Carnivalé: Cenzo’s Adventure, one of the Nintendo 64 games that never were. An obsure game developed by TerraGlyph Interactive Studios in Schaumburg, Illinois (USA) - the game development leg of the TerraGlyph Group which also included an animation studio located in Dublin (Ireland) and a Web/media division based in Chicago (USA).
It was to be a game based on an aminated film by the same name, which launched on 9 February 2000, produced by TerraGlyph Productions in Dublin (Ireland). The Carnivalé game would be a mix of adventure and racing, with the player playing as Cenzo from the movie.
TerraGlyph might not seem familiar to most and with good reason, they only managed to produce one other N64 title, Scooby-Doo Classic Creep Capers, released by THQ.
The story of Carnivalé goes something like this. Five innocent kids, Ginger, Eddy, Jack, Cenzo, and Milly were all kidnapped by the evil masters of the Carnivalé and each locked away in a ride within the theme park. Your objective is to save each of them by beating the master of each of the rides.
In Carnivalé for Nintendo 64, you must escape the grasp of a wicked group of carnival masters! The masters of Carnivale have captured an unfortunate group of kids and are holding them in separate areas of the park. Playing as each of the five kids (at different points), you'll challenge the wicked masters to a duel for your freedom. The duels come in the form of races through each of the bizarre sections of the Carnivale, which you must win in order to gain your freedom. Each of the five events takes the form of a top-down race through brightly colored and spooky locations filled with traps and other obstacles. You can also hook up with a friend for head-to-head racing through the strange park. Can you win your freedom from this terrifying carnival of evil? ign.com
Carnivalé was announced at E3 in 1999, the publisher, Vatical Entertainment, had a very incomplete build of the game on display. From then on, not a whole lot of PR for the game was made it seems. However, I did find traces of the game in a Vatical Entertainment Year 2000 Product Line CD from "Electronics Boutique University", which states that the game was to be released in December 2000.
The Product Line CD also included a small game preview, which you can watch below. Yes unfortunately the quality is quite bad - welcome to the year 2000 :)
Unfortunately a series of events happened during the development of Carnivalé. First being that the animated film never saw a release in North America, likely because it supposedly failed miserably in the rest of the world. Even the director of the movie, Dean Taylor of the Night before Christmas fame, supposedly was happy that the film seems to have been lost over the years since the release.
In September back in 2000, IGN.com made a preview article about the game, at even at that point no new playable version of the game had been shown to the press, and that was probably that last anyone heard of the game until Vatical Entertainment pulled the plug on the project, announced on February 8, 2001.
According to an article at IGN a Vatical Entertainment representative told the site that two of their upcomming released probably never would see the light of day on any console, being Carnivalé and VR Powerboat Racing.
VR Powerboat has yet to begin production so even under the best case scenario the product would not be available until sometime next year. However, after carefully reviewing the state of the Nintendo 64 market, Vatical has decided not to pursue the game. Carnivale, meanwhile, a piece of software based on a movie that was never released, has suffered some serious development problems that have directly affected the game's progress.
The studio creating Carnivale, TerraGlyph Interactive, recently laid off a major portion of its teams and was unable to complete the title. As it stands, Carnivale is an estimated 50-60% complete, according to Vatical, and the company is currently deciding whether or not to transfer the remaining work to a new developer and release it, or simply cancel it altogether. In IGN64's experience, it's usually the latter.
On a positive note, the firm's other N64 project, Sea-Doo HydroCross, has recently passed Mario Club and is going into lot check. It should ship to retailers sometime this spring. The remaining Nintendo 64 games release list through the year 2001 is now five.
So there you have it, Vatical pulled the plug on Carnivalé due to TerraGlyph probably not being able to complete the game. Not even SeaDoo HydroCross made it to the shelves though, but that's a whole other story. TerraGlyph got into financial trouble in 2001 and shortly after closed its doors.
With that said though, when speaking briefly with Stephen Geering, who worked as Sound Designer on Carnivalé, he was quite sure that the game was in fact completed.
This was a game based on a movie, the movie got released in Europe, but could'nt generate interest to the studios in Hollywood to make a US distribution happen. Thus the game publisher Vatical didn't release it .. I believe the game was finished.. Stephen Geering, Sound Designer on Carnivalé
Now fast forward to late 2021. Out of no where, other than a basement or attic probably, an ebay auction appeared for an N64 development cartridge that contains the only known build to date, a build pretty similar to what could be seen in the video from the Vatical product line CD.
Someone in the N64 community made an offer for the cart and a few days later the cartridge was in safe hands, along with a few bits of info about the build from mid 2000.
7-21-00 Build Notes
New in Build:
Full implementation of collision with all weapons and Cenzo
Full interaction between Cenzo and Token Takers
Enemy AI and Placement.
Race Weapons (Rocket and Lock On Rocket)
Load and Save (Graphically not implemented)
Proper positioning between Tents, Midways, and Rides.
All Race weapons and power-ups (Cherry bomb, Rockets, Porta-holes, shield, etc…)
Car Physics (5 Vehicles) Tweak
Race Logic (# Laps, Place, Start Logic, Etc…)
Midway Enemies (Logic)
Level By Level Placement And Tweaking
Missing Interstitials (Save Kids, New Adventure, Ending, etc…)
Code Compression (ROM currently is in the 25MB range)
Race Boss characters
I was lucky to be given the chance to play the game and the following are some of my discoveries playing Carnivalé.
The build really is quite rough around the edges, it crashes a lot which probably isn't too unusual for a game at this stage in development. There's an options booth at the opening screen, but don't try to enter or you may have to start over. I was able to enter the options screen at a later point in the game though.
