Carnival Games review (PS4)

Carnival Games, previously available on the Playstation 4 as a VR-exclusive title aimed at the single player experience, just got released with local multiplayer in mind. It’s also available on Xbox One and the Switch.

And obviously, the Switch is its most natural home, being a collection of minigames that is ideally suited to making use of motion controls. The Wii more or less gave birth to an explosion of the genre, only to see the games fade away again as the Wii lost popularity. The VR version recreated the experience using a set of Move controllers, but it lacked the multiplayer aspect that made the genre such a success. 2K’s most recent Carnival Games release looks to rectify that, although it lacks motion controller support and resorts to the DualShock – it even supports Remote Play if you want to use your Vita as a controller.

As a result, the selection of games available is different than the one in the VR rendition. While those largely relied on a variety of throwing and aiming games using a Move controller, the current batch of minigames is a bit more diverse – although that also makes a few of them feel less than an actual carnival/midway game and more like your typical Mario Party game.

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Throwing/aiming games are still included though, but they’re among the weakest of the bunch without motion controls. I get the need to include them to keep that “carnival games” vibe going, but without some kind of throwing motion it just isn’t the same. Other games, where you’re running around obstacles, piloting a drone or roller skating are a much better fit for gamepad controls – and they also work better in a competitive local multiplayer setting.

You’ll need that kind of setting too, since Carnival Games isn’t much fun when playing solo. What doesn’t help is that the bulk of the areas and games are locked at first, and you need to unlock them by earning tickets in the games that have been unlocked. This more or less naturally happens when you’re playing together, but solo it quickly turns into a needless grind. The VR used the same system of progression, but the games were at least designed for solo play.

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Visually, Carnival Games looks like it could have also been released for Xbox 360 and the PS3, as it’s one of the least impressive looking titles I’ve played in recent months. Luckily, this is the type of game that doesn’t rely on graphics either – it wants to emphasize fun. This is even true for its presentation, with a host that delivers non-stop zingers (but really they’re more like intentionally bad jokes).

While Carnival Games is a mostly solid party game (which a few duds, as with any collection of this type), I couldn’t help but escape the feeling that if I had an old Wii sitting next to my PS4, me and a bunch of friends would have more fun playing that. The lack of motion controls is certainly felt here, especially in the games that you just know were originally designed with them in mind. If you’re playing with adults then I’d recommend looking at the Jackbox titles as a party suggestion instead – though Carnival Games does offer a rare family-friendly multiplayer option on the PS4.

Score: 5.8/10

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