Developer: Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab
Nomination: Seumas McNally Grand Prize
Platform: XBLA, PC (Free demo, paid full version available)
Description: You play as Slinky, the magically-animated puppet acrobat, in his quest to become the best acrobat ever. You use the ragdoll physics to navigate through perform tricks in vertical platform levels. Grand Prize winner of the 2008 Dream Build Play Challenge.
This game has “physics sim” written all over it and it plays much like Strange Attractors 2 mixed with pinball. The fundamental concepts are different, but managing your rotational momentum to reach a goal feels very familiar.
The platforming elements like bottomless pits and the inexorable downward pull of gravity set CarneyVale: Showtime apart as its own game (to say nothing of its coherent circus theme). The controls are tight and intuitive, the concepts are easy to acquire and hard to master, and the biggest surprise is really that nobody thought to make this game before now. The fact that there’s a level editor doesn’t hurt any either, and would be a welcome addition to more console games than this one.
CarneyVale: Showtime is difficult to describe without making the premise sound cheesy, but let me assure you that the game comes together solidly on the charming side of the perilous charming/cheesy edge. The backgrounds, music, and art all come together to form an immersive environment where you can focus on doing your tricks and finding the balloons and stars that will impress your digital audience.
Maneuvering though the vertical levels is controlled in two ways. First, you can instruct the level’s many little rotating arms to grab you and then to release you in new interesting directions and speeds. Second, you can “lean” in mid-air, which is surprisingly effective in what at first glance is a purely physics-based game. In fact, you have enough power over your direction that you can lean your way up a 45 degree inclined ramp. The carnival’s magic has an impressive hold on physics, I suppose. Later levels add additional complications to consider, like electric obstacles and speed boosts.
CarneyVale: Showtime is a refreshing take on the platforming genre, and if you like the demo, you’ll have a hard time not spending the $5 for the full game.
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