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Carnival Games (Wii)

Platform(s): Wii
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Global Star Software
Developer: Cat Daddy Games


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NDS Review - 'Carnival Games'

by Richard Poskozim on March 11, 2009 @ 5:58 a.m. PDT

Genre: Mini-Games
Publisher: 2K Play
Developer: Cat Daddy Games
Release Date: July 8, 2008

Hopefully everyone has heard the term "carny" before. Anyone who's been to a carnival, amusement park or state fair has likely been exposed to the particular brand of huckstering that these folks, as a stereotype, are known for. Their voices are loud and grating, imploring you to "Step right up" and "Try your hand at dazzling games of fortune." What they're really saying underneath all that cheery salesmanship and incomprehensible lingo is, "Come here and waste your time and money on a game that won't get you anything."

It'd take a real ace of a carny to sell Carnival Games for the Nintendo DS. Fortunately, as a game reviewer, that's not my job. I don't speak the lingo, and I'm not nearly loud enough anyway. What I can tell you is to step away from this short and meaningless collection of themed mini-games on Nintendo's portable console. The game has no point, progression, story or fun.

After booting up Carnival Games for the DS, you're greeted with the creepy face of a Coney Island carny on a squat, digitized body. The art direction goes beyond bad and into the realm of unbearable, and it only gets worse as you move past the opening title slide and into the real game. The characters are all short and stout, including your created avatar and all of the other simulated children who run around the carnival grounds. The rendering of the models seems about as technically advanced as anything on the DS, but it somehow manages to be uglier, as if the bodies were ripped straight from another DS game and the features were pasted in from clip art. The fairground isn't much better. It features cloned grass and dirt, with some very generic tents to represent the games that you can play.

Things look up once you enter a game from the main hub world. The graphics have a more hand-drawn look to them, and you get to actually do something other than move your avatar in circles with the touch-screen. Carnival Games has about over 20 mini-games to choose from, and each one requires a specific amount of tickets to play, just like a real carnival. Unlike a real carnival, you don't have to shell out any more cash than your entrance fee to snag tickets. All you need to do is beat the games that are already available, and you'll likely snag all of the tickets that you need in no time. You should anyway, since there's nothing else to do except accumulate clothing and accessories for your character.

The mini-games are actually decently varied, but none of them are anything beyond a slight distraction. Right from the start, you have access to games like Frog Leap and "Alley Ball," which will enable you to rack up the tickets you need to get around to the rest of the games. The skee ball mini-game is a good enough start, asking you to drag the ball across the touch-screen and give it the momentum and direction to get up the alley. It's tricky at first, but easy to master, since there's only one simple motion that you need to score well with every shot.

Frog Leap is really no different, but there's more timing to it. You have to launch frogs onto lily pads, birds onto nests, and cannonballs into pirate ships as they float in two different rows on the top screen. It's clever and a bit tougher to get the hang of, but you'll be an old pro after a few repeats.

There are plenty of other varieties of games, including RC racing with the d-pad and an awful wire-tracing game where the biggest obstacle is that your hand, which is holding the stylus, also blocks the screen from view. There's whack-a-mole, darts and basket-shooting, each with intuitive but clumsy and unresponsive stylus controls that are easy for just about anyone to pick up, but there's never any reason to play them again once the high score is beaten. Although it may seem like the title packs in a lot of variety, all it really does is pack in tasteless fluff (not nearly as good as cotton candy) that wouldn't keep a 6-year-old distracted for more than 10 minutes.

It doesn't help that the graphics are dull and the sound is even worse. For some reason, one man voices all the introductions to the games, even though each stand is clearly manned by a diverse cast of attendants. You're followed by the same annoyingly loud voice through your entire carnival experience. It's as if one particular carny picked you out and decided to follow you through the entire fairground, even going as far as to hop on the same rides and sit next to you on the Ferris wheel. The music is forgettable at best, erasing any hopes of distraction from the overly persistent carny.

Of course, there's no multiplayer component to the game either. In a title this simple and forgettable, that's probably the biggest crime you can commit because it leaves the game without even the single redeemable quality of cooperation and competition.

Carnival Games for the NDS is a bust of a carnival. You're better off saving your cash and riding the teacups at the state fair with a friend. As lame as the teacups are, at least they bring people together and get you outside. That's much more than you can say for this DS title.

Score: 4.0/10

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