Video Game: CarnEvil

The greatest show unearthed!

"When the Moon is full and trees are bare -
Walk though the Cemetery if you dare.
Where skeletons rot and corpses fester -
Locate the tomb with the skull of a Jester.
Feed him the token all shiny and new -
It is then that CarnEvil will return for YOU!"
The game's opening narration.

A horror-themed light gun game from Midway Games, CarnEvil is about... well, an evil carnival, set in the fictional town of Greely Valley, Iowa. The game starts off with a hayride/ghost tour making its way through a cemetery at night. One of the patrons hops off the ride and locates the grave of Professor Ludwig Von Tökkentäkker, which seems normal enough... save for the evil-looking jester statue on it and a token sticking out of a slot on the tombstone.

Curious to see if the legend (mentioned above) has any weight to it, our faceless protagonist takes the token and puts it in the jester's mouth, whereupon it promptly comes alive and nearly bites his hand off before ascending into the night sky with a maniacal cackle. In a matter of terrifying seconds, a haunted carnival indeed appears—erupting out of the ground with shocking speed, trapping the protagonist (and, presumably, the rest of the tour) inside. And this isn't a good place to be trapped in the middle of the night—there's all number of nasty, bizarre terrors stalking the carnival grounds in search of new victims. Worse yet, the carnival also revived Ludwig Von Tökkentäkker, and he's certain to have some plans in store for anyone who survives the creeps.

Luckily, the protagonist stumbles across the shooting gallery—which, in keeping with the macabre nature of this particular carnival, happens to have real shotguns. Grabbing one of them, with his hapless friend Betty tagging along, he prepareso to blast his way out...or die trying.

Released on Halloween 1998, CarnEvil is considered one of Midway's best arcade games note , giving House of the Dead some competition (both games came out the same year). But what people remember the most about the game is its rather surreal and dark humor, as well as its highly disturbing premise. Definitely not one for the kiddies.

The game provides the following tropes:

