CarneyVale: Showtime Review

THE INDIE GAMES REVIEW:

You know those games that have a sick fascination with physics? Half Life 2 did, so does the apptly named “Crayon Physics”. And now, the Xbox Live community game “CarneyVale” does. CarneyVale focuses on momentum and flinging and rotating and all of that good stuff that doesn’t at all sound dirty when you follow it with the words “in bed”.

This also marks the first full game that I’ve bought and downloaded that will not at all contribute to my achievements score. And while I was slightly dissappointed by this revelation, I also found that the game is good enough to stand on its own without me  needing blind congratulations to make me continue playing.

The game starts off simply enough, with your goal of reaching the ring of fire only halted by your own lack of flinging skills, and like any Xbox Live game should, it is fun, and easy to pick up and play in short bursts. Each level begins with you at the bottom. You’re fired out of a cannon, and will be grabbed by a rotating claw with the press of the “A” button. Upon being grabbed, you will begin to rotate around and around, and then, you’ll fling yourself off to the next hook. You will do this all the way up to the top of the level, collecting balloons and lives and one star on your way.

To start with, your only obstacles will be walls that you will have to fly over or under. As you progress, you’ll find electric blocks, rotating flames ala Mario Bros., and breakable block walls. But have no fear, for you will also gain abilites along the way. You will gain a jetpack like boost that can be used in any direction but down, rockets that you can fly around in, and bouncy walls as well.

CarneyVale is a beautifully simple concept, that has a hidden layer of depth involved. Each level will award you with a range of stars from 1 to 5. You can’t successfully complete a level and not earn at least one star. Each star is earned for, respectivly, completing the level, collecting all of the balloons, finishing the level within the allotted time, finding the gold star, and being as creative as possible. By being creative, I mean doing the various tricks that you’re allowed. From “Rocket Rodeo” (riding a rocket for 5 seconds), to “Terminal Velocity” (falling at the fastest speed possible), you’ll find plenty of tricks to pull along the way.

I found that for the first few levels I was rather dissappointed with the lackluster level design. But later on the levels became huge. I would be given choices of which way to go, and options of what I wanted to achieve. Some levels would even begin to take upwards of 5 minutes. I could head for the star, which would require me to hazard the aformentioned electric boxes, or I could hunt the balloons, making for a much less hardcore, but equally enjoyable level. One could complain about backtracking, but why complain when the backtracking consists of falling for a couple of seconds?

The music is what can be expected for a community game, and the menu artwork is admittedly pretty cool. As you progress, you’ll gain ranks, and you’ll also earn pieces of concept art. There is a very robust level editor, but there is unfortunatly no way to share your levels, or to get custom maps from anyone else from what I could tell. Once you find an object in the story mode, that item will become available for you to put in your own levels. As well, any powers you obtain later on in the game will become available for you to use in earlier levels. In this way, the developers could create a reason to re-explore previous levels that you didn’t, or couldn’t, fully complete.

Like I said, CarneyVale: Showtime is the perfect community game. Or even the perfect normal arcade game sans achievements. It has a simple scheme. It gets more challenging at a manageable pace as you progress. And you gain new abilities and enemies at a steady pace that keeps the game fresh throughout the 27 levels. It will take anyone several hours to completely beat everything in CarneyVale. The lack of a shareing ability for your custom made levels will definitely dimish your replayability, but I… I mean everyone…. can always hope for map packs in the future. For $5, this game is a steal.

 

CarneyVale: Showtime – Buy

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~ by Dylan Nelson on February 8, 2009.

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