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Jim Henson's Muppet Adventure No. 1: Chaos at the Carnival (Commodore 64) artwork

Jim Henson's Muppet Adventure No. 1: Chaos at the Carnival (Commodore 64) review


"If you're a seeker of esoterica or a man with a penchant for playing poorly made license titles, then Jim Henson's Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival is just the ticket. It's the crème de la crème of awful. Most wouldn't expect much of a Muppet game, maybe mediocrity at best, but I'm sure few would expect to be at the very bottom of the gaming totem pole. It's a license title with hardly any elements that attach it to its source material, loaded with just about every gaming flaw y..."



If you're a seeker of esoterica or a man with a penchant for playing poorly made license titles, then Jim Henson's Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival is just the ticket. It's the crème de la crème of awful. Most wouldn't expect much of a Muppet game, maybe mediocrity at best, but I'm sure few would expect to be at the very bottom of the gaming totem pole. It's a license title with hardly any elements that attach it to its source material, loaded with just about every gaming flaw you can think of and not a single redeeming value. It also sports an extremely ridiculous challenge factor, making it feel like a rigged carnival game. It's practically unbeatable, and almost unplayable.

The C64 version of Chaos at the Carnival differs from its NES and Apple II brothers. The gameplay is less action-based and more like a collection of very poorly developed and unimaginative mini-games. Think of it as Action 52 with Muppets and about 47 less games.

After doing the disc switch mambo and giving yourself a name (the eternal fifteen-year-old in me insisted on “Craphat”), you get to pick a stage a la Mega Man with a carnival theme. You hit Return to start the first level and the game asks you to pick a Muppet. As you see the selection, you battle the egressing lunch that has just come up your esophagus.. Shoddy character designs pervade the screen. Fozzie, pale white, looks like he bled to death. Animal looks like a methed-out hooker who stuck her face in a fan.

This screen is an omen. It's a warning sign that one of the savvier folks in the development team programmed to tell you to go no further. You refuse. You're a lover of obscure games, especially license titles that no one in their right mind would touch. You hit the Return key after you've selected Gonzo, swallow hard, and bite your lip. The game sounds more thrilled than you are:

Craphat
Get psyched!
Here you go!
Press Return for your next
hair raising carnival ride.


Tunnel of Love boots up. You sit in a boat as objects like snakes, inner tubes and alligators scroll down the screen at you. You grasp the keyboard and move your Muppet side to side......very slowly. Lethargy and promises of sleep begin to settle in and your eyelids droop. Your boat progressively inches forward, making dodging more difficult. It seems you're going to make it until you smack into a snake. You gawk at the screen and see a perceptible space between the boat and the snake. Stiff controls and faulty collision detection. This game is off to an excellent start. That one hit didn't just cost you a life, it cost you the game. You have to start the mini-game over again. This wouldn't be so bothersome were it not for the fact that the game is slow as molasses. It means if you want to get back to where you left off, you'll have to sit through another long, dull ride only to possibly screw up again.

You go back to the level menu and select the next game, Bumper Cars. Sounds promising. Perhaps it's a mini-game where you compete against the other Muppets, trying to smack them into the wall to earn points, or even cause them to wreck. Twisted Muppets, anyone?

What you see isn't a bumper car rink, but a small windy track with several obstacles. It's not what you expected, but it looks doable, perhaps even a cake walk. That's when you realize the game just lulled you into a false sense of security and sucker punched you with the worst physics known to man. The vehicle gains speed very slowly. As it builds momentum, it flies out of control until it hits the wall. Apparently, there's no friction in the Muppet world. The momentum never decreases. You hit the wall at top speed and bounce off at the same angle at which you hit it. You continue at the same speed until you hit another object and bounce back toward the wall. The only way to slow down is to struggle against the momentum.

These lousy physics make this mini-game practically impossible to win. If you can even get around the first bend, then you are a champion amongst gamers and deserve a medal and a parade in your honor. Once again, our nasty nemesis faulty collision detection rears its ugly little head. Each bend has an obstruction next to it. Try to go around the bend and you will almost always bounce back, despite it looking like you have wide enough berth between the bend and the obstruction. This makes it difficult to gauge exactly where you have to drive. It means you have to be in just the right position down to the most minuscule pixel, and with these physics that's no simple task.

