IGN Review of Carnival Games: Monkey See Monkey Do
This month sees the release of the fourth title in 2K Play's Carnival Games series, Monkey See, Monkey Do. Like its predecessors, the game isn't likely to win any awards for conceptual excellence. It is, however, as entertaining as an afternoon on the midway.
Previously, the Carnival Games series appeared on Wii and DS but this is its first appearance on Xbox 360 and Kinect. In the first ten minutes of play, it's obvious that at last the series has landed on the proper platform. Monkey See, Monkey Do doesn't innovate much on Carnival Games' established formula and offers us many of the games we're familiar with: skee ball, a batting cage, a basketball challenge, and a milk jug knock-down, plus a few we'd probably never see. (It's doubtful any of us will ever mount a pig and ride it in a race or jump into a rollercoaster and try to catch gold coins as it speeds around the track.) What makes the game feel new and takes it up a notch from the previous versions is the Kinect's ability to approximate movement.
Using your Xbox avatar, you play games like Shark Tank (dunk tank) and Monkey See, Monkey Do (where you watch a monkey dance and then emulate the poses he strikes). Thanks to Kinect's motion sensing tech, these are actually fairly entertaining since you feel in control of what happens. Of course, some games simulate better than others. The basketball toss and skee ball, for instance, are a couple of the most fun games to play because they do a fairly impressive job of simulating not only the weight of the ball, but the velocity with which you throw it.
Depending on your score in each game, not only can you lord it over your friends and family, you can earn tickets which can then be redeemed for goofy carnival prizes. There are four different prize stores and each carries a range of silly hats, costumes, and pets you can match with your avatar. Ticket redemption is the game's obvious carrot-on-the-stick since the price of most prizes necessitates either playing long enough to afford them or becoming skilled enough to win them outright.
Considering the time investment needed to accumulate tickets, it's a shame not all the games work as well as they should; some of them aren't even good enough for more than one play through. The Amazing Wodin and Pig Race, for instance, are examples of games whose fun factor is significantly diminished due to annoyingly unresponsive controls. The Amazing Wodin allows you have a verbal back and forth with an animatronic wizard using the Kinect's built in microphone. Unfortunately, it never really works — unless you lean toward the Kinect and shout into it. Pig Race also creates frustration by failing to respond to half the necessary gestures. In it, your avatar is mounted on a pig and you're asked to steer it around the track by leaning left and right and slapping it repeatedly on the rear. The idea has tons of potential for hilarity but is completely undermined by clunky controls that make it more work than fun and, in multiplayer, are likely to result in someone other than the pig getting slapped.
With uneven levels of success, Monkey See, Monkey Do offers twenty different games to choose from and, like most party games, all of them are more fun to play with other people than on your own. That's only natural since an inherent part of the fun is watching your friends look ridiculous as they flail, swing, and jump. Further, the competitive aspect of the game's multiplayer mode has the potential to add hours to what could be an extremely short experience.
Despite the jump to Xbox, Monkey See, Monkey Do doesn't make any great strides in terms of sound and graphics. The game's barker is still annoying, heckling you when you do poorly and congratulating you when you do well. The art direction features all the color, noise, and chaos of a real-life carnival without any of the seediness. The only real graphic addition is a second, truly creepy monkey carnival barker who, with its staring eyes and bared teeth, is likely to give you nightmares.
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