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Video Game / At the Carnival

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"Hurry, hurry! Step right up!"
In my late teens, I happened to work for five different amusement parks, building monsters for their Laff-in-the-Dark rides.
This collection of puzzles bears some resemblance to that experience.

At the Carnival is a puzzle game for Apple Macintosh, developed by Cliff Johnson and released in 1989. While lacking an overall story, the puzzles chronicle the different rides and attractions at Hazard Park, and the hilariously terrible things that happen there.

This game is available as a free download for Windows or Macintosh at the official website, along with The Fool's Errand and 3 in Three.

This game provides examples of:

  • Amusement Park of Doom: Hazard Park is somewhere between this and Crappy Carnival, with its blatant disregard for health and safety regulations. The rides range from dangerous (like the Colossal Coronary, the Roto-Vomit, and the Octopus) to run-down and disgusting (like the Skyway or the train ride in "All Aboard"), the midway games are blatantly rigged (like the Coin Toss and the Roach Race), and the concessions are overpriced (like the Shirt 'n' Splatter) or generally low quality (like the Hazard Dogs in "World's Biggest").
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: From the "Tourist Trade" puzzle:
    People visiting from all across this great land... soon regret their decision to vacation at Hazard Park.
  • Black Comedy: About half the jokes in the game are about people getting horribly injured, or even killed, on the rides at Hazard Park.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: From the "World's Biggest" puzzle:
  • Exact Words: No one has been injured on the Ferris Wheel at Hazard Park in over twenty years... but that's only because they don't count people injured falling off the ride.
  • Grid Puzzle: Some puzzles involve unscrambling a 3x3 grid of letters so every row and column spell a word. Other puzzles involve unscrambling a picture like a jigsaw puzzle, but using squares in a grid.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Hazard Park is a name for an amusement park that doesn't inspire confidence in its safety record.
  • Losing Your Head: The "First Aid" puzzle ends with "And here comes another decapitation!", with an unfortunate customer's body staggering in carrying their own severed head.
  • The Maze: One of the kinds of puzzle in the game. Rather than being straight-up mazes, they'll include gimmicks like walls that appear and disappear when you stand next to them.
  • Minigame Game: Each of the puzzles functions like its own minigame.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Many of the attractions are either unsanitary or blatantly dangerous. They even let people aboard the Colossal Coronary even though it's not even finished yet!
  • Over-the-Top Roller Coaster: The aptly-named "Colossal Coronary" is the biggest coaster at Hazard Park, big enough to pass clouds and an airplane. It's so big, in fact, they ran out of money to finish building it.
  • Overly Long Gag:
    • The Grease Burger is assembled one layer at a time by completing word array puzzles. Completing the burger requires solving 27 of these puzzles.
    • After solving the "Shirt 'n' Splatter" puzzle, you have to repeatedly click and drag to doodle over it with random colors until the game tells you to stop ("Okay, Picasso, that'll be $128.16 for the 11 gallons of paint!").
  • Parental Bonus:
  • Permanently Missable Content: In the DOS version, the metapuzzle clue for Skin the Cat is only shown once, requiring the player to restart the game and resolve the puzzles. This isn't too difficult, as all the puzzles can be accessed directly.
  • Red Herring: The fourth step of the "Skyway" puzzle requires you to make a word to complete the sentence "From the Skyway, you can really see all of the..." by toggling sets of blocks so they form letters. If you activate all the buttons, you can see the vague shape of the word "PARK", but it's impossible to clearly make the word with the options you have. The real answer is "TRASH".
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: "Okay Picasso, that'll be 128 dollars 16 cents for the 11 gallons of paint!"
  • Shout-Out: The anecdote revealed after solving the "Laff-in-the-Dark" puzzle is based on the story of outlaw Elmer McCurdy, whose preserved corpse was found being used as a haunted house prop.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: The final puzzle requires taking clues from other solved puzzles. In case of the DOS version, the clue for Skin the Cat is only shown once, requiring the player to restart the game and resolve the puzzles.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: According to the intro, some of the anecdotes in the game "bear some resemblance" to Johnson's experience working in the amusement park business.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: After solving the "Loop-O-Puke" puzzle, you're treated to a (thankfully lo-res) rain of puke from the unfortunate riders.