Dec 11, 2007
With Nintendogs, Brain Age and Flash Focus, Nintendo has proven that videogames don't need to be games at all - not in the traditional sense, anyway - to be successful. Their latest experiment in not-quite-gaming is Master of Illusion, a title packing plenty of entertainment for Penn and Teller-wannabes. In fact, the DS practically plays the part of silent assistant Teller to your spotlight-soaking Penn as you dazzle friends and family with Illusion's mind-bending magic show.
Packaged with a deck of cards, three game modes and a bosom-brimming, belly-baring magic shop owner named Barbara, Illusion gives gamers everything they need - short of top hat and white rabbit - to prepare for and perform their own magic show. Preparation is actually a big part of it; believably pulling off the tricks requires patience and practice as well as slogging through some text-heavy tutorials. But if you're willing to put in the time, the results can yield a great deal of magic-making fun.
Many of the tricks utilize the included cards, the DS and, especially cool, audience participation; like a living room version of pre-self-abuse-era David Blaine, you'll choose volunteers to draw with the stylus, choose cards and blow into the DS's mic. Cartoony visuals compliment your act with nice touches like an audience-selected card appearing in a crystal ball.
When you're sick of the spotlight, Illusion can entertain you, albeit briefly, in solo mode by performing its own tricks, and a training mode allows you to brush up your skills by playing a variety of sense-sharpening Brain Age-like games. One such mini-game has you tapping off seconds to test your internal clock; guess what? That "repeat 'Mississippi' after each number" trick you've been doing your whole life? It doesn't work.
The solo and training modes offer some bite-sized fun, but the real draw is the performance-fueled magic show mode; it won't exactly secure you a headlining act in Vegas, but it should prove a modest success at family gatherings.
There is, however, a fine line to who'll be genuinely fooled by your bag of DS-assisted tricks. Without spoiling all the fun, we'll just say cynical audience members may notice something "funny" about your cards, and folks who have no knowledge of what the DS is - some tricks assume your audience is aware the DS's top screen isn't touch sensitive - might think it's electronically programmed to mess with them. If you've got the time and patience to prep, and an audience willing to go along for the ride, Master of Illusion could turn you and your DS into the hit of the holiday party.