It seems like the game at this stage uses a password option, though it's not possible to create a password.
The actual game takes you to the abandoned and eerie theme park, you play as Cenzo and have to gather silver and golden coins to enter the rides. (Hint: wait by the trees and silver coins will randomly drop, pick them up before they disappear though). Right when you enter the park there's also a row of silver and gold coins to the right of Cenzo. Beware of the dogs roaming the theme park, they will make you drop your coins and eat some of them.
When Cenzo was standing still for a while a stick randomly appeared, or at least I thought it was. It turned out to be a straw that can be used to shoot at fruits in trees to gather more coins. Use C-Left to equip Cenzo with the straw and C-Right to remove it. Around the park there are bags of "shots" that can be collected. Stand completely still for a second and press Z to aim, then A to shoot. Z can also be used to look around when not equipped with the straw.
The camera can act crazy at times, use Z again to center Cenzo.
If you enter the tent called Freaks, you'll be presented with the Password screen again, but if you press A to create a password - nothing happens. Well that is until you have tried at least one challenge it seems. Enter your saved passwords in the Freaks tent and you will start in the park, don't do it at the entrance, you can't enter unless you start a new game it seems?
Next to the Freaks tent, you'll find the Strongman and Duck Shoot challenges. If you win the Stongman, you get a mallet. To equip Cenzo with the mallet, press C-Up and then C-Down to remove it. Use the mallet to hit mice around the park for more silver coins. Be warned though, you only have it for 99 seconds and the counter doesn't stop when the mallet is not equipped.
Entering the Duck Shoot might earn you silver and gold coins... problem is, that you cannot leave? You the D-Pad up and down to zoom and aiming for the Ducks. Yellow ducks is 1 silver coin each, golden ducks are 1 gold coin and brown ducks cost you 1 silver coin each.
Beware that if you press B to exit a challenge, when you have enough coins to enter, you may get thrown back to the park entrance with no way of re-entering again? unless you start a new game. When you are back at the entrance, the options tent suddently didn't crash the game when I entered.
That's pretty much it for now, it's been a joy taking a look at Carnivalé even though the game still had some way to go before being completed.
I'm not sure the game would've appealed to the broad audience, the park is dark and life-less, based on a movie almost no one (I'm guessing) ever saw or knew existed. The game lacks a lot of depth in its current state, I find it some what hard to believe that a few mini-games would have entertained people for a longer period of time.
Sure, Carvinalé could have seen in Europe release, the movie made it out "over here". Had TerraGlyph put an effort into finding a publisher for the European market and actually completed the game. However with that said, I doubt that it would have been possible to find anyone willing to take on another N64 project/release that late in the N64s lifespan. On top of that, TerraGlyph went out of business before they were able to complete the game.
Vatical Entertainment is also no longer in business, I have been unable to find out what exactly happened to them. It seems like they vanished shortly after the release of Sea-doo Hydrocross for the Playstation in 2001. The N64 Sea-doo counterpart, even though completed and sent to Nintendo for approval, never saw the light of day either.
When the movie fizzled out, it killed any shot of the game getting any attention at all. It was a racing game with a 3rd person exploration mode in between races, and frankly it was a terrible game. There were only about five tracks, and the 'adventure' component was mostly walking around and finding tickets to unlock the tracks. The 3D engine and vehicle control were really primitive. Mike Connelly, Music Composer on Carnivalé
Some of the music for Carnivalé was composed by Mike Connelly, who also made a small tune from the game, called Haunted Carnival, available on his website or you can download the MP3 right here.
The sound clip was since been removed from his website for unknown reasons, but it is available through archive.org.
A Carnivalé game was also planned for the Gameboy Color. It too was likely showcased at E3 1999, but also went unreleased like the Nintendo64 version. It was developed by Vicarious Visions and would be nothing more than a simple racing game featuring 5 different tracks and dual player mode using a link cable.
The following video was found on the Vatical Year 2000 Product Lineup CD.
Within the Nintendo Leaks data from 2020, the Carnivalé GBC game was found, most likely sent to Nintendo for review and final approval. This is just pure guessing though as I have not played the game myself.
Your friends have been trapped in the mystical Carnivalé amusement park. It's up to you to save them! You must race for their freedom across 5 wild levels. Beat a level and your friend is freed. Lose a race and your friend is captured again! Join Ginger, Eddy, Milly, Cenzo, Cat, and the rest in the eerie world of CARNIVALÉ.
6 characters each with different stats to race as
5 rides to race on: Super Rat Ride, Bumper Bugs, River Caves, Ghost Train, Penny Arcade
voice playback and digital audio sound effects
track shortcuts, rider-triggered gates and walls, speed boosts, and more
Available: December, 2000
Vicarious Visions, developer of Carnivalé on the Gameboy Color
To be honest though the Gameboy game looks absolutely awful and with the fact that the movie went unreleased, it just wasn't meant to be.
Vatical Entertainment, the publisher, the publisher seems to have closed its doors sometime in 2001 and Carnivalé for the GBC went unreleased along with a few other GBC titles such as Sea-doo Hydrocross, VR Powerboat Racing and AMF Bowling.
If you would like to watch the Carnivale movie,it is now available for download from archive.org.
Last but not least, big thanks to Baker64 of n64prototypes.com who let me dive into the ROM almost right after the cart had been purchased, and even though I was a slow starter, it took me a few months and a kick in the butt, I finally did it and really enjoyed rewriting the Carnivalé article. Again, thank you very much!