‘Cause there’s a sucker born every minute.
Remember when you were a kid, say, a skinny eight-and-a-half year old, which in cheap-dad economics made you six? Remember how offended you were when he pointed at you near the gates of the theme park and said, “You're six,” so he could pay a reduced fare to get you in? Remember how you stewed in silence at the indignity of it all?
But then the sights, sounds and smells of the theme park overtook you. Your almost decade-old eyes, the ones trapped in a six-year-old body, grew wide with longing as you passed the barkers at their stalls, lined with bright red inflated plastic hammers and fluffy stuffed animals, and you forgot your anger.
Your dad glanced back and saw that look. He told you not to be a fool and even think of asking, because those games were a waste of time and money. This park was definitely taking on a theme: Your dad was really cheap.
Remember how you made a solemn promise to yourself that when you got to be a grownup you would come back and play every game and win every prize? Well, you can do just that in Carnival Games. And you know what? You learn your dad was right.
This has got to be the most tedious game for the Wii to date.
The premise of Carnival Games is self-explanatory. You are a person at a carnival and you are there to play games. You can play alone or with up to three others, though you probably should not play alone. You could fall asleep and hurt yourself or something, and nobody would know.
Before I go any further, ask yourself how much fun it would be to throw balls in a basket over and over and not walk away with some sort of prize. Not much more needs to be said about this game, but I'll say it anyway.
You begin the game by creating your character in a stripped-down version of the Mii editor that already comes with the console. Your character ends up looking strangely familiar – you know the look – big head, egg shaped body, no arms, just suspended hands and a wobbling stance. This part of the game holds some fascination for the younger player who enjoys creating Sims or Zwinkies.
Once you've chosen clothing, you're off to any of five different areas at the carnival where you can - surprise! - play carnival games. Playing these mini-games wins you tickets and prizes. Depending on your performance, you can win a small, medium, or large prize and anywhere from 1 to 6 tickets per play. You can upgrade your prizes by trading in four small prizes for a medium or three mediums for a large. There are also extra large prizes, which will unlock one of two 'super games' in each area.
There is an additional attraction in each area that is accessed by using the tickets you've won. Don't worry if you spend any amount of tickets on this game. You will have so many you can bore yourself for days, or go back to the character editor and buy specialty items like gorilla heads or Viking helmets. All dressed up and no place to go.
And just to get an idea of what to expect, let’s take a gander at the mini-games in Fortune Way: Alley Ball (skee ball); Test Your Strength (slam a hammer on a platform just to hear the bell ring); Hoops (shoot some baskets); and Collection Plate (throw some coins and hope they land on some plates). You've probably seen all these at real carnivals.
The two super games are Super Alley Ball - which is just Alley Ball with obstacles - and Super Hoops – which is just Hoops with a moving basket. The ticket attraction, for which Fortune Way is named, is The Great Swami. Hold the Wii-mote to your forehead, think of a yes/no question, and have your fortune told. I asked The Great Swami if the game could suck any more and her answer was a resounding, “No Way!”
The Great Swami is both subtle and vague.
In Love Lane, you can knock over some milk bottles, pop some balloons, roll a bowling ball, or leap some frogs. Super games have even taller towers of milk bottles and even more balloons with a time limit. Give up some tickets and you can learn if you are cold or hot stuff in Meter-O-Love. See how the name of each area is the theme of the ticket attractions? Yawn.
The other areas follow a similar format. All the games you would expect to see at a carnival are here, it just turns out that they're not actually fun. The interface for some of the games, has nothing to do with how they are played in real life. When you try knocking down clowns with a ball, for example, you have to time your throw with a cursor that moves across the targets. In Test Your Strength, you have to shake the remote to build up power then hit the platform while it's green. See? Unlike Wii Sports, nothing to do with reality.
Here's a tip if you do decide to get this game: anytime it tells you to shake the remote to build up power or pressure, swing it back and forth instead. Swinging is much more effective and it gives you a nice stretch. And you won't look like you're violently performing an obscene act either.
There aren't many surprises or innovations in Carnival Games. Game play is a plodding, methodical chore, whose only rewards are unlocking another mediocre game or dressing your character more outlandishly. You never really get that feeling of accomplishment or frantic happiness that marks some of the better mini-game offerings for the Wii, such as Rayman Raving Rabbids or Wario Ware Smooth Moves. Just like the heady aroma of VOCs escaping the styrofoam inside the cheap stuffed animals you win, Carnival Games should be taken in small doses. Please. It's for your own good.
Now go thank your dad.