlad get so sucked in that he forgets he’s not actually playing basketball. Watch Lori be so engrossed in the game she doesn’t even blink when a wiitard moment occurs.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

Carnival Games turned out to be a good game I could heartily recommend to anyone. It’s become my favorite game released for the Wii in 2007 and is an example of how games for the system should be rather than say…Escape From Bug Island. Because CG is done by an indy publisher I’m sure the game fill pass many a radar, but seriously: PICK THE DAMN GAME UP. This is one of only two games this year I’ve slapped a “GOOD” or better rating on…with the other being Pokemon D/P, which surprises no one.

That’s not to say Carnival Games doesn’t have flaws. It certainly does. The rewards you get are lackluster and the prizes are often hokey. The unlockable parts are cheesy, but with their own weird sense of charm. Some games are impossible,while others actually are designed to hurt your limbs. Some games are boring, and there was that weird graphical bug we found. No game is perfect after all, and there’s a lot Carnival games could have done to improve itself but didn’t for whatever reason.

At the end of the day though, it’s still a decently made game and I hope to see more releases by Global Star in the near future for the Wii.

Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

The Scores
Modes: 6/10
Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 7/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 10/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 10/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10
Total Score: 72/100

Final Score: 7.0/10 (GOOD)

Short Attention Span Summary
Like most games on the Wii, CG is a nice compilation of distractions and multiplayer goodness. I’m still waiting for a quality single player game for the system, and I don’t think I’m likely to see that anytime soon. Here’s hoping though.



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