"Each level is distinctly different from the next, meaning there are basically four little mini-games you must pass on your way to the grand finale. The first of these is a kayaking trip down a little river. Kermit is the guy in charge, and he must steer his little vessel around rocks, floating logs, whirlpools, and the dangerous riverbanks."
When Jim Henson created the Muppets, he left America with a legacy of fuzzy animals that have entertained children for years. I remember being quite depressed when he passed away. Many of his movies were quite enjoyable and remain classics to this day. As it turns out, the same cannot be said of the video games based off his famous characters. This is proven, if nowhere else, by Hi-Tech's Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival. While not an awful game overall, it was released late enough in the NES cycle that it should have been much better than it is.
The basic premise behind the game is that Ms. Piggy has been kidnapped by Dr. Grump, a fiend bent on... kidnapping Ms. Piggy, it would appear. The story is presented like a news flash. Basically, the remaining Muppets have banded together to rescue their friend. The way they do this is by collecting four keys that will allow them to access the insane doctor and his monster. Unfortunately, no one thought to collect all that many tickets, which are required to go on the rides, so to rescue Mrs. Piggy you'll need to complete each of the rides without messing up all that frequently.
Okay, so the plot is the fluff you would expect. But what about the levels themselves? Well... they could be worse.
Each level is distinctly different from the next, meaning there are basically four little mini-games you must pass on your way to the grand finale. The first of these is a kayaking trip down a little river. Kermit is the guy in charge, and he must steer his little vessel around rocks, floating logs, whirlpools, and the dangerous riverbanks. He can take four hits and a fifth will do him in, but there are life canisters along the way that can refill him. This level is actually somewhat enjoyable once you get used to it, but for the fact that hit detection seems a little off. Sometimes Kermit will take damage even when it appears he should have easily cleared a given obstacle, or sometimes he might hit a log and be stuck while he takes several hits all at once. Aside from such frustrations, the river is probably the best of the lot, and with a very catchy tune piping out in the background.
Another attraction is the space ride, with Gonzo at the controls. This spacecraft pilots about like the pod in Solar Jetman or the ship in Asteroids, and he can shoot in one direction. The screen slowly scrolls from left to right, and it's your job to putt about, avoiding damage from asteroids and other space ships (and the shots they fire). You'll pass through a narrow cave, too, so you have to be sure the scrolling screen doesn't catch you behind a barrier. All in all, this particular ride is frustrating but rather enjoyable just the same.
Not quite as enjoyable are the last two stages, which are downright tedious. The lesser of the two offenders is the racing stage. Your controls are very similar to those in the space area, but you're this time racing along concrete in a bumper car. You can knock over barrels and collect banana peels for points. The only thing to really worry about are the little bombs that litter the raceway, and the objects that might cause you to bounce into said explosives. The first half is an easy cruise from left to right, but later on in the level you have to slow to a crawl just to avoid running into bombs.
Finally, there's the maze. This is just a series of one-screen rooms where the bear must avoid opponents while dashing about to collect three pieces of candy. Once he does, it's the next such screen with three more bits of candy to collect. And on, and on, and on it goes. This area seems endless, with at least 18 such screens, and it's enough to test anyone's patience. No, it's not all that difficult, but the word 'boring' definitely comes to mind.
In terms of challenge, the game's main difficulty arises from its rather clumsy controls. None of the characters really feels as responsive as he should. While it's true that the hazards aren't particularly abundant, they exist just the same and will likely cause you to lose a few lives... er, tickets. And when you run out of tickets, the game is over and none of what you did matters in the slightest.
The first time I got the 'Game Over' screen with most of the keys collected, I realized something very important: I didn't want to play again. Sure, there'd been some moments that were slightly enjoyable, but overall, Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival feels more like a chore than anything. What this means is that I certainly can't recommend it to, well, anyone. Fans of Jim Henson's creatures would do better to watch the movies. That's true not only for adults but also children. There may have been a time when this game was worth a play, but nowadays its just a waste of space.
Staff review by Jason Venter (November 02, 2003)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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