A very solid shooting gallery game marred by replayability issues.
One of the breakout genres in the Wii library is that of carnival games. It shouldn't come as a surprise, however, since people generally have a soft spot for carnivals. Their nostalgic value and simple games combined with the gameplay potential offered by the Wii Remote can result in titles that are fun and unique, such as Take Two's Carnival Games. With this in mind, n-Space and Incredible Technologies have created Carnival King for WiiWare, a very fun and solid title marred only by its length.
Wasting no time, Carnival King takes you to one of three parks: Arcadia, Dreamland, and Lagoon Park. Each park consists of four mini-games and one bonus mini-game if you surpass a certain score. Each stage consists of two rounds, and when you complete them you are given a score and accuracy percentage. When you are done with all the stages, your score is tallied up and given a rank. If you desire, you can transmit your score over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and have it posted on the game's online leader boards.
The stages are all shooting gallery games, but they vary in terms of goals and concepts. For example, one stage has you shooting down toy robots, while in another you are asked to create a set of color balloons by shooting the balloons of the other colors. Each stage lasts two rounds. In all the stages you will see a bonus target that yields the most points, and shooting the clock will add a few more seconds to the time. Including the bonus rounds, Carnival King has 15 stages in all.
A second player can join in the fun without the need of a second controller. The two-player mode is turn-based, meaning that once you are done with one round, you pass the controller to the next player and have him or her take a crack at the game, which is very fun. You can also choose from three difficulty settings; beginner (the score isn't saved), normal, and advanced (the player has to be very accurate and the rules will be more strict).
That's the game in a nutshell. Its simplicity is both its strength and its weakness. Carnival King takes players back to a time in which games were about getting the highest score possible. It emulates the feel of an arcade game and carnival game extremely well, and offers a lot of nostalgic value for those who fondly remember those evenings filled with rides, candy, and games. It also allows for short gaming sessions for people that want to play a game, but don't have the time to spend hours on one. The controls are also simple, but work perfectly for this type of title. If you can aim and shoot, you can play this game. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even use the Wii Zapper for a more authentic arcade experience.
Unfortunately, since Carnival King is designed to mimic an old school arcade game there are no other modes or games to participate in. What's worse is that you can see all that the game has to offer in less than 30 minutes, making it a very short affair. Its lastability really depends on what kind of gamer is playing it. It will last a while if you want to achieve a perfect score in all of the stages and see if you can be number one on the leader board, but if you want more than just simple fun you will be disappointed.
The visual presentation yields mixed results. The colors are right and the stage designs truly resemble those of old, run-down carnival games, but the textures are low resolution, and some of the 3D work is poor. The presentation, however, does earn some points for creating stages with a unique look and feel. The same can be said about the game's audio. The music is fitting enough thanks to some big brass band tunes, but the narrator is too monotone to be taken seriously as a carnival barker. He also tends to repeat the same lines over and over.
If you look at Carnival King as a title that is meant to be a throwback to both classic carnival games and arcade titles, there is a lot to like about it. Just realize that it won't last you very long, unless you are the kind that needs to convince the world that you are the best at this kind of game.