You could easily confuse Carnival Games Live with the piles of similarly named shovelware that plague the casual games market. However, after playing Digital Chocolate’s latest concoction, you will be surprised by its quality. Make no mistake, it’s still a simple and casual minigame collection that’s a little light even for its genre, but it is fun and well-produced enough to be enjoyable even if your tastes are a little more hardcore.
Carnival Games Live does an excellent job of not only replicating the feel of carnival games, but also mimicking the feel of carnivals themselves. While amusement parks are usually large, corporate, clean, safe and family-friendly establishment, carnivals get away with being a bit more dangerous. Those quintessential elements are nicely conveyed through Carnival Games Live’s charming art style, which is cute in a way similar to LittleBigPlanet.
As you play the games and go through menus, gears shift behind you and poorly painted wooden animatronics creak and dance to vaguely scary music. Sure, you could always use your own music, but then you’d be missing part of the fun.
Rubber duckies vs. sea dragon.
The games themselves are Duck Shoot, Mole Whack, Arcade Basketball, and Arcade Bowling. It’s a short list that seems even shorter once you realize that Duck Shoot and Basketball seem very similar to Mole Whack and Bowling respectively. Mole Whack and Duck Shoot both have you hold the iPhone horizontally as enemies either come in from the left and right or pop out of holes for you to touch and destroy.
There are power-ups, combo meters, different enemy types and even boss fights, but the real treat is how great the controls feel. Feverishly tapping on various spots on the touch screen and having each one register perfectly gives both games a tactile sensation. Duck Shoot specifically also has you slide an onscreen gun barrel in order to reload, a satisfying mechanic.
Basketball and bowling, which is actually skee-ball, require the screen to be vertical and have you flicking balls into holes or hoops in a manner not unlike Paper Toss. Since flicking balls at a certain speed or angle is a more complex action than just tapping on a wooden duck, these two games are slightly harder to get into than the previous ones. However, with enough practice, you’ll get into a nice groove and easily start sinking double point balls and getting scores high enough to earn all three available stars.
Out of the two, basketball is a little better because the 3D balls seem to move more believably than their flat bowling counterparts. Although later on it has hazards that bowling lacks such as shot-blocking monkeys, overall it’s an easier game, too. Each game in Carnival Games Live has eight levels, with different minimum scores needed to progress before time runs out. Bowling also requires you to land a ball in the cup containing the key to the next stage, adding an extra, and perhaps unnecessary, layer of challenge to the experience.
Monkey basketball. What’s weird about that?
All four games are polished and fun to play, but you’ll see all Carnival Games Live has to offer in about an afternoon. The extra features include quick and regular play, stat tracking, the typical Facebook leaderboards and in-game achievements in the form of tiny trophies with funny pictures on them. Highlights include the panda trophy and the cheeseburger trophy. The local multiplayer makes it a much more authentic carnival experience, but does little to improve the overall mileage.
Good casual games recognize that they still need to be good games. The audience changes but the quality should remain the same. Carnival Games Live gets this and earns some extra credit for having a charming art style. The games Digital Chocolate chose for this collection are a good start, but now they need to set their sights on the numerous other types of games you can play while eating a corn dog.