IGN Review of Carnival Games
Carnival Games was one of the best examples of a "surprise hit" on the Nintendo Wii. It wasn't particularly well-received critically but it sold like gangbusters, and at the very least it pointed to the evolving demographic of the Nintendo gamer: like it or not, Nintendo systems are going the casual route, and Carnival Games was one of the first third-party games to hit the target. The success of that game pushed a Nintendo DS version of the franchise into development, and it's actually surprising to see that a bit of thought went into this collection. It's not a trailblazer by any means, but it's certainly not a bad little collection of small carnival diversions.
If you've seen it in the amusement alley of a county fair, there's a good chance it's been virtualized in this Nintendo DS game. You've got your fair share of games like Skeeball, Pop-a-Shot basketball, and Whack-a-Mole, as well as the "Dunk the Dude in the Tank" challenge and that one where you move a metal ring along an electrified rail without getting zapped. All told, Carnival Games on the DS has more than a dozen little mini-game challenges to keep things interesting.
To link these games together, developer Cat Daddy created an overworld that's almost entirely ripped off from Animal Crossing, right down to the "rolling log" effect of the land as you move up and down the screen. There's really no character interaction here; you simply walk around until you find a game and double-tap to play that game. Each of the carnival games in Carnival Games rewards you with dress up parts for your boy or girl avatar, so you can end up having some mutated freak of nature like a duckbilled, dragonwinged kid with clownpants waving around a flower. Since the games have small, medium, and large rewards, the encouragement is there to play the challenges multiple times to unlock all the bodyparts. There are even hidden challenges to uncover, though the game's manual pretty much spills the beans here and ruins what few surprises there are here.
Now, even though we're praising the game's somewhat large list of games, we're definitely not turning a blind eye to their quality. There isn't a single "awesome" challenge in the bunch – most sit in the "amusing" section of the bleachers with a few – like the Skee-Ball rendition and balloon-popping darts – ending up being pretty lame additions. The Animal Crossing-like overworld offers a nice presentation, but it's just chock full of missed opportunities – you can't really show off your avatar creation to other players since this game lacks multiplayer modes, and you cannot pull up the list of games to see which prizes you still have left to earn.
Speaking of multiplayer, it's surprising to see that very little effort went into this portion of the game. The only "wireless link" option is in a demo sharing mode where you can set your system to transmit three of Carnival Games' mini-games to anyone who turns on Download Play on their Nintendo DS. There are plenty of opportunities for competition here – the bumperboats and racing modes are prime for the multiplayer, as is that game where you spray water in the clown's mouth to blow up a balloon. But nope – this game's only a solo outing, so its enjoyment is pretty limited since a seasoned gamer can score all the presents in a few hours of backseat playing.
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