A little extra effort could have gone a long way...
Funfair Party Games is a very simple concept with an ambitious execution. While the collection, at its surface, appears to only feature ten mini-games ripped out of a generic carnival selection, the eShop title also features full-fledged attempts at motion controls, Mii integration, and even online. Of course, the game can only come off as fully impressive if these promised features are executed well; however, Funfair, despite its noble pretensions, does not fully realize this.
Becky Hollada: Funfair Party Games provides you with an avatar by pulling your current Mii into the game. However, your Mii is only shown as an icon at the beginning of the game at the Ticket Counter (the main menu), and briefly at the end of every game standing in front of a cheering crowd next to a miserable looking monkey. Your Mii’s shirt/body color doesn’t transfer; instead, it’s replaced by a generic, skinny body in a tracksuit that your disembodied head floats above. While there is nothing really wrong with this design change, it was odd for the game to only use part of the Mii.
Zack Kaplan: The ugly monkey that greets you upon booting the game is an indication of where the visuals will be taking you. Everything is bright and colorful, but not exactly pleasant to look at due to blandness. The 3D is okay, except for when it shows your Mii character in the results screen at the end of each game. With 3D on, I found that the heads were disconnected from their bodies.
Becky: Outside of questionable presentation, the UI was also cumbersome in a lot of places. A couple of the multiplayer games actually plaster the leader’s name across the screen, blocking the action. When two players are in close competition, this quickly becomes infuriating.
The motion-based "Arcade" controls were also clunky and imprecise in comparison to button-based "Classic" ones. Motions are either difficult to aim, or dependent on moving the 3DS quickly and aggressively in a specific direction. Eventually, I gave up, frustrated and fearing for my screen hinge. Unless you’re looking for a challenge in Funfair, it’s best to just stick to Classic controls.
As for the games themselves, there are ten, and are as follows:
Kimberly Keller: The Shooting Gallery is one of the most intuitive and fun games of the bunch. You are given a set amount of bullets and tasked with shooting down pigs, pots, cards, and more on a farm. Each target is worth a different amount of points based on size and movement, and a nice 300 point bonus can be gained for “piggishness” if you continually hit the moving pigs. The button controls make aim easy as you move your crosshairs around with the control pad and shoot with the R button. Interestingly, it is mandatory to reload your shotgun after each shot, first by inserting a bullet with X and then closing the chamber with Y. At first it was easy to forget this arbitrary rule, but soon the traditional double click of the reload became a satisfying addition as I quickly shot down targets like a pro.
As usual, Arcade version was much more cumbersome, and reloading became a task in itself. Aiming utilizes the 3DS’ gyroscope and can thankfully be re-centered using X if things get a little off kilter as you play. To reload, you must quickly tilt the 3DS forward and back to simulate cocking a real gun. More often than not, I had to forcibly shake the 3DS back and forth, carefully holding the screen in place, until my gun finally reloaded.
High Striker lets you test your strength, or rather, coordination skills, as you charge up your mallet and aim for the center of the target to see if you can ring the bell. In Classic mode, you charge your mallet by pressing the L and R buttons until the meter hits the top. The trick is in maintaining a high level while stretching your thumb to the touchscreen to hit the button cleanly in the middle, which is not a simple task. Arcade controls were a mess: while pressing L and R, you must rhythmically move the 3DS up and down (too fast and it faults you) and move the console carefully around at the same time to line up a circle with the center of the touchscreen. You finally deploy your mallet by somehow pressing the X button the moment you manage to center everything with your charge meter filled.
Ball-in-the-Glass was easy to pick up in classic mode—simply press and hold X when the arrow points in the direction you want and release when the power meter is at the desired strength. The use of 3D clearly showed the differing distances of the glass cups, which are worth more points the farther back you go. It’s a very forgiving game as points can even be earned outside of the cups just by keeping the ball on the shelf. The arcade version surprisingly works well for this game. After pressing L and R together to activate the ball, all you have to do is sway the 3DS forward with a little force in the direction you want.
