Kids love party games, especially when they have motion controls like the PlayStation Move, which is precisely why the upcoming Carnival Island is on the right track by combining these two things.
There’s no doubt that mini games are perfect for the Move, since they offer quick fun without burning players out by having them holding their arms up in a firing stance for hours on end. Carnival Island is bringing a whole new slew of such mini games to the PS3, all packed into one colorful island for players to explore. It won’t be so colorful when adventures land on the sunny shores of the island though, but will start off drab and lifeless, eventually coming to life as more games are played and unlocked. While my time with Carnival Island omitted this portion of the game, I did get to try several of the mini games to be discovered, which offer simple twists on basic carnival games.
After choosing to play as either the little boy or girl featured as main characters in the game, I dove right into the first of six (seven, if you count the magic mirror) games available to try in the demo. Up first was a simple hoops shooting game, which had 3 basketball hoops at varying heights, and of course a ball to toss into them. The higher the hoop, the more points you score, and if the backboard is flashing you’ll earn some bonus points as well. Designed for both one or two players, the mode worked quite well, allowing me to make accurate shots whether I went at it underhand, overhand, or even under my leg (I like to get fancy). You could bounce the ball over too if you pleased, and whatever method used was as simple as pointing the Move, pulling the trigger to grab, and releasing the trigger to throw.
The simple grab and release mechanic continues into the next several mini games, like Rocket Toss, a ring toss mini game. Just like it sounds, the objective is to toss rings around rockets for points. Landing the little ones garnered a few points and launched them into the air, while landing the large ones grabbed lots of points, launching that and all the surrounding rockets in a dazzling display. Here the Move’s motion sensors can really come into play, since you can simply toss the ring, back hand it, flip it over hand, flip it under hand (again, fancy), and the rings always respond properly.
Another mode is the classic ski-ball game, where rolling a ball down a long alley launches it into various rings to score points. While this brings me back to the nostalgic days of birthday parties at cheesy arcades, Magic Pixel Studios didn’t stop there, and offer several variations on each of their various mini games. For the purposes of the playable demo, a ski-ball variation was available, which pitted a three by three grid of colored holes at the end of the lane. Making any of the holes would cause a slot machine reel to show a picture corresponding to the color, with the goal being to line up all three slots with matching pictures. While little details were provided, I was told there will be other variations on ski-ball, as well as the rest of the mini games described here.
Next up was my personal favorite, Flying Frogs. Call me sick, but there’s just something terribly satisfying about launching a frog across the room by slamming down on the platform it sits on, which is precisely what this game has you do. Using the Move to clutch a hammer, you can catapult the frog into the air at speeds proportional to your swing, after which steering the Move guides the frog to lily pads in the distance. Each lily pad is labeled with numbers to indicate points, the center of which is always worth double points. It’s silly and simple, just the way I like my motion controlled gaming.
Finally, this is all rounded out with a Magic Mirror, which isn’t so much of a game as it is a toy. Jumping into this mode shows us a view of what the PS Eye sees, and lets us warp the image to look like the mirrors in a fun house. Whether you give it a twist, pull it out to stretch faces, or push it in to make your friend’s head really tiny, it gives the perfect opportunity to make everyone in the room look as goofy as they probably feel while playing this. Saving these images automatically pops them into a queue to show up on loading screens, letting you enjoy your creations while waiting to start the next game.
With the promise of at least 35 mini games in total when it releases, Carnival Island‘s colorful imagery, and easy to learn games, look like they will provide great family gaming. Just like the majority of Move games, the controls work near perfectly with one-to-one tracking, and it was only ever thrown off by a giant color changing wall which happened to be right next to the E3 booth. With the promise of coloring in a vibrant world and collecting virtual animal pets as you progress, it should give the kids plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more, besides competing with one another. So, unless you have a 20 foot tall light up wall next to the TV in your living room (thanks for the unintentional sabotage, Nintendo), expect yet another way to enjoy your Move soon with family and friends of all ages.