E3 2011: Carnival Island Preview

We hone our skeeball skills in this upcoming party game for the PlayStation Move.

The local carnival always conjures up fond memories of cotton candy, candy apples, and kettle corn, but the attraction that lures you in (besides the rides) is the carnival games. The games are designed to be hard--otherwise they'd lose money--and the alluring prize that dangles above is what pulls you in. In Carnival Island, you have an even greater purpose, and that is to bring color back into this desaturated world. Along the way, you'll win tickets and get toys of course, but you'll also unlock pets that come to life. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo we were able to play a few minigames with the PlayStation Move and pocket a few tickets.

Who's Making It: The developer is Magic Pixel Games, and it's working closely with Sony in Santa Monica, which is publishing the game.

What It Looks Like: The aesthetics in Carnival Island are charming and colorful, creating a magical environment for families to play their favorite games in. You'll see pets roam the carnival grounds, and as you progress through the game, color will slowly be restored to this world. There's quite a bit of detail in the minigames themselves as well. Frog bog has a lovely evening setting, with glowing mushrooms and soft lights. Even the sound effects in frog bog when you launch your poor amphibian into the lily pads are entertaining.

What You Do: There are seven basic carnival games and variations on them to bring the total number of minigames to 35. There's skeeball, frog bog, hoops, and ring toss, just to name a few, but by playing the games, you'll unlock the magical variants of them. For example, you have a traditional skeeball ramp when you first start, but in the other versions, the layout will be slightly different. In frog bog, the standard minigame involves slamming a hammer down on a catapult to toss your frog into a lily pad, but in one of the versions we played, we were able to use the Move controller to steer the frog, who had an adorable beanie propeller hat on. Ring toss is pretty self-explanatory, but the magical version has rockets, where if you land a ring on one rocket, it'll take off into the air while setting off a few more to join it. It's not drastically different, but it beats trying to throw rings on bottles all the time.

As you play, you'll earn tickets that can then be traded in to unlock fun items. There's a funhouse mirror in the game as well that uses the PlayStation Eye camera, where you can distort or reflect your photo, or give it a kaleidoscope effect.

How It Plays: Using the wand controller, your movements are one-to-one onscreen. By pressing the trigger, you can pick up the skeeball or hammer and just move the way you normally would if you were to play one of those games. It gauges your power and accuracy pretty well, and it's incredibly easy to pick up and play. The game supports up to four players.

What We Say: Motion-based gaming tends to breed a lot of minigame compilations, but when done well, they are great party games for families. Carnival Island controls well and is set in a festive and fun environment. The game is planned to come out this holiday season for the PlayStation Move.

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