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The Non-Impartial Carnival

Deep breath. This is the only way I could figure to write this thing.

Impartiality, to me, means not making up my mind about something before I’ve given it a fair shake. Usually it’s a reminder. Not every game’s description or box art or choice of setting catches my eye right away. Yet some of my favorite titles are ones I initially overlooked. So it’s worthwhile to sit back, get past the parts that don’t immediately appeal to me, and try to evaluate this thing on its merits or problems rather than first glances.

The Grand Carnival is a premium example. If you’ve been around for a while, you’re probably aware that it isn’t my sort of thing. But I adore it. Whenever I open that box, I glow with happiness. There are tangible reasons, certainly, and I’d like to discuss them. But those reasons are impossible to untangle from my affection for its designer, Rob Cramer. Rob is a personal friend, you see. This is his first big publication. And I couldn’t be prouder of him for how beautifully and sharply it turned out.

So I’m going to talk about The Grand Carnival. But everything I say, I want you to take with a Salzburg-sized shaft of salt.

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Barker Placement: A Look at The Grand Carnival

This guy is totally going to cannibalize somebody when they're trapped after hours at the carnival.

Back in March I wrote about the seven best prototypes of SaltCon, including my personal favorite, The Grand Museum by Rob Cramer. You might remember Rob as the designer of the very silly wallet game Turbo Drift. Or maybe you don’t, because wallet games are tiny and often overlooked among the slew of big releases that clog up the headlines every month.

Well, fate is a strange thing, and not only because it doesn’t exist. After some retooling and a whole lot of development, The Grand Museum is back as The Grand Carnival, it’s better in nearly every way, and I’m here to tell you about it.

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I Drive

Tonally this game is more Italian Job than Drive, but I can't get Nightcall out of my head.

Getaway Driver would benefit from a soundtrack of frenetic jazz. Asymmetry is all the rage this year, but few games embrace it quite as wholeheartedly as Jeff Beck’s game of cat and mouse and cat and cat and cat — which seems dire until you realize that this particular mouse is riding five hundred horsepower and knows this city by heart. In other words, it’s free-form, kinetic, and apart from a few minor stutters, a real treat of asymmetric design.

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Words With Frenemies

What's your favorite spelling bee joke?

I was born and bred for word games. Which has led me to regard them fondly, but also sometimes with a simmering resentment you could whip up a stir fry in. What if I don’t want to spell QANATS for the thousandth time?

But Jeff Beck’s Word Domination is a clever one. And it largely has to do with the fact that it doesn’t focus too much on prioritizing the tougher letters.

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