Every owner of a VR headset needs a good, quick, easy to pick-up-and-play party game. When you’re showing off your fancy multi-hundred dollar device, you don’t always have time to sit someone down and explain how to pilot a spaceship, or detail the the intricacies of the most riveting VR adventure titles. Sometimes, you just want to ask people to shoot targets held by flying birds, or to catch flying funnel cakes with serving dishes. And that’s exactly what Carnival Games VR on PlayStation VR and HTC Vive is designed to do.
When you clicked on this review, you likely had an opinion formed in your head about this game even if you hadn’t played it yet. Make no mistake: this isn’t a deep experience and I highly doubt many people will bother playing this by themselves for any significant stretch of time. It’s a party game, through and through — a notion highlighted in the game’s official trailer shown below.
Consider myself sufficiently perplexed then when I realized that, despite this fact, there was a notable lack of actual structural multiplayer support of any kind. You can just pass the headset around of course, but it would have been great to build a local or online multiplayer mode into the game itself, similar to previous entries.
In the original Carnival Games for the Wii (which sold well over a million copies by capitalizing on the gimmick of motion controls) you could create different in-game avatars, complete with relatively robust customization options. This allowed you to easily swap the controllers back and forth and track scores. I’d have really liked to see similar support here — or even a way to choose multiple games to play in a row, as a score attack of sorts.
The only real high score support to speak of in Carnival Games VR is just a local number that tracks your top score at each attraction, as well as a leaderboard that shows the top 3 global performers at each attraction as well. Beyond that, you’re essentially on your own here.
Thankfully the attractions themselves in Carnival Games VR are quite fun for the most part. As explained in my original hands-on preview of the game, the 12 included attractions are as follows:
- Alley Ball – Carnival Games VR’s take on classic Skee Ball,
- Ring Toss – Just like it sounds, you throw rings at bottles,
- Golden Arm – Throw baseballs at milk jugs,
- Down the Stretch – Roll balls into holes in a race,
- Pop Darts – Throw darts at spinning balloons,
- Shark Tank – Dunk people by hitting a target,
- Funnel Cake Stacker – Catch raining funnel cakes on serving platters,
- Swish – Rapidly toss basketballs into a hoop,
- Haunted House – Shoot ghosts and other creatures, like a theme park ride,
- Fast Pitch – Catch pitches with a glove,
- Shooting Gallery – Hit as many targets as you can,
- and Climbing Wall – Climb to the top of the wall as fast as possible.
When you first start the game, you’ll be greeted by the carny — a mustached little man that looks like the long, lost cousin of Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly. Only one of the zones will be available at the start of the game, and in that zone, only a couple of the games are available.
In each zone, you’ll collect tickets by playing games then spend tickets to purchase toys. Some toys are just for show in the Playroom, while others are needed to unlock more games and more zones. That’s the progression system in a nutshell.
Within an hour or so, you can unlock all of the attractions found within the park, leaving you with a scoreboard to tackle and more meaningless toys to collect. As explained before though, Carnival Games VR really shines in a party setting.
While I was reviewing the game, my wife would ask to play too. For someone who can’t typically be bothered to play many games or try VR, the whimsical visuals and simple gameplay was immediately appealing to her. For reference, Job Simulator is one of her only other favorites.
All of this is fine and dandy, until you’re asked to do a task with any degree of precision. A large part of this is the limitation of the PlayStation Move controllers and PS VR’s tracking, but it still leaves a lot to be desired in a game like Carnival Games VR. When I demoed the game on Oculus Rift with Touch at PAX, the accuracy was satisfactory. But on Sony’s device, I consistently ran into issues.
If I pulled my arm back to throw a ball during Golden Arm, it would float away or lose tracking from time to time. If I reached out in front or above me to reach for a new handhold in Climbing Wall, my arms would occlude the headset or my hands would drift in the game occasionally. Sometimes, just aiming at balloons and targets in Pop Darts and Shark Tank is nearly impossible — the accuracy required is often frustrating.
All that being said, it doesn’t really negate the experience too much. This is a game you put on when friends are over or you want to show kids what VR gaming is like. Catching funnel cakes in Funnel Cake Stacker is a blast, Ring Toss is very satisfying, and Haunted House is so fun it deserves an entire theme part of attractions built on that premise. It really reminded me of Disneyland.
Carnival Games VR is exactly what you expect. After you spend an hour or so collecting tickets to unlock all of the attractions, you have little reason to return to this whimsical world unless it’s with your friends or with your kids. There is no structural multiplayer support — a huge missed opportunity — and the PS VR tracking issues hinder an otherwise silly and fun experience. If you’re looking for something to play alone or something to get mileage out of your VR hardware, then this isn’t really the game for you. It fulfills a very singular purpose and that’s it.
Curious about this score? Check out our review guidelines for more information. We were not provided with an HTC Vive build at the time of this review — we only tested the PlayStation VR version of the game. An Oculus Rift with Touch version is planned as well.