Mii-mingling, brain-training, virtual puppy-petting gamers concerned over the comparatively hardcore Metroid Prime 3 crashing their pick-up-and-play party can rest easy - Carnival Games has arrived to resume the minigame mayhem. Recreating all the midway-inspired staples - skee ball, ring toss, shooting gallery - Global Star Software's reasonably priced package brings the state fair home, without the creepy carnies, out-on-parole ride operators and artery-clogging corn dogs. Like most casual-focused compilations, Carnival Games' 25-plus challenges run the minigame gamut, from fun (Hoops) to frustrating (Nerves of Steel), with most landing somewhere in between.
The best of the bunch make innovative use of the Wii Remote; Balloon Darts has you holding the peripheral like a throwing dart, steadying your aim, and feigning a toss at waiting-to-be-popped balloons. Even better, some ramp up the intensity - and heart rate - by incorporating multiple Wii-motion moves; Clown Splash - that squirt-water-in-clown-head-statue's-mouth favorite - will have you breaking a Wii Sports-like sweat as you frantically alternate between shaking the remote to accumulate power, and trigger-pulling to successfully soak your clown's gaping maw. This clown drowning sim, along with another midway fave, Day at the Races - in which you guide your galloping steed to the finish line by rolling balls into point-specific holes - does a great job of recreating that competitive carnival spirit; visions of victoriously claiming a crappy plush-toy prize will have you craving a win. But realism can also backfire, as is the case with all-luck, no-skill entries like Ring Toss - believe us, trying to snag a tiny ring onto a bottle neck is no more fun in virtual life than it is in real life.
Success in Carnival Games earns you tickets, prizes (of which there are roughly two zillion) and unlockable challenges - generally tweaked-difficulty versions of games you've already played. Spend tickets on filler-feeling distractions like the Prize Claw, or cash them in to customize your Mii-meets-Rayman armless avatar. Dressing your limb-challenged character like a Village People reject - hard hats, pirate patches, Mardi Gras masks - is amusing, but ultimately unsatisfying because your carnival-going counterpart spends most of the game with his back turned to you.