With PS4 VR in its infancy waiting a couple of weeks to release a title like Carnival Games is a wise move. People will be coming to terms with their launch purchases and looking for something fresh and Carnival Games should hit the mark. Having played a previous version on the Xbox360 Kinect a good few years ago I had memories, some good and some bad, but I was keen to see what had happened since then.
The setting is classic mid western fun fair, the Bunko Barker heckling you to join in the sideshow games and a decent clutch of mini-games to take your attention with their bright colours. Most importantly, there is fun to be had, without having to step into a sickness inducing rollercoaster.
The sideshow alleys are themed, Wild West, Medieval, Sci-Fi and Sports. With each of them containing three attractions,l a prize booth and access to the Playroom which is a free play environment. The attractions are based on classic fun fair games and one ride, generally they require simple controls (best performed with Move Controllers) and keep you standing still. That sounds limiting when you read it back, but its the package that delivers the goods, some of the games offer really deep immersion and other keep you spamming the ‘play again’ button for a quick fix and another crack at the high scoreboard.
The first game you have access to gives you three balls to throw at a stack of Milk Bottles, knock over all the golden bottles and you pass to the next stage. Miss with all three balls and its game over, there are bonus points on offer for hits with each ball so clearing the stage quickly is beneficial. Sounds easy? Well it is, the physics are well implemented and the only issue is getting used to the timing of releasing the trigger and getting your line right. As the levels progress the stack of bottles changes and becomes more ridiculous, once you hit ten rounds the score is totalled up and Mr Barker dishes out a pile of prize tickets. Scores in the games get posted to an online leaderboard, so you can see how you fare against the top three. This leads to a level of competitive re-tries and would explain why I spent so long enjoying myself in this first game.
Next up once you’ve spent tickets to unlock another game is a ping pong gun shooting gallery, hit targets and build a multiplier. The sequence of targets is fixed which is a shame, but its still fun, especially using both Move controls to dual-wield the toy guns. What makes these game good value is the immersion, forgetting that you are not actually sat on a coffee table in your lounge waving you arms around like a loon.
The games are all passably enjoyable, only some are really elevated over the others, probably my worst of the bunch would be the Fast Pitch where balls are pitched at you to catch in a baseball glove, its the game that doesn’t really feel like its respecting the environment its in. When the balls start coming in thick and fast and spinning wildly, there’s no real hope of surviving to get a decent score.
There are some absolute starts though, as well as the shooting gallery and the Milk Bottle challenge there is a short, but terrific Ghost Train complete with Laser Guns and Ghostly Targets to shoot out. The Wall Climb game is on another level, its a scramble up the side of a cartoon castle, trying to get to the top as fast as possible. There are some things about this game that show what VR could be all about. Using Move Controllers to reach out an grab areas around you, your white gloved hands stick pretty well while you hold the trigger, look around, reach out and clamber up. There are solid handholds, crumbling handholds, moving handholds, chains and ropes to get you up the wall. This is an experience that really puts you there, it may be a cartoon quality game, but I love the idea of the climb and I love the potential that someone might see in it. I actually start to feel my arms getting a workout on this one, so if there was a climbing for real game it would be exhausting.
The other silly, but I love it experience is the Funnel Cake Stacker. Grab two giant plates and catch pizza / pancake like cakes as they are fired at you from a cannon. Its fun, trying to keep them on you plate while catching more and keeping your bonus multiplier going. Again, its immersive, to the point that I instinctively pushed my stacks together to straighten them up as if they were really there. As the clock draws to a close the cakes come thick and fast, where I dare anybody to not admit they end up giggling like a child under the rain of cakes.
Once you’ve had you fill of mini-games head over to the prize booth and buy some tat, this comes in handy in the playroom – a free for all area with trampolines and Portal Holes where you can take your toys and throw them about a bit. Its a decent diversion, but its the same Playroom for all environments which is sad. Its okay for ten minutes, but soon becomes a trophy hunters grindhouse.
Carnival Games VR shows that you don’t need to be photo-realistic or scary to make VR work, you need to get people engaged and have a sense of fun. I’m enjoying it and will certainly be back for more.