When I sit down to write a review there's often so much to cover that I wonder how it's all going to fit into 1000 words. Thinking about Carnival Funfair Games on the Wii, I've got the opposite problem. The Wii has been labelled the system for mini-games but not until Carnival have I played a game that does so little with that idea.
As the name quite clearly states, you're at a carnival, or a fair - except there's no sign of the dodgem cars, Waltzer, big wheel or the other one that looks so dangerous you wonder how the fair is still running under the weight of all the Death by Dangerous Riding lawsuits. This collection is very much the small-scale stalls; the ones you don't care about once you've made it past the age of 10.
To be fair, the under 10 market is exactly where Carnival is aimed at, but even kids will struggle to find much to enjoy. Over 25 mini-games (as the game proudly states on its front cover) are accessed via five themed areas: Fortune Way, Love Lane, Rodent Row, Claw Alley and Lucky Pass. To say the mini-games on offer in each are dull would be an understatement.
All the games in Carnival are played using the Wii-mote on its own, which probably should be commended but has resulted in a selection of games that are overly simple. The few that do rely on skill are far too easy (any that require you to aim the Wii-more like a gun to shoot targets) and most of the rest rely on timing or plain old luck. Your performance in each game will earn you tokens to use in the machines around the carnival and award you prizes - earn enough and you'll unlock better prizes.
The unlockable games are decent fun if you can play the mni-games enough to open then up, but the various machines that eat your hard-earned tokens are the video game equivalent of robbery. Handing over a big wad of tokens to have a mystic answer a yes/no question or to try and grab a toy using one of those claws (you know, the machine that robs you of all your money by tempting you with some kind of expensive item surrounded by 50p plush toys) goes beyond fun and into tedium.
I'll admit that my eyes lit up on seeing one of those coin machines that tempt you with hundreds of coins all teetering on the edge, waiting for one more coin to push them all over the edge, but this was short lived: 25 tokens for 25 coins - you're having a laugh, especially when the reward was just more tokens.
Multiplayer could have been the game's saving grace, but four players can't really play together, instead taking turns in each of the mini-games. Prizes can be used to customise your characters slightly, but it's really nothing more than a token gesture - boom-tish.
As poor as Carnival is from an adult's point of view, it's hard to tell just how the target age group will take it. It's almost certain that they'll get some enjoyment from it, albeit short lived, and the prizes will be exciting until they realise that they serve no purpose other than to sit there. But with so many other mini-game focussed titles available on the Wii, Carnival simply can't be recommended.