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Twenty Acts for Thirty Dollars- Circus Games Reviewed

           Not shown in this screenshot are the runaway circus monkeys who jump on the star-covered trampolines.

Many in the gaming industry were surprised by the success of Carnival Games, a collection of 25 boardwalk-themed minigames for the Nintendo Wii. Despite predominantly negative reviews, the title went on to sell over two million copies worldwide. Even publisher Take 2 was stunned by the game’s success, and delayed the inevitable sequel, thereby creating an opportunity for similar titles. Recently Ubisoft released Circus Games, which brazenly duplicates the Carnival template. By creating a collection of 20 games with simple Wiimote-driven controls at a reduced price point, the publisher hopes to duplicate Take 2’s success.

From the main menu of Circus Games, players are presented with two options: Quick Play allows gamers to instantly play any of the title’s twenty minigames, while Adventure Mode offers a skeletal narrative as sets of challenges are unlocked. Since the two modes share the same mini-game selection, differences between the play styles are minimal; finishing Adventure Mode offers no additional reward to the player.

                                Sure, there are ‘unlockables’ in Circus Games. Just not the kind your expecting.

While some Wii game collections have frustrated gamers with clumsy or complicated controls, Circus Games uses simple Wiimote and nunchuck gestures. The game’s numerous shooting galleries use the Wiimote to move an on-screen cursor, the B button is used to fire, with a combination of the Z button and a vertical swipe to reload. One exception had the stick on the Nunchuck being pulled to simulate the draw of a slingshot. Generally, the controls were instinctive, save for the reload function which took a bit of practice. Unlike Carnival Games, which just used the Wiimote, the diversions in Circus Games require the use two hands, which adds to the level of player inversion.

Games ranged from the aforementioned shooting galleries, to memory games where gamers match pairs of animals, even a the reflex-based bell ring. One of our favorite activities had hot dogs cascading down a warmer to awaiting buns. Players must grab mustard, catsup and relish bottles to apply designed condiments before the next batch of weenies descend. It was reminiscent of the Tapper arcade games, and graphically amusing. Thankfully, there a minimum of duds in the line-up, nearly every game offers an uncomplicated, yet rewarding task.

Although Circus Games aims for a family-friendly, party atmosphere, one key aspect prohibits the title from reaching its full potential. Each minigame requires a 15 second load time, compounded by two clicks to bypass the game’s instructions. For a game as uncomplicated as this one, why require the player to review the control scheme every time they play an activity? Additionally, gamers seeking to retry a game must wait 40 seconds, as the game drops the player back to the minigame selection screen. A few simple changes, such as adding a retry option would have greatly added to the game’s enjoyment.

                                       Do you think Mr. Tiger would prefer veggies or a ‘hand’ sandwich?

Graphically, Circus Games mirrors the whimsical art style of Carnival, with population of smiling, cartoonish bodies, all topped with oversized heads. The obligatory strains of organ music accompany the proceedings, while the Wiimote speaker gets a workout from most of the game’s events.  Unlike Carnival Games, which displayed slowdown during some of its diversions, the minigames in Circus Games run flawlessly.

Overall, Circus Games isn’t a game for all Wii owners. Players who were less than enamored with Carnival Game’s collection of midway recreations will probably take little delight in this title as well. However, families who enjoyed the title will find a cheaper, slighter superior, variation of the popular title with Circus Games. Right now, Take 2 is probably regretting not getting their sequel out sooner.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. I liked Carnival Games. I never understood all the hate it got. For a game that tried to duplicate those games, it did a good job.

  2. If agree, its fun, but no for everyone. Fans of casual games will like the game.

  3. Looks like a fun game for when the kids want some Wii time.

  4. I’m one of those weirdos who liked Carnival Games. I’ll probably get this.

  5. Sorry, but the Raving Rabbits games are a better collection than this or Carnie Games.

  6. I’ll probably pick this one up for the Christmas break.

    I think its funny you liked the hot dog game. No love for the shooting gallery?

  7. Carnival Games was crap. I sold it to Gamestop three days after I bought it. Who wants pictures of toys at unlocks?

  8. Why are the pics so small with this review?

  9. It looks like it’s in widescreen. That’s good for a change.

  10. Another minigame collection? No thanks!

  11. Your reviews aren’t as clever as they used to be.

    Still good, but they’re been more…interesting.

  12. How fun can putting relsih on a damn hot dog be?

  13. I’ll probably pick it up on the cheap.

  14. Jeez, those pics are sooo small.

  15. Seems like a good game for the kids, if their patient.

  16. Some of the Carnival Games sucked big time.

  17. Man, sounds like their hoping to confuse parent at xmas- The kids want Carnival games, the parent buy Circus games.

    Sounds like they wont be too disappointed.

  18. Good one! LOL!

  19. Great review, Tech-Gaming.

  20. The game looks pretty colorful and the art looks nice for a Wii game.

  21. Yep. Right there.

  22. Well I thought about adding this quote:

    “CIRCUS, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.”

    And I originally compared the career trajectory of Highway 1 Games to rapper Ice Cube-Both went from urban to family friend fare. You might recall Get on Da Mic or Flow: Urban Dance Uprising, the two games the developers work on before Carnival Games.

    But then I though the target audience may not get the reference or even care. I chose to keep in simple. I’m sorry If I disappointed.

  23. Score seems fair enough for this type of game. Still, I might look into it.

  24. At the circus, I also watched clowns and animals, not played games.

  25. I think every compilation has to have a whack-a-mole in it.

  26. Man, that Super Monkey Minigame collection was the worst. It made my kids so frustrated; they were in a bad mood for half a day.

    This looks better.

  27. HAHA. Good one!

  28. ehh ok for a wii game………

  29. My kids might like it…but I’ll just stick with the carnival games. Is it just me, or was it odd that there was not an option to make your player’s skin darker in Carnival games? You had to be white…but the carnies had dark skin.

  30. Everyone know carnies are white. LOL!

    Might have to rent this one for some family fun.

  31. Definately pick this up once I see it for the $15 mark, maybe at $20.

  32. Might get this for my brother

  33. I’ve read several reviews for this game and they all pretty much said this sucks. I wish it wasn’t so because it could have been fun.

  34. Do you mean Carnival Games or Circus Game?

  35. This game has an interesting graphic environment, Keep working on this great creation.

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