Day 17: “CarneyVale Showtime”

Posted: 2010/11/26 in Indie Games
Tags: , ,

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #17, and today’s game is “CarneyVale Showtime”.

Like yesterday’s game, “Bloc”, CarneyVale Showtime is a game from late 2008 when Indie Games were still called Xbox Live Community Games. And like Bloc, it likely doesn’t feel like a game you’ve played before.

CarneyVale Showtime is actually a relatively high profile game at the moment, having been released for Windows PCs, and having also just come out as a launch title for the new Windows Phone 7 platform. However, it actually began its life two years ago as an indie game on Xbox Live, and is still available there for a mere 240 Microsoft Points. Best of all, it looks Gambit Game Lab got it right the first time: the changes in the PC and WinPhone7 versions appear to be largely user interface related, making it a choice of which device you want to play it on rather than which version is “best”. In fact, it looks like features (such as the map editor) that were added when the PC version came out were later added in an update to the Indie Games version, so it’s nice to see the title continuing to be supported.

In the game you play as a rag doll that dreams of being the world’s greatest acrobat. In broad terms, that means the game plays out as a hybrid of puzzle solving and platforming: you have to puzzle out how to navigate through the levels while collecting items and making your way to the finish, but you also have some control of your character mid-flight. You fire your rag doll through the course avoiding hazards, and grabbing it with devices that you can use to propel it throughout the level. Games can be fast and frantic as you fire your performer all over the map. Mercifully, the time limit is there just to award bonuses for quick completion, not to punish those that take their time exploring for every last collectible and attempting difficult shots.

CarneyVale Showtime was developed by the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab1, which is a collaboration between MIT and a Singapore agency charged with supporting content creation in that country. CarneyVale beat 350 entries to win the top $40K prize at the 2008 XNA/Indie Games Dream-Build-Play contest. It was also among the “Top 10 Independent Games Showcase Winners” at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo (PAX 10) and a finalist at the 11th Annual Independent Games Festival in 2009. Despite all the accolades, all the talk right now is of CarneyVale on Windows Phone 7 so I thought it was a great time to purchase it and remind people of its roots, not to mention that the Indie Games version is significantly less expensive than the other options (with retail for about three times the price).

The game is just as hard as it needs to be, and just as forgiving as it has to be, to be challenging without being frustrating. It’s a 240 Microsoft Point masterpiece.

For a second opinion, check out Kobun’s review of CarneyVale Showtime.

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