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.