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Hands-On: 'Carnival Games VR' is Like a Whimsical Trip to a Virtual Fair

Hands-On: 'Carnival Games VR' is Like a Whimsical Trip to a Virtual Fair

The current VR gaming climate is a mixed bag. Some people are clamoring for more immersive, deep, and engaging experiences that offer them hours of unique storytelling and rich worlds to explore. They’re hungry for content. Then you’ve also got camps of people that are aware of the current lack of meaty experiences and are happy to feast on the bite-sized VR appetizer games that currently litter the pages of Steam.

Carnival Games VR feels like a buffet of bite-sized experiences. None of them are of particular note on their own, but when combined together into one neat and attractive package, there’s plenty of fun to be had.

carnival games vr ring toss

To be clear, Carnival Games VR isn’t exactly very innovative or groundbreaking, and I don’t think it needs to be. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because you might recall the Carnival Games franchise most notable appeared on the Nintendo Wii. It’s a series that has made a name for itself by offering simple, often silly, gimmicky mini games that utilize motion controls in relatively engaging ways. That focus on accessible, dumb fun was on display at this year’s PAX West.

Attendees lines up around the booth — which was appropriately designed to look like a booth at a carnival — to take turns playing one of a dozen different short carnival fair-style games. The full list of games includes:

  • Alley Ball – Carnival Games VR’s take on classic Skee Ball,
  • Ring Toss – Just like it sounds,
  • Golden Arm – Throw baseballs at milk jugs,
  • Down the Stretch – Roll balls into holes,
  • Pop Darts – Throw darts at balloons,
  • Shark Tank – Dunk people by hitting a target,
  • Funnel Cake Stacker – Catch raining funnel cakes,
  • Swish – Shoot basketballs,
  • 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 – Race to the top of the wall.

If they sound simplistic, that’s because they are by design. While other developers are busy trying to create the most intellectually stimulating and revolutionary experience possible, the team behind Carnival Games is happy to bring their whimsical experiences into a new and more immersive medium.

Carnival-themed games aren’t anything new in the game industry, least of all VR. In fact, NVIDIA’s VR Funhouse recently released, featuring some gorgeous visuals, to offer up an interesting — and free — interpretation on the genre. Pierhead Arcade also does something very, very similar to Carnival Games VR, but is only available on Vive at the moment. Resolution Games’ forthcoming Wonderglade is aiming to offer something similar as well, presumably.

carnival games vr milk jugs

What Carnival Games VR lacks in originality it makes up for in presentation. This is a fantastical presentation of the carnival concept, not a realistic one like the aforementioned experiences. I began my demo at PAX West in the middle of what looked like a bright and colorful fair. The area was split into a variety of themed sections, each of which contained a handful of different games to try. The first one that caught my interest was Swish, the basketball game. Judging how well a game like this can accurately capture throwing physics is a good benchmark.

I only made one basket. A lot of that may have to do with the fact that I’m terrible, but it could also be because the physics and timing of throwing the basketball just felt a bit off. The ball didn’t seem to travel as far as I was throwing it and the gravity that determined it’s drop speed seemed off. It’s hard to describe, but it didn’t feel right, which is a shame.

Luckily my next demo, Haunted House, was much better. It felt like a combination of the Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, each from Disneyland. The on-rails experience took me through the insides of a decrepit old house while ghosts, ghouls, and monsters popped out at various moments to scare me. By shooting the large, glowing targets on their chests, I was racking up points.

By the end of the “ride” I learned two things: 1) I had just scored the highest score of the day so far at PAX West, which put a smile on my face as they wrote my name on the marker board, and 2) I really, really want a Disneyland in VR experience very badly.

Carnival Games VR isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but I know for my tastes, having a fun, silly party game like this is the perfect way to get people into VR that wouldn’t otherwise care. When friends come over, breaking this out would be an incredibly accessible way to get people excited about the technology — just like it was used on the Wii previously.

carnival games vr environment

Carnival Games VR is in development by Cat Daddy Games and is being published by 2K. The game is scheduled to be released on October 28th for the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. An Oculus Rift release is planned after the Touch controllers hit the market. You can see more information about the game on the posted Steam page.

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