Version tested: Wii
Forrest Gump was wrong. Life is not like a box of chocolates, it's like a collection of mini-games. Some bits are dull and frustrating (traffic jams, trips to Ikea, Wii Sports baseball). Some bits are fun and exciting (rollercoasters, Wii Play air hockey, how's your father). All bits are best enjoyed with at least one other person.
Carnival Games, the latest collection of mini-games for the Wii, is like getting stuck in a traffic jam on the way to Ikea. But then bouncing on all the beds when you get there. But then all the beds break because they are cheaply made and poorly constructed and the fun is all over too quickly.
At least Carnival Games gets the set-up right. There are 25 mini-games to play, each based on the sideshow attractions you see at fun fairs and theme parks and on Brighton pier where you can also see Rupert asking for change of a hundred pound note so he can have a go on the coppers pusher. You don't need a nunchuk to play any of them, or even more than one remote for multiplayer (although this does mean you're limited to the turn-taking games and can't play the splitscreen ones).
There's a perfunctory single player mode. It doesn't involve any stupid wandering round of virtual landscapes, tiresome unlocking or inane banter with NPCs. You choose which games you want to play when. You win silly prizes and extra items for customising characters, and there are a few more mini-games to unlock. You also win prize tickets (like an Olden Days version of Microsoft Points, kids) with which you can buy goes on the novelty machines like the fortune teller (rubbish) and coin pusher (pointless).
Happily you can ignore all this, skip straight to multiplayer and still have a choice of 25 mini-games - in theory. In practice, you have a choice of about five mini-games dressed up in different outfits.
For example, in Ring Toss you flick the remote to throw rings onto bottles. You use the same move in Coin Collector, except this time it's coins on plates. In Lucky Cups it's balls in cups. The basic mechanic works and all the games are fun but they're about as different from each other as the Goss twins, and similarly they're only fun for a few goes.
More enjoyable games include Balloon Darts, where you hold the remote like a dart and jab it forwards to throw. Points are awarded according to the size of the balloons you hit. The mini-golf game is simple but entertaining, and over a lot quicker than tedious old Wii Sports golf. Hoops challenges you to score basketball goals (or whatever they call it) against the clock, and is surprisingly tricky. There are some solid shooting ranges including one where you get to pop tin ducks.
Test of Strength involves shaking the remote as hard as you can to build up power, then hitting a bell with a hammer by pressing B. Not exactly challenging, but it's always nice to know which of your friends would win in a fight. Some mini-games feature a moving crosshair, and your job is simply to flick the remote when it's in the right position over the target. These are the weak points of the collection as it's too easy to work out the pattern of movement.
Know your limits
All the games are extremely easy to pick up and almost all are initially enjoyable. However, their simplistic nature means there's no real depth. Too many of the games feel like they're about luck rather than skill. With the others, you reach a point where you've developed your skills as far as possible too quickly.
However, you might just be after a bit of Granny-friendly multiplayer entertainment for an hour or so. In that case you could do worse than Carnival Games. There is novelty value here, even if it doesn't last long. There's also value for money, as the game is priced at GBP 24.99 (you can already find it online for at least a fiver less).
True, it's not as good as Wii Sports or WarioWare, but if you've played those games to death this isn't a bad alternative. Just be aware this is the kind of game you'll only get out when you've got people round who want to play the Wii cos they've seen it on the telly, and you'd rather eat soap than play one more round of Wii Sports baseball.
They'll like it, then they'll get bored, then they'll go away and you can get on with playing a proper game or watching America's Next Top Model or whatever it is you do when there's no one else around. Perhaps not everything in life is best enjoyed with other people after all.
5 / 10