Jim Henson’s Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival (NES)

The purest example of an absolutely repulsive game which the publishers hoped would sell on its license alone.

With content involving Tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Genre: Action
  • Max Players: 1
  • US Release: December 1990
  • Developer: Mind's Eye
  • Publisher: Hi Tech Expressions

I have never beaten this game. I never will beat this game. I have played this game only twice, and I will never play it again. Yet, I believe that I can say, without the faintest inkling of a doubt, that Jim Henson’s Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival is the worst game that I have ever played. Yes…it’s even worse than Bubsy.

The game seems like an innocent licensed title when you start it up. Miss Piggy has been “pignapped” by Dr. Grump, an evil carnival owner, and it’s up to Kermit and the gang to rescue her. You control various Muppets in various theme parkthemed levels, with Fozzie Bear wandering through a maze and driving on a race track, Gonzo flying through space, and Kermit paddling down a river. The object in each of these levels is to reach the level’s end, where you pick up a key. Once you’ve obtained a key from each of the four levels, you get to play as Kermit in a side-scrolling romp to the Doctor’s lair. All in all, the game sounds a lot like Adventures in the Magic Kingdom; too bad Magic Kingdom—a mediocre game in its own right—is made to look like Super Mario Bros. 3 by Muppet Adventure.

The levels in this game are either too hard or too easy; either too long or too short. However, there is one common thread holding them together: they all absolutely suck.

Fozzie’s car level is the slowest racing game in the history of video games; you can’t hold the accelerator button down for more than a half-second. If you do, you’ll run right into a bomb laid inexplicably on the track, which you could not have possibly seen in time to stop if you had been holding the accelerator down for longer. Since your car is moving so slowly, what should take a matter of minutes lasts seemingly for hours; it’s like the game never ends. And, interestingly, this game uses nearly the same physics as Gonzo’s space ride, causing you to shoot around the screen like a pinball. A very, very slow pinball—a pinball that wishes it were playing ANYTHING but Muppet Adventure.

The space ride also seems to never end, but not because you’re moving so slowly—it’s a scrolling screen anyway, so you have no control over how long the level takes. This level is just absurdly long, and you’ll die an absurd number of times because there’s enemies all over the place and it’d be impossible to shoot them all before they crash into you, even if the controls weren’t as loose as they are. I watched several enemies draw closer and closer to me as I frantically shot in all directions around them, unable to hit them because the game refused to let me aim my spaceship directly at them.

Fozzie’s maze level, like the two above, also never ends. Strange pattern, that is. The gameplay here involves Fozzie wandering around in a one-screen level trying to obtain bowties and presents, all the while being thwarted by candy canes and mice. It wouldn’t be too bad if there weren’t about a thousand screens of just that; you’ll want to pull the plug around screen four or so.


Out of the four main levels, Kermit’s river ride is probably the best. This is, of course, because it is by far the shortest. All you have to do is ride down a river in Kermit’s inner tube and not run into stuff for about five minutes. Then you get your key, and, this being the first level you can play, you think that maybe this game isn’t so bad. In fact, I’d probably be giving this game a much higher score if the whole thing were just that five minute drift. Unfortunately, the developer had to throw in all those other eternally long levels.

I was able to play the last level (the one time I got to it) for about four minutes before I lost all of my lives. I don’t think it’s possible to get much further in it: You’ll have tapped out all your lives on the previous levels, and since the controls actually manage to get worse in this final level, you really can’t progress at all. I’d never played a side-scroller before where your character can only face in once direction, so not being able to turn around and attack enemies behind me was a new experience. It was also a terrible, terrible experience. (Though, to the game’s credit, the weapon Kermit carries—which looks to be a pair of scissors—doesn’t actually deal any damage to any enemy.) Some may call this innovative. I call it either shoddy coding or the evil scheme of a demented programmer seeking revenge on a gaming public who shunned him.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent so many words describing a game’s gameplay, but there aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to describe the pain I felt while playing this game. The makers of this game didn’t even attempt to hide Muppet Adventure within a coat of pretty graphics. I know I’ve commented before on how a game looks like it was made in MS Paint…but this time that statement is completely true.

For example, the background of the racetrack is just a gray rectangle with assorted black dots. It looks like someone’s 20-second mock-up meant as a placeholder until the real visuals were forged, but it’s the game’s actual graphics. At least Kermit is recognizable, though it took me a few minutes (out of infinity) to figure out that it was Gonzo manning my spaceship.

The sound effects are so amazing that I barely noticed them. The one thing that this game copied from the title that should have been its structural inspiration, Adventures in the Magic Kingdom, was the complete lack of licensed music. Somehow, I doubt that hearing the theme to The Muppet Show would really have made my experience with this title any less painful, but it would have been better than the generic tunes this game sports.

The review of this game marks a first in the history of GameCola (or at least, a first in the history of my GameCola reviews): it’s getting a 0 for Replay Value. As I never want to play this game ever again, it has absolutely no value to me following its completion (which, again, will never even occur in the first place). I wish I could at least give it a decent score for its graphics or sound, but that’s not happening.

Quite frankly, I’m bewildered that this game even exists. It has almost no value. It does nothing for the video game industry—it’s completely unlikable. Jim Henson’s Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival is the purest example of an absolutely repulsive game which the publishers hoped would sell on its license alone. Everyone involved in creating this game should be ashamed of themselves for putting out what is one of—if not the—worst products of interactive video entertainment that has ever existed.

  • GameCola Rates This Game: 1 - Terrible
  • Score Breakdown

  • Fun Score: 1.5
  • Audio Score: 2
  • Visuals Score: 1
  • Controls Score: 1.5
3 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 103 votes, average: 6.00 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)

About the Contributor

From 2002 to 2013


  1. Y’know, that racing level sounds a lot like Ride Boarski’s stage in Mega Man X7…but the difference is that in X7, you’re trying to run into the bombs to disarm them. Seems Capcom was getting its inspiration from some dubious sources…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *