I once got hustled by some carnies in Rotorua. My friend Adam and I stopped at this fair by the lake, and I decided to have a go at the shooting gallery. From four little steel targets, I took down the first three one after another. That was some serious SAS action. I had two slugs left in the pocket, and one target left. Easy.
I missed with my next round. sh*t got real.
I missed the last shot and had the option of walking away or dropping another $2 for three more slugs - the first five had set me back a Sir Ed.
I missed the next two as well. It didn’t seem right. $7 and no soft toy? What was that about? The carnie and his greasy mullet mocked me as some kids stepped up to have a go. As I watched I noticed that they, too, had shot the odd beer can, because their aim was as good as mine. The first three went down, but that last one remained elusive. And that’s when I noticed what the carnie was doing.
As shooters lined up their last target, he would casually reach up and take hold of one of the support tubes holding up his ratty marquee. Trained and intent as they were/I was down those iron sights, it was impossible to notice the tiny shift in the entire structure as the carnie moved it.
“You see what he’s doing there?” I asked Adam.
“Yeah, he did it when you were shooting, too.”
I asked him as politely as I could why he didn’t say anything.
“Because I am Canadian,” he said.
Everything in that story is true except Adam telling me he was Canadian, and that I was polite when I realised what the carnie was up to. When I suggested he was a fink, he placated me with some pretty boss temporary cobra tattoos.
This is an important lesson for anyone stepping up to a real life funfair. The games they have there are usually rigged so you won’t win, or the operators will cheat you on the spot - that’s how come they roll out the same scrappy first prize panda every year.
You might think that you could escape the real world difficulty of carnival games with a game like NEW Carnival Games for the Wii. But alas. The minigames here - while many - are nearly all as frustrating as the real thing, minus the beauty of a sparkling Lake Rotorua and cold comfort of a cobra tattoo.
Up to four players can choose from either gender and two generic age groups; boy/girl or man/woman. The options for customising your character are fairly impressive, at least in terms of sheer number, with some that remain locked until you can retrieve them through your success. To have to lean too heavily on such a base part of the game as character creation as a positive element is a bit sad, but the truth is kids should have quite a bit of fun fashioning their avatar. And not a hell of a lot of fun with much else.
Me, I left the big dopey smile on my face and got down to it.
There are six areas to choose from in the main menu; five opening up to a range of carnival games, and the Player’s Alley, where you can check out what prizes you’ve scored and edit your character.
Boiled down, most of the games are variations on the same thing. You either hold a button, swing the remote, release the button, or aim and shoot. The psychedelic backgrounds and specifics of the game are really all that change: the coin toss is much like the basketball toss, and this isn’t too different from alleyball, which is much like bank-a-ball. Depending on how well you do in each game, you’ll be rewarded with tickets and prizes. These collect almost meaninglessly.
The tickets, at least, will allow you to play quirky side “games” like the Amazing Zameer or Wheel of Cheese. The former reminds me quite a bit of the machine that turns children into Tom Hanks in Big, and the latter fosters a pretty quick addiction, that dies just as quickly. You place your ticket down on a coloured square, the wheel spins, a dizzy mouse starts walking around the wheel, before he picks a wedge to dive into. If the wedge is the same colour as the one you picked, bingo. The most addictive thing about it is that it’s effing impossible.
Difficulty is sort of spread around; shooting ghouls in the haunted house isn’t too hard, but trying to shoot pictures of apples with a crossbow is devilish. All this means is a lack of cohesion and no real sense of progression; but maybe I am being too picky. After all, games like this one really are brought out on slow Christmas Day afternoons with the whole family sitting around, or by drunkards who have game journalists for flatmates. You don’t need cohesion for either. In fact, situations like these are where cohesion goes to die.
Mediocre graphics and sound (with strange periods of total silence) round out a pretty average package, but there is some hope.
Games like this never need to appeal to the core; they don’t even try. Christmas is fast approaching, and kids with Wiis will need something NEW to soak up their summer. Hey! This game has NEW in the title! All in capitals just like that! There’s a few hours playtime here, although few will find this much fun on their own.
Oddly, this is where the Wii is most at home - tacky carnival shooters lend themselves well to the family console, and NEW Carnival Games offers up some very base sort of gameplay. We all know it can be done well, and this game doesn’t do it horribly.
It just doesn’t do it well, either. To fail at the core of motion controlled gameplay at this stage in the Wii’s lifespan is hard to accept.