When the Wii first launched I was excited for most every new game that came out, eager to see what innovative and physically engaging new experiences developers had created. Years later I’ve mostly given up on Nintendo’s hardware but I’ve fallen into that same whimsical frame of mind over Kinect. The desire to try more games and the shear luck that GameFly sent me a new release are the only reasons I’m playing Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do. It’s a tried-and-true minigame collection that got its start on the Wii and hasn’t learned many new tricks as it’s evolved over to the Xbox 360.
Ok, there’s another reason I wanted to give Carnival Games a shot: Skee Ball, or in this case ‘Alley Ball’ as it’s called. It’s one of my favorite redemption style games of all time and I’m always up for trying a new version of it that doesn’t require a $1,000 machine and ball wax. Right off the bat I was crushed as Alley Ball is one of the flakiest incarnations of the game I’ve ever played. The cups you’re aiming for have been rearranged and resized to make it extra difficult to hit and the process of simply starting a round takes ages by our attention-addled modern standards. It’s not just Alley Ball either, the entire game is crippled by excessive intro, explanation, and point tallying animations where the Barker and his titular Monkey regularly ridicule you for not playing better.
It’s like a one-two shot to the kidneys when a round will last just over a minute and be followed by thirty seconds of unskippable animation and dialog before you’re given a chance to do anything. I know it’s designed for children who may simply be content to jump around in front of a screen but I can’t fathom any of them having more patience than me to get back to the action. Those actions at least include a wide range of carnival themed games surrounded by some nice visuals. There’s a lot of atmosphere behind the action from familiar carnival rides to your Xbox friends Avatars who play alongside you. Twenty “diversions” are on offer and hit the classics like the milk can throw, Ring toss, batting cage, a wind-up wizard who tells jokes and fortunes, a dunking booth and more. There are also some attractions that I don’t remember from my local festivals like a pig race that sees you smacking the bacon, a monkey dance-off, a Price is Right inspired wheel to spin, and probably the best game of all: human Tetris.
None of the games are particularly memorable or complex but some of them are mildly entertaining (human Tetris, err, ‘Crash Test Dummy’ here). The whole experience would be more fun if each game lasted longer and didn’t take so painfully long to move between or restart. I can’t even recommend this for kids as they’ll probably get bored of waiting around just as easily as I did. And trust me, it’ll drive you nuts as well having to hear the Busker character repeat the same over-excited and condescending jabs repeatedly. Avoid it unless you’re as morbidly curious about Kinect games as I am.