Karnival in Review – The circus is back in town!


Don’t you just love the circus? I do, at least I did when I was a kid. I haven’t been to one in ages, but it seems that Hands-On Mobile have just given me chance to feel like a little kid again. Karnival puts you in charge of running your own travelling circus, complete with everything from rides and shops to freaks. Want to know how it feels like to run your own little travelling kingdom of fun? Well, read on!

Unlike many tycoon games, the main goal in Karnival is NOT to hoard up money. The main goal is to gain fame which is awarded for anything, ranging from simply having your attractions attended to awarding prizes at games. Surprisingly for a tycoon game, Karnival features a mission-based storyline.


One of the most interesting things in any tycoon game is the buildings. And there are enough of them to satisfy even the most die-hard fan of the genre. Karnival features 30 which are split into the following categories: rides, stalls, games and freaks. Some of them are unlocked by earning enough fame, but the most interesting ones of course, are unlocked by completing towns. The town is considered complete when you gain enough of a foothold there for the local freak to decide to join you.


The economic model of Karnival is quite complex. Each guest has a number of parameters that describe his/her current condition and each ride has their own set of modifiers. Everything is taken into account from the state of the rides, to the costs of the tickets and % of chances to win prizes to the weather and time of day. With so many different parameters it’s often impossible to find out exactly, what affects your success. And here the game lacks statistics. The only numbers you’ll see are daily summaries, which don’t really give any specifics on important factors. I really missed some kind of graphs representing the general mood of the visitors, as well as other parameters. You can check the individual visitors by hand but some kind of a mean number would really help.


There are 3 “resources” in Karnival – Fortune (money), Fame and Karma. Fortune is gained through selling tickets and stuff at shops and is spent on new attractions, maintenance, salaries, and prizes. Fame is accumulated by visitors and is mainly used to unlock new buildings and justify rising ticket prices. The most interesting bit is Karma. It is used for playing minigames (yes, Karnival allows you to play those classic circus games like the cola ring toss yourself) and for getting additional Tarot reading from the gypsy. These tarot readings (by the way you get a free one each day) can give you bonuses or penalties to different modifiers for a day.


One thing you’re sure to notice about Karnival is style. This game has probably the most stylish interface I’ve seen on the platform. The artwork is amazing and graphics look stunning in either day or night (yes, day cycles are included!). If you are jailbreaked, this game requires a few additional steps in order to run fluidly. After this the game runs very smoothly.

Karnival is one of the best looking and deep games I’ve seen on the iPhone. It is an absolute must have for all fans of tycoon games. At the same time there are significant drawbacks. And I’m not even talking about the crashes, although it was frustrating. After several days in a town, the number of visitors just plummets. And if you haven’t amassed enough cash to move to a different town, you’re basically screwed. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict when it will happen and the reason. And the last gripe is that the temperature is only shown in degrees Fahrenheit (what’s that?). But despite these issues, Karnival is a model for many other games; thorough economic models should benchmark themselves based on Karnival to see if they have what it takes. And don’t forget the achievement system, which seems to be crammed into every game now.

With this I declare Karnival officially touched.


App Summary
Title: Karnival Developer: Hands-On Mobile
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.0 Min OS Ver: 3.0
Price: $4.99 App Size: 35.0 MB
  • Amazing and stylish graphics
  • Very deep economic model
  • Karnival minigames
  • Tarot cards
  • Requires a bit of dancing around with tambourines to work on 3G phones with Winterboard
  • No statistics
  • Imperial-units only


Just like you, we never tire of strategy games:
The Settlers in Review – Hero Defense in Review – Avatar of War in Review – Strongholds in Review — Dragon Slaughter Episode 1 in Review

A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well): http://twitter.com/ChiffaNe

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