  • Adjustable Censorship: The game has four levels of violence.
    • Full Gore: The default.
    • Red Blood: Prevents you from dismembering enemies, consequently censoring Tökkentäkker's death as well.
    • Green Blood: Turns blood green, but it also censors Evil Marie's death (she starts to fall, then it cuts to the results).
    • None: Turns blood into smoke, also removes the flamethrower and acid bath weapons.
    • Two unrelated options allow you to replace Junior with Deaddy (a giant teddy bear) and/or prevent the Food Court enemies from making vulgar gestures.
  • Airborne Mook: The bats in the Haunted House, the buzzing bees in Rickety Town, the human-headed flies in the Freak Show, and the Spanish-speaking imps in the Big Top level.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: Natch. The roller coaster is unfinished, so the Protagonist bails out before the car plummets over the edge and jumps onto the Ferris wheel. One of the seats of the tilt-a-whirl flies off the platform, and the Protagonist crashes through the wall surrounding the bumper car track.
  • An Axe to Grind: Evil Marie's weapon of choice.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Both Evil Marie, and Professor Ludwig Von Tökkentäkker (of the "would be a Nazi Nobleman, except he predates the Nazis" variety).
  • Arm Cannon: Hambone, the midboss of the Haunted House level, has a minigun attached to his arm.
    • He shows up again later on, swapping the minigun for a skull launcher.
    • And Tökkentäkker plans to put your brain in the body of gorilla that also has miniguns arms.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Enemies die quicker from head wounds than other types. This doesn't work on those who actually have life bars.
  • Bad Santa: Krampus, the boss of Rickety Town, encountered in the ice rink. Actually based off a mythical creature that kidnaps naughty kids and tortures them.
  • Bat Scare: Several times in the Haunted House level. Swarms of bats will appear, but not all of them will attack you.
  • Beware Of Vicious Dog: The rabid poodles in the Big Top.
  • Big Bad: Tökkentäkker.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Various giant insects and worms feature as enemies. The "Museum of the Slightly Curious" in the Freak Show also features an "80 lb. Flea" as an exhibit.
  • Black Comedy: Most prevalent in the Rickety Town level, but pretty much everywhere.
    • In the food court area of Rickety Town, you can dunk one of the Guilloteens into a deep fryer.
    • Also in the food court: a sign reading "Burritos as big as your head!" - the implication being that they may actually contain severed heads.
    • At the bumper cars: an ad for "RIP" gasoline, patterned after the STP logo, and a "Who Wants an Eyescream Soda?" billboard that depicts a soda topped with an eyeball.
  • Blatant Lies: The arcade cabinet will assure you that "That isn't a zombie/it's just a silly clown".
  • Blood Knight: Implied at the end. The Protagonist seems to have enjoyed shooting everything in the evil carnival that he decides to summon it again for another round.
  • Body Horror: Up to Splatterhouse levels in the Freak Show, but you really should've guessed that.
    • the enemy Flapjack was once two twin acrobats. They were tricked into joining the carnival, then lobotomised and spliced together against their will.
  • Boss Banter: Krampus, Eyeclops, Umlaut, Tökkentäkker, and Evil Marie to a far lesser extent.
  • Buried Alive: The zombies in the Haunted House stage try to do this to the Protagonist right before Evil Marie shows up, but he manages to climb out of the grave before the boss fight starts.
  • Captain Ersatz: Hambone, an enemy you fight twice in the Haunted House, looks an awful lot like another notorious serial killer with a hockey mask...
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Uh, the place is called "CarnEvil", so pretty much all of them. In fact, Evil Marie seems pretty proud to have that name when she introduces herself.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The spider monkeys you let loose about halfway through the Freak Show level come back later.
  • Christmas Elves: Demented ones who appear on the "Slay Ride" roller coaster. They look like the Green Goblin and throw presents or stab with sharpened candy canes.
  • Circus of Fear: The final level.
  • Clothing Damage: Evil Marie (the boss of the Haunted House level) loses clothing as you continue to damage her until she's down to nothing but her underwear.
  • Clown Car: One shows up in the Big Top, except it looks more like an ambulance.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: The enemies in the second half of the Freak Show level.
  • Cool Airship: The Final Boss battle with Tökkentäkker takes place on top of a dirigible.
  • Cowardly Boss: Tökkentäkker periodically teleports away in a puff of smoke, causing your character(s) to chase after him to a new part of his Cool Airship.
  • Creepy Circus Music: Quite a bit, although this is to be expected, considering the game's setting. Some good examples include Select Your Doom and Ludwig von Tökkentäkker's Big Top.
  • Damsel in Distress: Betty, who you have to avoid shooting. Most of the time, the monsters are chasing her, and a few scenes suggest they caught her for the moment (showing her in a cage or in stocks).
  • Day Old Legend: Played with. The Protagonist has been drawn to the grave by an old legend about an evil carnival, and Tökkentäkker's grave is dated 1898. Yet a lot of it seems to have been based on very modern carnivals, including things like a tilt-a-whirl, a Food Court, and a bumper car attraction that's designed as a nostalgic throwback to The Fifties. This is likely due to previous victims from that era influencing what would be added as new attractions.
