Winter is just around the corner and one thing's for sure, carnival season is in hibernation mode and will be until next Summer. So how can you get that carnival feeling all year long? By playing carnival games in virtual form of course. Carnival Island, the English version of Happy Charlie to Soratobu Carnival, offers a variety of carnival type games without all the costs. But even though Carnival Island offers plenty of different games, it's not enough to keep you craving more.
The Carnival Island starts off in a dire state of disrepair. The carnival's only saviours are two small children and a tall man who strongly resembles the Monopoly guy. There are four areas of the carnival with about two games in each. Each of the carnies needs your help in order to bring life back to their specific games. Each time a particular section is saved, the old man will alter something on the island and this could be adding flags or the motor or the ferris wheel. The story ends once you've rebuilt the four sections of the park leaving you to complete whatever challenges there are left for your own personal gratification.
To be fair, Carnival Island is not the type of game where you'd expect some kind of epic storyline, but it would have been nice if the characters were a bit more involved. For example, in each of the cut scenes, hardly anyone speaks, not even your own character. The only voice acting featured in the game was either from the old man whenever you completed a task or from the carnies who are explaining how to play each game. With that being said, the shallow story works for the type of game it is. If you were to play this game at a birthday party for small children, it'd be perfect to just pick up and play. Whether the children finish it or not would not really matter. But for the average gamer, there is not much going on.
There are seven mini-games in the package and they're all based on real life carnival games like "Ski Ball" and "Coin Toss". Each game has about nine challenges which get progressively harder, but once you complete about two of them, the next game is then unlocked. Each game has five different versions which offers a nice variety and a ton of replayability. With that being said, it seems as though each and every game in this title is based around throwing something. You will throw rings, frogs, baseballs, basketballs, and so on whereas in carnivals there are quite a few games that do not require quite as much throwing, like the test your strength games.
This title relies heavily on the accuracy of the PlayStation Move and sometimes it can be really fickle should you fail to calibrate it right. As with a lot of PlayStation Move games, the camera won't always pick up the controller. If it does not, you'll have to go back and start the calibration process over again which gets a bit frustrating especially since the PS3 already has a calibration process in the main menus. Depth perception also gets a bit in the way. Sometimes with the Move, you will find yourself at odds with how much force to use and how much not to use. Throwing basketballs was a particular challenge as it required a ton of force in order to reach the hoop. If a child were to play this kind of game, it may be a bit too difficult for them to get the correct amount of force in order to reach the net. There's also the frog toss where you use a mallet in order to send frogs flying into lily-pads. Attempting to hit them in with a medium amount of strength sent them flying into the back of the screen where hitting them with a small amount caused the frogs to move only an inch. This particular game would be especially hard for adults as it really requires a specific amount of strength and sensitivity.
For those who wish to take a break from the challenges, there's a photo-booth which you can use to take goofy pictures. These pictures will then reappear in the loading screens giving kids their 5 minutes of fame on the big screen. You can also distort pictures, although it costs a great deal of tickets.
Collectibles are very prominent in this game. You can collect little gadgets, balloons, animals, and so on. By entering your backpack you can also choose which item you would wish to carry around the park. The collectibles are just kind of there though. They're exciting for a short while after you buy them, but since there's no real use for them after that, they just kind of sit there. The animals are interesting though as they will cheer you on as you play each game. Whenever you earn an animal, you'll learn either a fun fact about the species itself or a little bit about the animal character like their favourite colour. For adults this little feature may seem pointless, but for a child, the presence of their favourite animals cheering them on is exciting.
As mentioned before, there are four areas in the park, but it's all quite small. Having said that, there are some nice landmarks like a ferris wheel or a fountain. Despite this, there isn't a ton of variation between the four and it causes it to feel rather bland. If the areas had a more defined theme, like the Wild West, it may have made for more memorable experiences.
Also, there weren't any rides you can go on. Most carnivals have at least one ride, whether it's a tilt-a-whirl or bumper cars, but this carnival didn't have any. Every time they feature the ferris wheel it's a bit of a tease. They acknowledge that there are in fact rides, but they don't let you ride any. Either these kids are scaredy cats or the rides have extreme height requirements.
Multiplayer offers a bit of fun. You can include up to four people, but nothing else really differentiates this mode from the single player. Loading times also offer a major hassle when playing. They happen before and after playing every game which makes switching games a bit of a chore. However, they do show photos from the photo booth in the loading screens as well as directions on how to move the Move Remote which are both helpful and entertaining.
Carnival Island is a fun game for children and families to play when it's cold outside or during a party. But trying to play it by yourself can get a bit boring unless you're practicing for the next time your friends come over. The challenges offer a ton of replayability but may prove to be a bit too hard for the demography that game is aimed at. The fact that there are no rides featured makes this carnival experience a bit uneventful and the collectibles don't offer much for the player to use. Carnival Island has a good foundation but for it to truly be a successful family focused game, it needs a bit more content to keep everyone interested.
|Rebuilding the carnival is a creative concept.|
|The incorporation of challenges makes the mini-games worth replaying.|
|Multiplayer with up to four people makes it a really great family/party game.|
|Loading screens are very frequent and disrupt gameplay.|
|Most of the games are based on throwing which offers very little variety.|
|Collectibles donâ€™t really offer much to the game.|