Daan Koopman: Claw Crane doesn’t have much going for it, as you try to grab harmless plush toys and collect them for massive amounts of points. You are given six chances to do so and therefore precision is a must. In some cases though, you’re rewarded for grabbing a toy, even if you miss the end goal; this seems like an odd design choice. It removes the excitement a little bit as you can win by simply being mediocre at it. The precision required for the minigame can't be found when using the Arcade controls, as the motion controls aren't that accurate and feel sluggish in comparison.
Hot Wire takes you to an obstacle course where you have to move a small ring through a big, curving line. With Classic controls, you press the L and R buttons or the A and B buttons to twist your ring to bring it safely to the other side. You move the ring around with the Circle Pad; this works fairly well, as it gives you more control for overcoming the terrain. If your ring hits the line, you will use a life and will be set back to the last checkpoint. If you hit the line nine times, it’s game over. The problem lies in the Arcade controls, which require multiple button prompts as well as twisting and turning your Nintendo 3DS. It is simply not fun to play it that way, so it is highly recommended to play it on Classic.
Can Knockdown requires you to throw balls at a horde of cans to win. With the Classic controls in place, you use the Circle Pad to aim and alternate pressing the L and R buttons to reach higher power levels. When you are satisfied with your power level, you hold those same buttons to throw the ball. The wait for this to happen is a bit too long for this sort of game and your crosshair is always moving, so it could all turn out really badly for you. If you are playing with the Arcade controls, you will have to grab the ball with the L and R buttons. After this, you aim with your Nintendo 3DS and move the system forward to throw the ball. This feels pointless, and you barely get the same accuracy as you do with the Classic controls.
Becky: Ball Roll is what many people know as Skee Ball, a game where you roll a ball up a lane aiming for holes with different point values. Unlike many of the other carnival games in Funfair Party Games, Ball Roll’s Classic controls rely solely on the touch screen, prompting players to use the stylus to aim and send their balls sailing up the lane. These controls aren’t very sensitive, so sometimes players will find themselves sliding their stylus pretty hard to get their ball into a scoring hole. Like always, however, Classic controls are still preferable over Arcade controls. Arcade controls instruct players to grab a ball by pressing the L and R buttons simultaneously, and then throw the ball by thrusting the 3DS forward. It’s difficult to aim and just makes you worried you’re going to accidentally throw your system across the room.
Balloon Burst is another pretty easy game with its Classic controls. While the aiming crosshairs in some of the other games move, these remain stationary while the player holds the L and R buttons, timing the power gauge to hit green before releasing the buttons to throw the dart. The Arcade controls in this game are just as cumbersome as Ball Roll, employing the same technique to throw--moving the 3DS forward forcefully. The physics of this game, however, are some of the most sound.
Zack: Basketball's Arcade controls are imprecise. You throw balls into a hoop using the gyroscopic controls of the 3DS. I had to flick the system like a basketball, which made it incredibly difficult to aim. Classic mode has you consult a meter to see how powerful your throw is. Aiming is controlled with the circle pad. To add difficulty, the target reticle is constantly moving around.
One of the more fun mini games, Camel Race, has you throwing balls into holes in order to move camels in a race. It is best done with Classic controls, where you flick the balls with the stylus; especially since the Arcade controls force you to flick your 3DS like in Basketball. Depending on which hole the ball lands in, your camel will move a certain distance.
Alex Culafi: As for the multiplayer, which can be played locally, online, or in a "Hot Seat" mode involving passing a single 3DS around, the delivered quality is fairly competent. Everything works fine (including the online, when you can find a game), but the multiplayer only goes as far as the quality of the content allows it. You might not get into crazy competitive matches over the title, but the simplicity of each game certainly makes for something light to play while chatting with a friend. Don't expect to get into any public matches, however, the servers we entered were completely empty.
Ultimately, Funfair Party Games is exactly what you’d expect; the motion controls don't really work in a practical sense, the games are pretty decent—if not overly simple—with button-based controls, and the multiplayer is okay. As previously stated, the ambition is admirable, but the amicability of a game can only go as far as how well the game delivers on its promises. Funfair falls a bit flat.