Readers from coast to coast, young and old have been telling me about the renewed family-time fun they’ve been having with Nintendo’s seemingly magical game system, the Wii. I keep hearing about one game experience in particular, one that mirrors my own family gatherings. Despite the top-tier games Nintendo has released for the Wii (the Zeldas, Marios, Warios, et al.), the one game that consistently draws families together is the bowling game on the Wii Sports disc that comes with the system. I’ve heard many stories about living-room bowling tournaments, and it does my heart good. I recently had a chance to preview some new games coming to the Wii this year, and I thought I’d share some information about two carnival-themed family games you might want to try. First up is Carnival Games from Global Star Software. Global Star is a Take-Two Interactive Software label, and you might remember Take-Two as the parent company of Rockstar, makers of the Grand Theft Auto games. But Carnival Games is nothing like GTA. Take every midway game from every country fair you’ve ever been to, and you’ll have a good understanding of Carnival Games. But it’s more than just a collection of midway games: It’s a carnival experience. Pick a character, and stop by one of more than two dozen game kiosks, including “Action Ball” (a version of “skee-ball” that might surpass even the Wii bowling game in popularity), a basketball game, a dunk-tank game, a day-at-the-races game, a baseball pitching game and a duck-shoot game, to name a few. And, just like at Chuck E. Cheese’s place, some games will issue tickets, which you can redeem for prizes. Accumulate enough tickets, and you might be able to buy a giant stuffed animal – or wardrobe items for your chosen character. There are more than 250 virtual prizes in the game. It should be in stores by the end of July. Some folks say the Mario Party games have gone downhill. But it’s clear with Mario Party 8, the first Mario Party for the Wii, that the series is seeing a revival. The carnival-themed game hit stores Tuesday, but I haven’t had a chance to play the retail version. At least, I’m not sure if the version I played at the recent preview event was the final version. I can tell you that the Wii remote makes a huge difference in the way you play. With it, you’ll have to punch, row, steer vehicles and even handle a balancing pole while tightrope walking. You can point and click to shoot targets or drag and drop to handle objects. These are just a few of the “minigame” activities you’ll find as you and other players make your way around silly, interactive board games. Even mom should like both of these games, which encourage players to get up off their rear ends and get some exercise. And, if you absolutely can’t get enough of Wii bowling, you might want to try Brunswick Pro Bowling, due in August. Single-player jam: Another game I tried, one that isn’t necessarily a multiplayer game, was Jam Sessions for the portable Nintendo DS system. Basically, it turns the pocket-sized DS into an electric rhythm guitar. Ubisoft is publishing this title, which makes use of the bottom, touch-sensitive screen of the DS. You’ll see one guitar string there. If you move a stylus across the image, it’ll strum a chord. You can assign as many as 16 chords to the DS directional control pad. Press a direction, and you’ll strum the chord assigned to it. Several menus offer many ways to tweak the sound. You can start out with a basic acoustic sound and then adjust a few virtual dials to elicit the most distorted, screaming electric sounds you want. A simple adapter will allow you to run a line to a real amplifier for even more options. Done right, you could see small music groups performing with just their Nintendo DS systems. You probably won’t be playing lead guitar with Jam Sessions (although history has taught us that gamers can learn to manipulate controllers with an almost impossible quickness), but the game is a fascinating rhythm-guitar experiment. Jam Sessions is due in stores in September.