i’m generally pretty juvenile in my interests so i don’t need a whole lot to convince me to play a completely mindless video game. but even i have my limits, and i had little to no interest in checking out the bafflingly popular carnival games for wii. but a couple years ago i was shopping around for a game that my nephew might enjoy, and so i thought i might as well see what all the hype was about and got him a copy.
although he got bored with it fairly quickly, as visitors to this blog may have gathered i’m the type to never let a game go to waste if i can help it, and thus i recently spent a decent amount of time with the title before casting it away for all eternity. i’m still somewhat mystified how anyone could prefer this to any of the growing number of great “casual” alternatives on wii, but i can see how the familiarity of the setting and the games themselves could be a big draw, and the simplicity and all-american wholesomeness do add a certain limited appeal.
the mini-games are divided into several arbitrary sections, and although the groupings have no apparent common theme, within each game the virtual prizes that are awarded come in entertaining sets such as dinosaurs or clown or space paraphernalia. the prizes come in three sizes, and the game has a clever mechanic whereby a certain number of smaller prizes can be exchanged for a bigger one. so even if you have no hope of scoring the biggest prizes in a particular mini-game, you can still slowly work your way towards them through dogged persistence. you can also unlock harder versions of some of the games and various accessories for your in-game avatar, such as wacky hats, shoes, etc., although be forewarned that you can’t change your avatar’s skin color, so if you’re sensitive about that sort of thing stay far away. (you may recall the mild uproar that ensued when people found out about this, but it doesn’t seem like a huge deal to me any more than it would for the games don’t allow you to put in a name that’s longer than 5 characters. do any of the avatars in the game look anything much like real people anyway?)
it’s perhaps rather telling that i’m only now getting around to mentioning the actual quality of the game itself. it’s not a “bad” collection by any means. a decent percentage of the mini-games are timing based or pointer based (e.g. shooting ducks, throwing darts) and work well enough for the most part despite being completely pointless and mindless. i found that the main problem with the game, though, was the large number of mini-games that rely heavily on how hard or fast you move the controller. calibrating your movements and trying to figure out what the game considers to be a “hard” vs a “light” movement is annoying in and of itself, but trying to replicate that level of movement repeatedly and reliably gets to be a real chore. there’s thankfully not too much pointless waggle, though, although some of the game’s padding is completely lame. the most egregious example of this is “the great swami”, a carnival attraction where you can feed in a slew of your hard-earned tickets just to get a magic 8-ball-esque virtual paper response. as with a real carnival the amount of time and currency you end up spending within the game to get the better rewards far outweigh the actual value of the prizes themselves, but as in real life kids still love the thrill of “earning” their dinky prizes, and so they may enjoy the analogous tediousness of this game as well. at least they’re only wasting time and virtual currency! ah, the games i force myself to play in the name of research!
not-too-stale carnival games links:
– entry at gamerankings.com
– the skee-ball mini-game got an amusing mention on gamepro’s recent list of “embarassing games we secretly love”