Published by Sony Computer
Developed by Magic Pixel Games, SCEA Santa Monica Studio
Carnival Island is a pleasant game that manages to create a virtual fairground. Although it's aimed squarely at younger gamers it's also a game that's fun for the young at heart alike. It also makes one of the most intuitive uses of the PlayStation Move controller that I've experienced to date. Some areas of the game could be improved upon but for the most part it's a game that does a lot of things right and one that the whole family can enjoy.
Whereas most party games really need to be played with friends or family to be even remotely interesting, Carnival Island does a good job of appealing to the individual. The game's story mode allows you to play as a boy or girl. Essentially the idea is to revitalise Carnival Island which has been deserted for far too long. In order to this you'll have to play the games, complete challenges and visit the four areas of the island.
Mini-game collections tend to shine as multiplayer experiences. Whilst Carnival Island is actually quite enjoyable as a single-player experience however, as a multiplayer experience it's not quite as good as could have been hoped for. There is support for up to four players using either one or two PlayStation Move controllers. You have a choice of only two modes: Party Time and Pick and Play. In Party Time you are simply playing five randomly picked games where as in Pick and Play you'll get to pick up to five games from your play list. Whilst it's good that up to four players can participate using just one Move controller, the modes aren't really that exciting. Maybe the ability to have played through the Story mode co-operatively would have been a better inclusion (although there's nothing stopping you from taking turns in the game's single-player mode).
Carnival Island has in excess of 35 mini-games although quite a few are simply variations on a theme. For instance you may be flipping a coin onto a table, into cups or onto gold blocks. There are mini-bowling games, games where you'll toss hoops and even shooting galleries. The mini-games are a real mixed bag in terms of quality. I thought the mini-bowling, coin toss, and ring throwing games where the best the game had to offer as they were both simple and intuitive with responsive controls and played just as you would expect them to. Others such as the Frog Bog based games, where you launch a frog and then have to control them with the Move controller, simply felt poor in comparison and nowhere near as intuitive. One of the games isn't really a game at all. The Magic Mirror replicates one of those image distorting mirrors that you'll find in a fun house. Younger children will probably find it amusing but I suspect it's something that most will only look at once.
Each of the games has their own set of challenges to complete. Complete a couple of challenges and you'll unlock an additional mini-game (which is essentially a variant of the original mini-game although in fairness considerable effort has been made to make them feel worthwhile). Points earned in a game are converted to tickets which you can use to purchase balloons and other gifts. By playing the games you'll awaken all kinds of animals who will then cheer you on whilst you're playing a mini-game (meaning you'll see their character in the background whilst you're playing).
The game's presentation is absolutely fine and in keeping with the general theme. The game's cartoon cut scenes look great, although they are very brief and usually feature the two children enjoying themselves as you manage to restore one of the zones in Carnival Island. The look of the in-game visuals is absolutely fine and there are no performance issues to speak of. You'll see plenty of load screens during the course of the game however and the load times can be a little testing. There should have been the option to install data to the hard drive in an attempt to shorten them. All of the instructions and important in-game dialogue is subtitled or shown in text so you'll be fully aware of how to play the game and also be able to follow the game's storyline. There is some speech that isn't subtitled but none of these omissions have a bearing on the game's accessibility.
If you own a PlayStation 3 and a Move controller and also have younger children in your home then Carnival Island is definitely a game to consider. The game does a good job of appealing to its target audience and thanks to most of the games feeling completely natural to play (thanks to the support for the Move controller); it's a game that can be enjoyed even by those who normally aren't interested in playing games. Some aspects of the game could have been better. More games, and not simply more variations upon a theme, would have been welcome. The multiplayer modes could also have been more interesting. Still, Carnival Island is an enjoyable game that feels as though it is well suited for its target audience.