Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do

The Amazing Jaredini sees into your future Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do. Well, I guess it is not actually the future–kind of today, as I was playing you on my Xbox 360 Kinect. I put your disc into my Xbox 360, did my embarrassing Kinect body waggling and was introduced to Barker, the head carny in my Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do adventure, who to my disappointment is not related to Bob Barker whatsoever.

Like any good reviewer, I had to put on the hat for the primary marketing demographic of this game–families. Because let’s be honest–the same guy who is looking forward to Mortal Kombat, likely didn’t put 5 dollars down at GameStop on Carnival Games: Monkey See Monkey Do along with his Mortal Kombat Kollector’s Edition. At the same time, you have to look at the game from an overall design and execution perspective as well. So with that in mind, let’s enter CARNIVAL…games!

Carnival Games: Monkey See Monkey Do features 20 midway games with classic fair that you would find at either your traveling carnival or at a Six Flags or Kings Dominion. Games like Ring Toss, The Roll A Ball Horse Race Game, Skee-Ball (or Alley Ball as the call it), and Milk Can Toss are standards. Also in the mix are Monkey See, Monkey Do, a nod to Dance Central, and Crash Dummy, a clone of the Cartoon Network game show Hole in The Wall all using your Xbox Live Avatar. Each of these games are divided up into 5 themed worlds–think of Disney World, but with carnival names. Players are awarded with tickets when they complete a game (ala Chuck E Cheese) and can redeem at the prize booth for in-game clothes for their avatars and other goodies. 

Games for the most part range between plain dull, asinine, to downright innovative regarding its Kinect usage. To go along with the theme of worlds in Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do, I’ll break the game down into three themed worlds:

The Dull: Some games such as the Rocket to Mars game aren’t all that exciting (I zoomed around my living room like a rocket much to the enjoyment of my two year old niece) and I kind of felt like WWE Legend The Ultimate Warrior after playing the Air Balloon game which I have to thank the guys over at 2KPlay for, because I kind of felt like there was a lot of rope shaking and heavy breathing missing from WWE All Stars on the Xbox 360 that could’ve been done with the Kinect. The Ball Rolling Horse Racing Game has zero to no skill involved, and I spent my time flinging the balls at random holes rather than the ones that were highlighted. The basketball mini-game left a lot to be desired, as the control scheme (throwing the ball from behind your head instead of the standard shooting position) made shooting the ball quite awkward. The Shark Tank Toss and Milk Can Toss were also quite boring considering that the game required you to hit a roving target rather than being able to toss the ball by measuring accuracy and speed.

The Asinine: Do you think the guys on the Kinect development team ever imagined that a developer would use the Kinect so you could spank a pig? Well Kudo Tsunoda, meet Carnival Games: Monkey See Monkey Do and the pig race. Yes reader, I slapped my leg and swayed around my living room to provide you this review. I also hopped on a roller coaster and collected coins all while doing my best  Naughty By Nature: Hop Hop Hooray impression. The Batting Cage mini-game has been the only Kinect game thus far that made me desire some kind of wand to swing toward the Kinect, but perhaps this was just poor execution by the developers–I was swinging for the fences without much of a result.

The Innovative: You might be saying to yourself, “how in the world can a mini-game based game be innovative?” And I would be saying the same thing myself before I played the title. Games such as Alley Ball and Ring Toss detect the amount of force used to toss the ball, and I actually felt like I had some control over where the ball was actually going. Basket toss actually used weight and force detection to measure how hard I tossed the golf ball versus how hard I tossed planet Earth. I came away impressed that the developers actually took the time to implement such a system. And I have to admit that the Hole in The Wall esque game Crash Dummy and Monkey See, Monkey Do were quite entertaining.

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Presentation wise, I wanted to fling my body (the controller) at the television. The game seemed to have one carnivalesque track that repeated itself over and over again–I felt like I was trapped in some Twisted Hall of Terrible Video Game Music with no escape. And let’s not forget the carny extraordinare Barker. Barker is quite the heckler–even when you think you did well in a game, he has some negative comment to say that is cornier than the Bearded Lady’s feet (and yes, Barker’s jokes are cornier than the one I attempted to make). When it came time for the Shark Ball Toss, I was excited at the prospect of watching Barker be fed to Jaws so he’d finally shut his mustached trap–but apparently the game thinks I want to see my Xbox Live Friends get eaten by sharks. How rude.

2KPlay is also utilizing the Kinect’s Voice Recognition system with The Amazing Wodin, a fortune teller who can give you a Wizard name, or tell you a joke. I opted for Wodin to give me a Wizard name. He decided it based on a few prompts I shouted at–which the game recognized without trouble. Green Fighting Tweezery Wizard–whatever that means. It’s lame–downright lame, but then again so were the Fortune Tellers at the Penny Arcades–except for Zoltar of course. Kids will dig it for a bit, but the “fun” will wear after Wodin’s words all start to sound the same.

For the youngsters, there is going to be a bit of a learning curve–probably for some of the seasoned Kinect veterans as well. I invited some family over to play–because honestly, you NEED to play this game with other people. Heck, 2KPlay even includes a coupon for free popcorn in the game manual–that just spells midway multiplayer mayhem. Otherwise, you’re not going to play this game more than once. Individuals were confused by some of the gestures that Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do indicated for them to do–particularly with the Roller Coaster mini-game. Again, there are some accuracy issues (with the exception of the ball and ring based games), and it’s hard to measure what the game thinks is a good performance or as Barker called it “rotten milk.”

2011 is the year of the Kinect for Microsoft. It is a device that is designed to open the doors to casual gamers in the same way the Wii did with Wii Sports and create new ways to play for core gamers. Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do has its foot in the “moving forward” and “gimmick” realms. It employs some innovations in terms of its weight and force detection, which makes for some interesting gameplay and is definitely the best title in the Carnival Games series so far. Presentation wise, things felt very repetitive, especially with Barker at the wheel and the visuals were nothing to call home about–although I did appreciate the integration of Avatars in the game. Carnival Games: Monkey See, Monkey Do is succesful at being another option for families to continue to utilize the Kinect in fun and exciting ways, and for kids, will capture the essence of being at a carnival on a rainy day. But the feeling that Wii’ve done this all before and the majority of mini-games being quite boring, pushes the game into the gimmick mini-game category we’ve been forced fed over the past 5 years.


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