  • Deadly Doctor: The crazed surgeons who appear in the center ring. They carry large saws and hypodermic needles.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons appear as part of the crew on Tökkentäkker's Cool Airship.
  • The Dead Have Eyes
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Evil Marie screams quite, er... "suggestively"... when she's IMPALED on a fountain.
  • The Dragon: Umlaut to Tökkentäkker.
  • Enemy Chatter: Every humanoid non-boss enemy with the exception of the Mames, Mister Ozob, Tinsels, Tort and Rodz and Zombies has these
  • Enemy Mime: Zombie mimes show up in the Big Top level. They're harmless, except for possibly wasting your bullets.
  • Enfante Terrible: Boss of the Freak Show level. The developers, considering that (even by this game's standards) some arcade owners would find this too disturbing, have an option to replace him with a teddy bear.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Dino-Rama, the dinosaur-themed tilt-a-whirl. In addition, there are also blue dinosaur mascots around the area.
  • Evil Hand: One hallway in the Haunted House has dangerous hands that come out of holes in the walls to swipe at the Protagonist when he passes through.
  • Excuse Plot: Well, a teenager is curious about this old story so he goes to the cemetery - dragging his girlfriend along - and then conjures this place up because he's curious. That's the whole excuse for him to beat the hell out of zombies. (In fact, bringing his girlfriend is just an excuse for her to appear from time to time for something to avoid hitting.)
    • And then he later finds the jester head again and starts the whole thing over.
  • Exposition Fairy: Umlaut at the start of every stage, giving the player a cute little poem about what they're in for. He's also the second-to-last boss.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Eyeclops, in addition to having a single eye on each of his two heads, has five more in his chest and arms.
  • Fake Difficulty: On occasion, enemies can hurt you even if they aren't onscreen, making it look like you're taking damage from nowhere. It's also impossible to prevent some of the bosses's attacks from hitting you.
    • Pixel Hunt: When you encounter a swarm of bats in the Haunted House stage, only one will actually attack you, but figuring out which one is nearly impossible. The same applies to Junior/Deaddy's barf attack.
    • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Some enemies land a hit on you seconds after they appear.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Evil Marie has some rather long pointy teeth. Umlaut also attacks by biting.
  • The Fifties: The theme of the Garage, a bumper car ride.
  • Foreshadowing: In the Haunted House level, when the Protagonist goes inside, you can see a portrait of a young girl holding an axe covered with blood. Take a guess who is at the end of the level.
  • Fragile Speedster: As expected, Umlaut during his boss battle. He goes down quickly, but man — is he a hard target!
  • The Freakshow: One of the levels is set in one.
  • Gag Boobs: Evil Marie. The dissonance that results when this is coupled with her half-blown-off face is both hilarious and disturbing.
  • Gatling Good: Machine guns are one of the weapon pick-ups in the game, and are found throughout all stages of the game.
  • Giant Spider: Stalking around the darkened corridors of the Haunted House level.
  • Giggling Villain: The Flap-Jack acrobats laugh a lot like Goofy. Even as they are dying.
  • Go for the Eye: The mini-boss in the Freak Show level, appropriately dubbed Eyeclops. He has one eye in each of his two heads, three in his chest, and one in each arm.
  • Gorn: Very, VERY bloody game. It's from the company that made Mortal Kombat, after all.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: The zombies in the Haunted House level will sometimes hurl body parts at the players.
  • Harmless Villain: The mimes in the Big Top stage, seeing as a mime wouldn't be able to actually touch you, after all.
  • Haunted House: One of the stages is based off a dark house ride version of one.
  • Hearts Are Health: Red hearts can restore your Life Meter.
  • High-Class Glass: Tökkentäkker.
  • Hostage Spirit Link: Every so often, Betty will pop up, and you have to avoid shooting her. Shooting her anyway costs you some of your life.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: How does Big Bad Tökkentäkker bite the dust? He gets turned into red mulch by one of the propellers on his own Zeppelin! The game even repeats the scene a few times, because it's oh so satisfying to finally kill him.
  • Hollywood Acid: One of the pick-ups you can get is an "acid gun", and it melts enemies to sludge—complete with a hissing sound.
  • Homage: The miniboss Hambone is a throwback to the Slasher Film genre, ESPECIALLY Friday the 13th. His reappearance later in the level as "Hambone the Revenge" is a throwback to their MANY sequels.
  • Human Cannonball: The bat imps are launched out of a cannon. Also, this is how the player gets up to higher ground.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The eventual fate of Evil Marie, provided you haven't run out of quarters yet.
  • Incendiary Exponent: When Hambone, mid-boss of the Haunted House makes his entrance, he is on fire for no reason.
  • In Harm's Way: The Protagonist hops on evil flaming rollercoasters and barges through the zombie-invested Haunted House, climbs into the human cannonball cannon of his own free will and grabs the trapeze, and even after he wins he summons the CarnEvil again almost immediately.
  • Jerkass: Umlaut.
  • The Jester: Umlaut, again.
