Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Common Sense Media says

Decent circus game plagued by some difficult control issues.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The main message of the game seems to be that circuses are fun. A secondary lesson that comes out of playing is that lots of practice is required before you're ready for the big time.

Positive role models

In one way of looking at it, you could say that these performers, who take part in very dangerous acts, are not the kind of people most parents want their children emulating. Beyond their careers, though, there's nothing worrisome about them.

Ease of play

There's a huge disparity in difficulty level among the various mini-games. Some are quite easy to handle with simple controls, while others seem downright impossible on the first twenty-odd attempts. Most players are likely to score 5 out of 5 stars on several acts and 0 out of 5 on others. In a couple of cases, the problem lies in some bit of information being left out of the instructions.

Violence & scariness

None unless you count pie-throwing or being shot from a cannon as violence.

Not applicable

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey brand name and logo is all over the game, which seems intended to make kids not only want to see the circus, but to specifically see this circus.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this colorful collection of circus-themed mini-games offers kids a lot of variety and some really fun active-gaming experiences, but that there are a number of less interesting, harder to play segments as well. The inconsistency may be a source of frustration for some kids.

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What's it about?

In order to become a star of one of the Big Top shows in RINGLING BROS. AND BARNUM & BAILEY CIRCUS, you first need to spend a lot of time testing your skills at dozens of different acts on the back lot. Only after you've gained certification in enough different acts will a spot in the "Greatest Show on Earth" open up for you. Acts include all the classics you'd expect (tightrope walking, trapeze, clown pie fights, animal training, etc.), plus a few more surprising ones (a singing dog chorus and clown bowling, for example). Along the way, you'll earn Barnum Bucks, which you can use to purchase new costume pieces or random circus-related prizes (balloons, cotton candy, etc.) that don't seem to serve any purpose once bought.

Is it any good?


There's a really awesome big-top game hidden somewhere at the core of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, but a number of way-too-difficult mini-games with touchy controls hold it back from reaching anywhere near "Greatest Game on Earth" status. Successfully guiding a unicycle across a tightrope, for example, apparently requires the hands of a surgeon -- the movements needed to keep the unicycle upright are so minute, that a hairsbreadth in the wrong direction will send you plummeting off screen. And then, strangely, some of the other tightrope games (there are four) can be completed with far less difficulty. All of this is not to say that there isn't fun to be had with Circus. Many of the stunt, animal training, and clown games are a blast to play. And the way the acts you trained for appear in suped-up, more challenging forms when you reach the Big Show is done really nicely. Still, some of the control problems will leave you shaking your head.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the way backstage practice sessions are used to prepare players for Big Top shows. How does this mimic real life? Is there an important lesson about practice and preparation in the game?

Game details

Platforms:Nintendo Wii
Available online?Not available online
Developer:2K Play
Release date:November 24, 2009
ESRB rating:E for Comic Mischief (Nintendo Wii)

This review of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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