Don’t Talk to the Carnies, Dear
Now that Sony’s VR headset has been available to the masses for close to a month, it’s safe to say that the “honeymoon” period is just about over. Early adopters have been showered in many VR games with a plethora of different types of gameplay, but sadly the vast majority of these games have been bite-sized experiences that often don’t exceed 3 hours of playtime. That’s not to say that these bite-size morsels aren’t worth your time, as they are mostly juicy chunks that are priced right and provide something new and different that gamers can enjoy. You can slide Carnival Games VR right along side of those bite-size games that are priced just right.
Like its Wii brother, Carnival Games VR invites gamers into, well, a carnival. The good thing about this carnival is that it’s not full of odd-smelling carnies and more importantly, it’s conveniently located right inside your cozy home. Now unlike its Wii brother, Carnival Games VR has only 12 games, which is a significant amount less than the Wii’s 20. At first I was disappointed to hear about the loss of content, but after spending some time with the new VR iteration of the series, I’m happy to say the amount of fun I had with this version heavily outweighs the loss of games.
The 12 game modes available are as follows:
Alley Ball: This is straight up skee-ball. I’m guessing skee-ball is patented and that’s why they can’t use the name.
Ring Toss: Like the real carnival game of tossing small rings onto beer bottles, this is similar but the rings are more like hula-hoops and the bottles are large pegs.
Golden Arm: Toss a baseball at milk jugs. Attempt to knock down all of the golden jugs to move on.
Down The Stretch: A horse racing game where the object is to roll balls up a ramp. Depending on which hole the ball falls in is how far the horse advances on the track.
Pop Darts: Typical carnival game where the player throws darts at balloons. The twist is that the balloons are constantly moving and if you hit a bull’s-eye, you can take out multiple balloons at once.
Shark Tank: Throw a baseball at a target to dunk a carney in a shark tank! Yep, you read that right!!
Funnel Cake Stacker: A large machine shoots funnel cakes into the sky and the player must catch them on large pans that are placed in each hand. The more you stack, the more you score.
Swish: Carnival basketball game where the hoops aren’t altered by the carnies so you can actually win.
Haunted House: A kid friendly version of Until Dawn Rush of Blood. The player is provided two guns to take out several kid-friendly monsters that are spread throughout a haunted house.
Fast Pitch: Not the fast pitch you’re thinking, but in this game it’s up to the player to catch all kinds of crazy pitches that are thrown his/her way. Curveballs, screwballs, and fastballs are flying right at yo’ face!
Shooting Gallery: Two guns are provided to the player and he/she must hit as many targets as quickly as possible.
Climbing Wall: Climb up ropes, chains, and a rock wall as fast as you can to reach the ultimate prize – The King’s Crown!
It’s important to note that only a few games are available from the start. The player is required to purchase locked games at the prize booth with tickets that they’ve accumulated. Thankfully, the games don’t require many tickets to unlock and can be completely unlocked in less than an hour of playtime. If you want to unlock everything super fast I recommend sticking to Ring Toss, since that’s the quickest game and also seems to give out the most tickets. I didn’t mind the fact that the games had to be unlocked because it gave me something to work toward.
Carnival Games is one of those “just one more try” types of experiences due it’s quick pace and simple controls. Add this to the fact that the worldwide leaderboards are always in sight, and you get quick bursts of joy watching your score increase with each try . I really did feel like I was improving with each attempt, and because of that, I felt that I was in full control. If I made a mistake, it was often my fault and I needed a few more attempts to master whatever game I was playing.
So, how much fun can you expect to have while playing Carnival Games VR? The actual games themselves are all enjoyable in their own right. Each one is controlled with the Playstation Move controllers and didn’t give me any issues throughout my experience. Guns felt like guns and tossing a skee-ball felt like it would if I was under-handing a wooden sphere up a ramp. Haunted House made me feel like I was on a ride at Disney World and Fast Pitch had me flinch a few times when a baseball was coming right toward my face. Ring Toss was the most fun since it’s a very quick and frantic experience. Tossing the rings with the motion controller felt perfect as I let go of the trigger at the end of a Frisbee-like throw. The basketball game gave me some trouble due to not knowing how hard or soft to throw the ball, but after a few games I was able to figure out what the game was asking of me.
Carnival Games VR looks surprising good on Playstation’s headset. The carnival atmosphere is cartoony, but very bright and colorful. NPC character’s will play along side of you and can also be interacted with by throwing game props in their direction. This is one of the few VR games where I didn’t notice the ‘screen door” effect throughout my entire playthrough, even during the darker haunted house attraction. To compliment the visuals, the audio is just as colorful and is there to provide a carnival-like atmosphere. The 360° audio is full of kids laughing and bells ringing. It does its job and helps with immersion. The only voice you will hear is the carny character that will berate or cheer you on depending on your performance, and he will get under your skin if you’re having trouble.
Besides using tickets to purchase and unlock other games, they can also be used to buy toys to interact with in the Toy Room. These can range from the typical stuffed animal to magic wands and plastic weapons. The Toy Room is an area in the carnival that seems to just be a way to show off the game’s physics engine. Any of the toys you’ve purchased will be strewn throughout the area and can be picked up, inspected, played with, and thrown. Small holes that act as portals are spread throughout the Toy Room and when an item is dropped in, it will randomly pop out of one of the other holes. The Toy Room is boring at first, but one you fill it up with toys, it’s hilarious to see how much stuff you can manage to make shoot out of the portals and cause mass mayhem.
One thing that’s lacking from Carnival Games VR is a way to log in different users to save individual high scores. Just one single high score is saved making it frustrating for inexperienced players who want to join the fun to feel good about their results. I found this a big misstep considering the game begs to be played in a group of people. Don’t get me wrong, you can play single player and have a ton of fun, but having a group laughing at you as funnel cakes are falling from the sky onto your head never gets old. The inclusion individual scores would have at least given each party member, experienced or not, a goal to work towards and feel like their skills are improving. I’m hoping that this can be worked into a future update, because there is no way my wife is ever going to come even close to my skee-ball score (sorry honey).
I wanted to touch on the tracking issues that I’ve experienced while playing Carnival Games VR. The first time I fired it up I kept getting prompts that the camera has lost tracking. No matter how near or far, left or right I stepped, the camera kept having the same issues. Playing most of the games gave me issues too, but I did eventually find a solution. Powering the console off and back on fixed all the tracking issues I was experiencing. It seems waking the PS4 up from rest mode causes massive tracking issues not just with this game, but several games in my library. I strongly suggest if you’re having issues to just perform a simple reset.
Carnival Games VR is yet another demo-like game to be released on Sony’s shiny new headset. At a $20 price point I find it hard to knock it based on what’s all included. I’ve played for several hours and will play for several more considering this is a good title to toss in when demoing the PSVR. The lack of individual user scores is a big disappointment, but there is still a whole lot of fun to be had at this carnival.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) ; Publisher: 2K Games ; Developer: Cat Daddy ; Players: 1; Released: October 28, 2016 ; MSRP: $19.99
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a retail copy of Carnival Games purchased by the reviewer.