Kids Corner Review: Carnival Island

As we move into the winter months, carnivals are hard to find. Luckily, Sony brings the carnival home for the holidays with Carnival Island! Boasting an assortment of games, colorful cartoon cutscenes, pass-the-controller multiplayer (no extra hardware necessary!), and easy-to-follow instructions, this game includes an impressive package for anyone wanting (or needing) a mini-game fix for the whole family.

Games for the Playstation Move seem to fall into two camps the majority of the time; either a serious Sony title adding optional Move support or Move-only family games. The latter is where Carnival Island falls.

Adult Review
Most “hardcore” gamers won’t enjoy this game. I open with “most” because I am a serious game, and I had a lot of fun with Carnival Games. It was easy to get into, you can play a few games and move on to something else, and it provided a good game to break away from all the serious action/shooter/RPG games out this season.

The carnival is basically asleep, and your job is to wake it up. After calibrating the controls (each Move game has its own initial setup each time you start it up, and like most, this one is quite simple and short) and choosing “Story” from the menu, you are greeted with a bright cartoon introducing you to the island.

Carnival Island is split up into four sections, each having it’s own pair of mini-games. But each basic mini-game unlocks a series of other games using the same basic concept. So Mini Bowl (think Ski Ball) unlocks Snake in the Grass. So instead of just getting into the scoring holes, you ramp the ball up towards a flip-board that contains snakes. You score more points for hitting boxes with a piece of snake rather than grass, and score even more points for completing a snake.

All of the games are a lot of fun, and most work well even in the most un-Move friendly environments. While Perfect Pitch (the game where you throw a ball at a bunch of bottles glued in a pyramid. Only, the carnies at this island didn’t glue them together) works well in your standard living room set-up, it was a lot harder in my bedroom where I usually game and space is limited. But, every other game, I had no problems with in my confined space.

Each game has a set of challenges, so completing one challenge unlocks an animal, and completing two challenges unlocks the next game in the series. Animals are like cheerleaders, have their own name, and even a cute little two-line story about them from the narrator. Outside of that, the animals you unlock have no further value (except a few trophies). It is fun, though, to just sit back and try to get as many challenges in a game as you can. I played all the Ringers games a dozen times each, and still had a few I couldn’t do.

The games felt great, and achieved the goal of making you feel like you are at a carnival booth vying for tickets. The motions were all very realistic feeling, which is important. Shooting Gallery, in particular, was a favorite as you had targets that popped up and had to shoot them but ignore the civilians.

What would a carnival be without tickets and prizes? Not a carnival at all, silly! Your score at the end of each game will net you a certain amount of tickets, in which can be exchanged for prizes. Like the animals, there is not much value to the prizes though, and other than the trophy for collecting all the prizes (which is time consuming, mind you), I personally did not see a point to it.

I played quite a bit of the game, but my wife played probably twice as much. A “hardcore” gamer like me, she really had fun playing the games, unlocking more games, earning trophies, etc. She liked the variety of games, and the fact that while they were challenging, they were still playable (except Frog Bog, which she hated). While I didn’t particularly care for the story, she enjoyed the story and the fact that it was more than just games like a lot of collections we had played in the past.

The appeal to a single, “hardcore” gamer is light. But as a parent (heck, even as a couple who likes to game together), the game is still something you could play and have fun with, even if it’s just enough to explain the game to your kids.

Kids Review
This was my sons first motion game in quite some time. That said, while he would get mad (you’ll see a trend that he is very much an angry gamer) that he would “lose” when playing by himself, he could still play the games and progress in the game if he put the effort into it. By “lose”, I mean missing a shot, or not doing so well.

The graphics are bright and colorful, which is a totally winning combination for most kids, mine included. Even my 2-year old would stop and watch when the cartoon cut scene started and would watch the whole thing. During gameplay, everything pops with shiny textures. The narrator does an excellent job of not only explaining how each game works, but also entertaining the player with his excited voice.

I never had to explain the basic concepts of the games, because while the game loads, a screen shows the motions to use for the mini-game. The narrator also explains what exactly the point of the game is, as well, so I could turn my son loose and go do other things while he played.

If you have multiple kids, but don’t have multiple Move wands, the “pass-the-controller” Party mode is a feature you should highly consider. It will also make a great slumber party event, and since you just have to have the basic Move setup (wand and camera), no additional hardware is required. There’s a mode that picks events for you, or you can pick and play whichever event you want.

Summary
Both adults and kids can find enjoyment in this well-put together collection of carnival games, but families (especially those that game together, or have family game nights) will really get a good value with this $40 titles.

Score: 4*/5

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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles Vagary.tv's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.