  • Jump Scare: Pretty omnipresent, albeit this sort of thing is to be expected in a rail shooter.
  • Kill 'em All: The ending where you and Betty wake up in front of the tomb seems to imply that only the two of you survived while the rest of the tour group died.
  • Killer Rabbit: One of the oddities in the "Museum of the Slightly Curious" is a "Mechanical Killer Rabbit", with the internal mechanisms showing and holding a blood-stained dagger. But don't worry, it doesn't attack you.
  • Killer Teddy Bear: Deaddy, a giant teddy bear that can be substituted for Junior as the Freak Show boss.
  • Knee-capping: The game specifically models gruesome damage to the kneecaps on some enemies. Each knee can be damaged separately.
  • Knife Nut: The shorter clowns are nuts about wielding knives and other horrible objects.
  • Large Ham: Umlaut...isn't a fan of subtlety. Neither is Tökkentäkker.
  • Late to the Punchline: Umlaut's introduction to the Freak Show level insinuates that you're a freak. It takes a second. Although he could be just screwing with you, as usual. Or he's implying what'll become of you once the freaks get through — he makes a similar implication in the intro to the final stage.
  • Laughing At Your Own Jokes: Umlaut loves to make jokes at the main character's expense, and follows each one with a long and ridiculously over-the-top Evil Laugh.
  • Repulsive Ringmaster: Ludwig von Tökkentäkker, the ringmaster of the carnival.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Umlaut, before every stage.
  • Say My Name: All of the bosses, except Hambone and Junior, are announced to the player. Of these, Krampus, Eyeclops and Evil Marie introduce themselves when they appear, Tökkentäkker appears on a giant video screen when you reach the center ring of the Big Top, and Umlaut gets called out to the fight (Tökkentäkker: "Umlaut! Get him!")
  • Shoot the Bullet: A lot of enemies throw projectiles at you, especially in the Rickety Town stage when you enter the Food Court. You can use your own weapon to deflect them.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Your weapon can be upgraded to a full-fledged shotgun with ten shots.
  • Shout-Out: The Museum of the Slightly Curious from the Freak Show level features a caveman from Trog! encased in a block of ice. You can see it in this video at about 1:54.
  • Skeleton Crew: Tökkentäkker summons them to attack the players.
  • Small Annoying Creature: Umlaut. Whether he's seen before a level or during the final face-off against Tökkentäkker, he's downright guaranteed to get on your nerves.
    • The Killer Bees in Rickety Town rankle too.
    • So do the human-headed flies and maggots in the Freak Show.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A happy, wonderful Christmas jingle is played during the Slay Ride portions of Rickety Town.
    • There's also the 1950s style music in the Garage.
  • Stepford Smiler: The Smilin' Bob and Flap-Jack enemies never stop smiling, even if they've barely got a face left to smile with.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Shooting enemies in certain areas enough times will expose the bones.
  • Take That: Yeah, it's probably a coincidence that the zombie dinosaurs in Rickety Town that you're supposed to shoot into bloody pieces look like Barney The Dinosaur... Probably...
  • Tightrope Walking: The Protagonist does this when he's at the top of the tent. Enemies seem to balance very well (unless they're shot off the tightrope).
  • Title Drop: At the end of the intro, Tökkentäkker yells out, "Welcome to CARNEVIL!"
  • Too Dumb to Live: The protagonist (assuming he isn't just In Harm's Way) who not only decides to tempt fate by bringing the carnival up in the first place, but decide to do it again after he makes it out.
    • Betty, for running around in your crossfire while not even trying to help you fight the monsters. Even worse, she sometimes gets very close to a Power-Up that you only have a few seconds to aim for. That said, even she knows the protagonist is the bigger idiot for putting them through that mess, and has the common sense to try to tell them NOT to do it AGAIN.
    • There are some scenes that suggest she's trying to help. For example, there's a torture chamber in the Freak Show where she slams the door of an iron maiden, trapping a zombie inside. Unfortunately, that only means she's really in your way when you try to shoot at three other zombies.
  • Torture Cellar: The Chamber of Horrors, a rather disturbing part of the Freak Show level. Beneath the chamber is a macabre assembly line of sorts, and guess what's being made there? Nums for the final boss!
  • Villainous Harlequin: Our flying skull-headed host.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: During the battle with Junior (or Deaddy), the Protagonist enters a giant doll house to take cover. The boss rips the roof off and proceeds to puke all over the players. Make sure to shoot the last drop of vomit, or Junior's last meal is on you.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: If you have enough quarters to beat the game, the epilogue will have you put the token in again while Betty screams for him to stop.
  • Yes-Man: Umlaut to Tökkentäkker, if the graffiti in the "Big Top" level (presumably left by his fellow Mooks) is to believed.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The last part of the last level is a zeppelin. It's basically from the afterlife.
  • 0% Approval Rating: It's pretty easy to hate Umlaut, what with his high-pitched voice, mocking poems before each level, and snide comments during your fight with him. Turns out he's not exactly popular In-Universe: In the final level, there's a chalkboard with "Umlaut is a Kiss-Ass" scrawled on it, presumably by the other Mooks.