Instead of going between the bend and the obstruction, you try to go between the obstruction and the wall to the left. You bounce off the wall, then off the obstruction, then back off the wall. No amount of mashing the directional seems to save you. You are stuck in an endless cycle of bouncing until the timer is up.

Yeah, there's a timer. You have a minute to complete the course. If that doesn't inspire you to shut the game off, then you're a saint.

You see a familiar name in this mix of misfit mini-games: Duck Hunt. You know now not to get your hopes up. Here you move your Muppet back and forth and throw tomatoes very slowly at ducks that fly back and forth. Funny how the developers went with something as harmless and non-violent as a tomato only to have the ducks violently explode into little pieces as the tomato makes contact. The task is not very demanding. Timing is all it takes, and eventually all of the fowls are laying in a tomatoey grave. It's shocking after two such terribly difficult mini-games to see one so mind-numbingly easy; so much that you yawn and reach to turn the game off.

But think better (or worse?) of it as you only have two other mini-games to try out.

The Fun House sounds like it might be a challenging maze. You know that it won't be, because that would make sense and actually be somewhat fun. It has nothing to do with fun houses whatsoever. All that appears on the screen is a scrambled picture divided into several squares. Using a cursor with your Muppet's disembodied head on it, you can swap one piece with another until you have solved the puzzle.

It's not even a slide puzzle. It's lazier than that; Color a Dinosaur lazy. It's something that you should be able to complete without difficulty unless you're under the age of five or a gold fish. You can clearly see the border of the picture. This allows you to form the outer rim right away, and the rest is elementary. One of the only completable games in this collection, yet it's so bland and uninteresting, and it feels very tacked on.

The final game is the Space Ride, and you'll be damned if you know what you're supposed to do. You fly a spaceship in the form of a basic shape like a triangle or square and must dock it with an identical shape. You can get the two lined up and press every damn button on the keyboard and never figure out how to complete this game. Instead, you just sit there until time runs out. This is where tutorials would be helpful.

Even if you're a complete masochist and feel you have to finish this game, you're in for a hell of a ride. Losing once in any of these games spells game over, and not “oh, I'll just continue” game over, but “crap, I have to start from the beginning” game over. You touch one snake, let one timer run out, fail to hit one duck and any mini-games you may have completed become null and void. You're expected to do this perfectly.

It's difficult to see what makes this a Muppet game apart from the character interface. If you removed the Muppets and replaced them with random characters, no one would know the difference. There are no other characters, environments, mini-games, music or anything that screams Muppets. You could just as easily stick WWE wrestlers or Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters in this game and it would have the same effect. Throwing them into a carnival feels like a random, odd association. It would be like making a Ghostbusters game that takes place in space. All of these factors make the game feel less like a license title and more like an abandoned project that someone resurrected and crudely inserted Muppets to make a quick buck.

In the end, there's nothing to “get psyched” about. Every mini-game is so basic and uninteresting, not to mention difficult for all the wrong reasons or way too easy, that it's hard to see how anyone would find any amusement in any of them.

Chaos at the Carnival sports a long list of flaws--stiff controls, unclear objectives, wonky physics, games that are too hard, games that are too easy, games that are just plain boring, and the fact that everything feels slapped together--and nothing whatsoever redeeming. Even Action 52 had something going for it. It's such an awful attempt at gaming that it's comical; it's the Plan 9 from Outer Space of the gaming world. It's nothing if not hilariously abysmal. If that's the case, then Chaos at the Carnival is Manos, Hands of Fate--not even worth a glance. The only recommendation I have is avoidance, plain and simple. There are better things you can do to remember a great entertainer like Jim Henson than play this game.

Statler: Just when you think this game is terrible something wonderful happens.
Waldorf: What?
Statler: It ends!

Rating: 1/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Featured community review by JoeTheDestroyer (January 10, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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