Carnival: Classic Arcade Game Video, History & Game Play Overview


Gremlin/Sega made history with the release of Carnival in 1980. Carnival is the first arcade video game to feature a bonus point round. Taking inspiration from existing shooting-based carnival games, either one or two players can enjoy Carnival by taking turns. Carnival was co-published by Sega and Gremlin.

Medo Moreno is credited as the lead programmer on the game, while Murphy Bivens and Helene Schlein are also recognized as supporting programmers. The theme music to Carnival is based on the Juventino Rosas song, titled ‘Sobre las Olas.’ Because of Carnival’s popularity in arcades, it was ported to the ColecoVision, Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum and Intellivision.


Game Play Overview

Carnival invites players to target specific icons with a gun that can be moved left and right. In addition to standard stages, this arcade game also features a distinctive bonus round. Many other video games started introducing their own version of bonus rounds after the success of Carnival.

When played in two person mode, Carnival gives players the opportunity to enjoy more cooperative play. Although two players cannot participate at the same time, they switch each time that a level is completed. This feature ensures that not one person would dominate the playing field, as well as give gamers a chance to more accurately compare skill sets.

Both the gun and target can be manipulated with the directional keys. The gun cannot be moved from the bottom part of the screen, but the target can be moved in all directions. Icons consisting of owls, rabbits, ducks, numbers, birds and other symbols move across three lines. Items shot on the topmost line are valued at 50 points each. Icons located on the middle line are worth 30 points, and objects on the bottom line are worth 10.

Two rows of bullets appear directly below the gun. These are the number of shots each player will have before the game is over. Once all ammo is exhausted, either the game ends or the other player has a turn.

When an icon on the playing board is hit, it doesn’t necessarily disappear. Numbers give players extra ammo, while owls and rabbits are eliminated with one shot. Whenever a symbol is removed from the three lines, another appears in its place. Certain icons, like ducks can actually move from the lines and ‘attack’ players. When a flying duck is not shot down immediately, 10 bullets will be lost.

In the right-hand corner of the screen, a symbol resembling a pinwheel continuously spins. Made up of eight parts, this pinwheel can be shot for extra points. However, the pinwheel moves faster as each stage progresses. More points are awarded when two spokes of the same color are hit in succession.

Icons that appear on each line are not fixed. Instead, symbols move toward the right or left, going down to the next line when the reach the end. Icons on the bottom line will appear on the top when they have gotten to the furthest point right.

Letter symbols can be hit for additional points. Players will have to hit all five letters, which spell out the word ‘bonus,’ for a prize. These letters must be shot in sequential order, starting with the letter ‘B’ in order to get the extra points.

Since all targets, except for ducks, can be cleared out, rounds can only be finished by completely filling up all lines with ducks. If there is still any ammunition left over at the end of a stage, players receive a 10 point per bullet bonus.

Carnival also contains a timer that limits the amount of time that each player can take each round. If all icons on the three lines are ducks by the time runs out, the round will be lost.

Special Features

Toward the top of each board, four small yellow rectangles will appear, holding a random number. If you are able to shoot the rectangle, the number contained within will be added to your score.

Number symbols yield both ammo and extra points. Each number represents the number of points and bullets that will be awarded.


Owls – The point value for each owl shot can vary, but they always disappear immediately after being hit.

Rabbits – This is another easily eradicated item. Rabbits are large and fairly simple to shoot.

Bonuses – There are numerous bonuses in Carnival. Bonus items and special rounds are part of what make the game extra special.

Pinwheel – The spinning wheel at the top of the screen contains eight spokes made of four different colors. Shoot them for extra points.

Ammo – The number of bullets given to each player is fixed. It is possible to add more bullets to your cache by hitting special targets.

Numbers – Shooting numbers is difficult because these icons are small. However, you can extend your ‘life’ by acquiring more bullets.

Letters – Five letters that make up the word ‘bonus’ constantly move across the three lines. If shot in the correct order, more points will be earned.

Gun – The player gun cannot be moved up or down, but it can be positioned so that it is closer to targets. Use the directional keys to move it.

Target – The target has full range of motion, which makes it effective at hitting moving objects. Master how to manipulate the target and get a better score.

How to Play Carnival

In carnival, there are no extra men, but there are time and ammunition restrictions. If you run out of either, you will lose the round, or even the game. The point of Carnival is to get the highest score possible while conserving ammunition.

All symbols will constantly be moving left or right, and shifting up and down. In addition, there are also other icons that will randomly appear and distract you. Always keep your sights on the items contained within the three rows, paying particular attention to ducks. Ducks both make the game more difficult as well as allow players to advance to higher rounds.

As you go further in Carnival, fewer bullets will be given and difficulty will increase. If playing with another person, you will have to switch after the completion of each round. Carnival has no definitive end, but it is still regarded as an extremely fun and influential game.

Bonus Level – Shoot the Bear
When a regular round is won, the bonus ‘Shoot the Bear’ stage will start. The first time that players encounter the bonus round, there will only be one polar bear that appears. Instead of there being three moving rows, there will only be one.

The object of the bonus round is to prevent the polar bear from exiting the side of the screen. When the polar bear gets hit with a bullet, he reacts aggressively, and then continues movement in the opposite direction. Technically, the bonus round can continue to go on indefinitely, but each shot that the bear takes causes him to move faster.

At some point, the polar bear will simply move too quickly for you to hit. Each time that the bonus round is encounter, an extra bear is added to the line. At most, you can play with four polar bears during a single bonus round.

Hints and Tips
- Flying ducks steal ammo. As soon as a duck transitions across the bottom row, it will come at you. A maximum of three ducks can attack simultaneously. In order to prevent them from taking precious ammo, you will need to aim accurately and shoot them immediately.

- Because number symbols are worth both points and bullets, it would be wise to wait to shoot them. If you start to run out of ammo toward the end of a stage, you can shoot number icons and quickly gain more bullets.


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