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December 14, 2011
Carnival Island - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
17/11/2011SonySonySony Santa Monica
Magic Pixel
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Playing the Jackpot Lane in Carnival Island.
Itís been a while since we had any Move games to play here at Futuregamez, but then, out of the blue a pile of Move games arrived on our doorstep. By placing my hand into the sack full of the games I picked out Carnival Island to review first. Carnival Island is a compilation of minigames you might find at the local carnival (if they still existed), presented with an animation-style reminiscent of Studio Ghibli. Itís light-hearted fun for the whole family and if you have kids there are definitely worse ways to try and entertain them this holiday season.

Carnival Island is light on story but the gist of it is that a brother and sister are standing around bored when the wind blows two carnival tickets to them. Brother and sister eagerly make their way to the carnival entrance where they are greeted by the cheerful owner Happy Jack and his panda bear assistant Curtis. The carnival hasnít had many visitors lately and all the colour has gone out of it as a result. Happy Jack tells the kids that it is up to them to bring magic (and colour) back to the carnival by winning games and exploring the park.

Carnival Island comprises of four areas, though only one area is unlocked to start off with. In the first area there are two sets of games to play as well as two shops where you can buy balloons or gifts with any tickets earned from the games. This basic structure applies to all four areas making a total of seven game types to play - Ringers, Mini-bowl, Hoops, Frog Bog, Coin Toss, Shooting Gallery and Perfect Pitch - as well as a magic mirror to play around with. There are five minigames of each game type (except Ringers which only has four) making a total of thirty-four minigames to play.

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Carnival Island is PS3 exclusive game.
Letís take a look at the kind of games you can play in each area. First up is Ringers and as the name suggests youíll be tossing rings around here. In the first game your objective is to toss the ring over bottles of differing value to score as many points as you can. The second game has you doing the same thing but with rockets as the target, while in the third you target narwhal (the unicorn of the sea) horns. The last game has you throwing horseshoes at a peg and itís just as tricky as it sounds.

In the first mini-bowl game you roll balls up a ramp and into targets, and once again the highest score wins. In the second game the targets have been replaced by a 4x4 grid of face down cards. Hitting a card flips it over to reveal either grass or a snake part. Your task is to locate all three snakes in a limited number of attempts. The other three games are much the same, thereís a game of slots where you have hit colour-coded holes in sequence to score big and another where youíre in a race and by rolling your balls into higher-scoring targets you move faster in the race.

The name Hoops gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from this game. Basically in each game you have to throw a ball into the hoop, though the rules of each game are different enough to keep them interesting in the short-term. In one game you hold onto a basket and catch balls being shot at you by a cannon, turning the tables temporarily.

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Wait... is that a kangaroo with fat tail?
The games in Frog Bog involve you smashing a hammer onto a launching pad, sending plastic frogs into the sky and hopefully onto lily-pads and flowers. In a couple of games the frogs have mini-propellers attached to their cap and you attempt to guide them to their target.

The Coin Toss games are simple affairs and usually involve you flipping a coin onto the target areas. In one game you have to flick coins into cups with the cup rising each time you get a coin in there to reveal a score. Be careful of bombs though Ė they must be defused in short order or they will explode and the cups will drop down again. The coolest game (and also buggiest) is Gold Digger, in which you flip coins onto a pile of blocks. Whichever block the coin lands on is removed from the pile, revealing a hint of where some buried treasure is. Find the treasure before youíre out of coins to score big points.

Shooting Gallery is much as you would expect. You shoot your cork-gun at targets to rack up the points. In a couple of the games you have to shoot criminals, protecting your friends or your gold in the process. Shooting the bulls-eyes on a target earns you double points.

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Graphics in Carnival Island are bright.
In Perfect Pitch you throw balls into blocks for points, or maybe at gophers to protect your crops. Thereís a Connect 4 style game where you have to hit four targets in a line and a couple where you get to hurl a wrecking ball or bomb at targets.

None of the games here are particularly challenging to learn so kids of all ages should be able to pick them up in just a couple of turns. Mastering the games is another matter though Ė for each game there are a number of challenges many of which are easy, but a few are genuinely tough. Trying to land all ten coins into a cup, or piloting a frog into each flower, or getting twenty bulls-eyes in a row will test even the most capable playersí skills. Happily the Move feels extremely accurate in all of the games, making it easy to learn from your mistakes and get closer to perfection.

Completing challenges unlocks cute little animals who then walk around the park and cheer you on during games. There are heaps of them to unlock, which should keep the kids busy and interested for a while. Also, youíre rewarded with tickets after every game and the tickets can be used to buy little toys like a foam sword, an ice-cream, a brush (hooray?) and a vast assortment of other stuff. Itís all a bit of fun and adds to the carnival atmosphere.

The gamesí story mode is single-player (unless you take turns), but there is also a party mode. Itís a bit limited but up to four people can play, with either one or two Move controllers. There are two party options; one where you play five random games against each other, or one where you pick up to five games to play against each other. Your finishing position determines how many points you earn for each game, and whoever has the most points at the end wins.

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Shooting some hoops Move style...
There arenít too many issues with Carnival Island Ė in fact I have just one. That is, like most minigame compilations, Carnival Island is very shallow. You can unlock all games and complete a good chunk of the challenges in just a couple of hours. Granted completing all of the challenges and earning enough tickets to buy every toy will take some time, but I wonder if the games are deep enough to keep you interested that long. Thereís definitely fun to be had here, but I suspect it will be short-lived for all but the youngest of audiences.

Visually the game wonít win any awards but itís all bright and colourful enough, not to mention cute enough to instantly appeal to younger kids. At the start of the story mode and every time you open up a new game area you get a short cartoon featuring the kids, Happy Jack and his panda helper Curtis. The cartoons have a Studio Ghibli-style and it works well. The carnival grounds are soon swarming with animals youíve unlocked, making it a fun place to walk around. Not that there is much walking to be done Ė you go from game to game via a menu Ė but after selecting a game you see your character walking to the games, and it all looks decent enough.

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Time to knock over some cans on PS3.
The music is always light-hearted, with a series of short little ditties playing during games, and cheerful tunes when youíre out of the games. The characters are all very friendly and will let out a big Ďhoorayí after each game, regardless of how well you performed. The carnival workers are full of gossip too, most of which centers on the carnivalís power source Ė a combination of imagination, solar power and magic apparently. The upbeat nature of the dialog and music suits the game very well.

Carnival Island is a fun collection of minigames, that exudes colour and cuteness at every turn. With cheerful music, bright and pretty visuals and a series of fun but undemanding games itís sure to be a hit with younger kids. People of all ages can enjoy it, but the reality is older players wonít take long to unlock most of the content and tire of the simplistic games. So if you have young kids that you want to keep busy for a few hours or a couple of days these holidays, Carnival Island might be just the trick. At the reduced price of $49.95 it just may be worth bringing this carnival home with you.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSVery bright and cute. The Studio Ghibli style cartoons are fun and the whole game looks appealing.
SOUNDThe tunes are all light-hearted and upbeat, as are the characters you run into. Did I hear Ratchet in there?
GAMEPLAYThe games are easy to pick up and play, and the Move gives very accurate control. Definitely suited to younger kids though as the games are very shallow.
VALUEMost people will get tired of it after three or four hours, but kids will likely enjoy it for longer
OVERALLCarnival Island brings together a series of fun, if shallow minigames. Younger audiences will lap up the cute visuals and easy to play games and will clearly get more out of it than older players.

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