The Carnival Games brand stalks the games landscape like a shadowy beast. One day it appeared in a torrent of low-quality minigame collections for the Wii that aimed to ensnare “casual” gamers. But unlike its brethren, Carnival Games remains relevant. It still feeds, growing in strength. You can deny Carnival Games’ existence with a sour curl of your lip, but as soon as you look away, it consumes your mother…your aunt…and then your grandfather.
Now Carnival Games has made a den on the iPhone. It lies in wait for a fresh crop of innocents who will be inexplicably drawn to its badly-assembled minigames and ugly prizes. Hey kid, want a balloon? They float. They all float.
All right, so Carnival Games for the iPhone doesn’t literally stalk and eat children. But it’s a shoddy, repetitive piece of work that will inevitably separate some kids with their pocket money, and that’s kind of sad too.
Rubber Ducky, you’re the one.
This iteration of Carnival Games doesn’t differ much from what’s already been offered on the Wii, though it’s obviously scaled down a bit. You make an avatar– choose a boy or a girl, they’re equally creepy-looking– and you wander around an old fashioned fair that’s governed by a wide-eyed carny in a bowler.
You talk to other children (and only children seem to dwell with in the aged walls of this facility), who might urge you to play with them on the see-saw, or to chase a butterfly that’s simply trying to survive and keep its mind together since wandering into Lucifer’s own Never-Never Land. If you make new friends or complete mini-quests like Harass the Butterfly or Give the Cat its Damn Ball, you can unlock outfits and accessories for your avatar to wear.
But the more traditional way to earn prizes is to play the myriad games lying around the fairgrounds. The selection is pretty much what you’d expect, especially if you’ve ever been dragged along to a few low-budget church bazaars: Knock over milk bottles, shoot duckies, shoot up a Wild West scene, shoot at stars (lotta shootin’ going on), hit clowns in a Whack-a-Mole game, and zip around in bumper boat ride.
If you need a break, you can go to the “Great Swami” booth and ask her “a simple Yes or No question.” I asked her I’d ever escape the compound and see my dog again. Her answer: “You’re kidding, right?” Fluffy! Nooo!
Win a spotted frog for your loved one.
The game’s controls involve tilting this, pressing that, aiming this, releasing that. Most of the minigames are slow to respond, or just outright quit responding altogether (which happened to me several times with the Shooting Star game). Bad controls mean low scores, which means you’ll win some cruddy tickets instead of an actual prize.
Carnival Games for the iPhone will cheat you, rip you off, and baffle you–so it’s not fair to say that it won’t give you a genuine carnival experience. All that’s missing is the angry carny who purposefully jacks the speed of the Tilt-a-Whirl up to “10″ even as you scream to be let off.
If your kid brother or sister loves minigames, they might even get a few minutes of distraction out of Carnival Games. Just supervise them at all times and warn them not to talk to any clowns.