Enjoyable multiplayer doesn't save locked motion controls and a limited selection of games.
Playing Carnival Games on Switch in 2018 makes me feel like an archaeologist. Everyone else is out there playing Fortnite, Red Dead Redemption 2, and more while I’m shoveling through dirt to see what happens when you take the fossilized remains of a critically derided but hugely popular Wii mini-game collection and revive it like it’s Frankenstein’s monster years later. Spending time with Carnival Games on Switch made me recall my earnest, fond memories of the Wii era’s good mini-game collections, but at best, the Switch version is just okay coupled with maddening design choices.
Only 20 mini-games are packed into this carnival, all with only a little more depth than the average Mario Party mini-game. The low amount of games is definitely felt as you play through random ones in quick play or work your way through different tournaments. I repeated a lot of games early on and while none of them were necessarily bad, they don’t have the depth to make up almost everything that this game is.
Playing games earns you tickets, which can be used to unlock more games as well as a wealth of customization options, be they wacky new clothes and hats or other adornments for your custom character. Unfortunately, the in-game economy is a mess as it takes numerous replays of the same mini-games to build up tickets to unlock other games. Depth is not the watchword for Carnival Games. Moderate fun with the right group might be the proper phrasing to describe playing this.
Indeed, the saving grace of Carnival Games is multiplayer. I had fun in the multiplayer, but even that was met with bizarre decisions. Motion controls, which seem like a thing this game was meant for, are unlockable bonuses. You have to play through a mini-game and earn a high score to unlock motion controls. Until then, it’s buttons only. I have no explanation for why motion controls are locked away. It makes no sense.
I’m aware that Carnival Games doesn’t need my approval, but even with an open mind, I came away disappointed. I will always think fondly of my time with Wii-era party games and mini-game collections, but the Carnival Games revival will not be my preferred method of reliving that charming and gimmicky time period. Maybe this was a series worth leaving buried.