REVIEW – Carnival (Sega, 1980)

‘Carnival‘ is an arcade game created by Sega in 1980, it was published by Gremlin and Sega. It is a fixed shooter  which refreshingly moved away from the (then) conventional space themes. It also holds the distinction of being the first video game ever to feature a bonus round.

‘Carnival’ is an electronic re-creation of the traditional fairground shooting galleries.

Carnival attract screen

‘Carnival’ attract screen, arcade version

You control a gun, which has a limited amount of ammunition, the game ends when you run out of ammo. To gain points you have to successfully shoot moving targets, that scroll in alternating directions across the screen.. ..there are three rows of targets which include ducks, rabbits, owls and extra-bullets (represented by the number of bullets to be awarded in an inversed square). The higher and therefore more difficult targets to hit, award more points; values are shown to the right of each row. There is also a quaver symbol which if hit will toggle the music on and off.

If a duck reaches the bottom row without being shot, it will come to life and begin flying down toward the player, quacking as it comes. If you fail to shoot it before it reaches the bottom of the screen, it will eat some of your bullets.. ..so you really need to get rid of them quickly when they start to fly.

A large pop-up target above the top row can either award or subtract bullets or points when hit.

Carnival flyer

American ‘Carnival’ flyer

There is also a spinning wheel with eight ‘pipes’ that sits in the centre at the top of the screen. All of the targets and the ‘pipes’, must be hit to complete a round.

Additionally, a bonus counter also increases by the value of every target shot in each of the three rows. The letters of the word “BONUS” are scattered among the targets; shooting these in order awards the bonus. The bonus stops increasing as soon as any letter is shot.

At the end of each round, you receive bonus points for all your unused bullets.

Carnival bonus

‘Carnival’ bonus round, arcade version

Between each round there is a bonus screen in which a bear marked with a target walks across the screen. Each time the bear is shot, it rears up for a second, then turns and walks more quickly in the opposite direction. The object is to shoot the bear as many times as possible until it escapes off the screen.

Following this bonus round, the next (faster, more ducks, fewer extra bullets) more difficult stage begins. Later bonus rounds also add more bears to the screen.

Carnival’ was released as upright and cocktail versions, the latter of which replaced left and right directional buttons with a two-way joystick.

Carnival PCB

PCB from the upright version

During the game Sobre las Olas (Over the Waves) by Juventino Rosas is played, a tune that is commonly associated with carnivals and funfair’s. This was achieved using a General Instruments AY-3-8910 chip, which allowed for a relatively complex rendition, along with the inclusion of numerous sound effects; including three different duck quacks and the bear’s roar.

Carnival cabinet

‘Carnival’ arcade cabinet

Carnival‘ was unusual as the upright and cocktail versions of the game have different PCB designs. The boards were based on the Sega VIC Dual design and utilised a Zilog Z80 CPU running at 1.9 MHz.

Carnival‘, whilst not widely popular in the arcades, was deemed good enough to be converted for the Atari 2600, ColecoVision and Mattel Intellivision in 1982. There were also numerous clones on the home computer systems of the 80’s, some of which used the ‘Carnival‘ name, even though clearly being unlicensed.

Perfect emulation is available via MAME if you own the original ROMs.

Retrollection recommendation?

Oh yes, I really like ‘Carnival’. Obviously not a game that is going to keep you amused for hours on end, but in short bursts this is great fun.. ..its such a simple game, but keeps you coming back for more!


CC logo Fair use ‘Carnival’ and ‘Sega’ are registered trademarks ‘Carnival’ ™ & © 1980 Sega Corp., All Rights Reserved Page layout, content & design © 2015 Retrollection.net; please refer to the terms and conditions 

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