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December 13, 2013

Master Of Illusion (Part 1)

I LOVE magic, magicians, illusionists, mentalists and all those people who make us marvel at their talents in stage magic. I have a true fascination for those street magicians, they can do such wonderful things, you'll probably never understand how exactly did they do that. That's the incredible thing about stage magic. They can do impressive things, and you can only watch, impressed, as you ask yourself what the trick might be. Like a lot of children, when I was young, I had one of those starter magic kits, with the plastic wand, the disappearing ball trick, and so many other stuff. However, it didn't click as much for me as it did to others. In Quebec, we had our own stage magic school. In my province alone, we've got at least a dozen famous magicians. Ever heard of Alain Choquette? Or Luc Langevin? Gary Kurtz? Vincent C? Messmer?

“Master of Illusion” (Not to be confused with Master of Disguise) is a Nintendo DS game that was released with the intent of making a magic show out of your portable console... and a deck of cards. Yes, this game was packaged in a box with a deck of playing cards. Of course, the whole point to this deck is to be a part of your magic tricks. It's a tricked deck, too; there's a way to know what the card is even when it's face-down. The game of course tells you about this.

Is this game worth buying, or is it just a way to make two dozen bucks magically disappear from your pockets, never to reappear? Let's find out.

When you boot up the game, you are introduced to your mentor through the whole thing, a magic store owner called Barbara. Now, just take a look at her. WHAT IS THAT? She, no, IT, looks like a Mobian from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, except she looks like a human with that nose and the facial features. I use "she" because it's clearly a woman, she's buxom. Yet, she's still got those weird ears, like a dog's ears... And damn, did she have to wear so little? I would have had no problem with that if she was a normally-drawn human, but the way she's drawn really feels like she's half-human and half-animal... or half-something. It's unclear what the other half of her is... And like I said, she's wearing too little. That headgear (unless it's a part of her...), this feather boa around the neck, this bra, those wrist spikes, and these pants... As if that wasn't enough, another thing to say about Barbara: She has the personality of a deck of cards. She might be good to make a few tricks, create a few surprises, and she'll let you play the games you want to play, but we know nothing about her. It still beats me how she became an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Yeah, ever seen that “girl” appearing from the capsule, taking out a guitar and jamming to the point that she harms the enemy brawlers around her? It's Barbara. I'm really puzzled as to how she made it there. Well, at least it's clear she wears pants in Brawl.

Human? Dog? Dog-person? Girl-Dog? Creature?

Oh well, once her introduction is over, you access the three main options this game has to offer: Solo Magic, Magic Show and Magic Training. There's also the “More” button at the bottom. “Solo Magic” makes you play through programmed magic tricks inside the DS; you'll ask yourself how the Hell did they program that to work, rather than how the trick is done. “Magic Show” presents you a variety of magic tricks, which you can then learn and practice, and then do in front of a small public. “Magic Training” is 10 mini-games to play card games or practice some skills. And “More” is... More.

Since this is the whole point to this game, let's take a look at the magic tricks it can do to you. Those are located in the “Solo Magic” section, there's eight of them, and many of them are incredible. I'll admit, the tricks are neat, although you might indeed start to notice some programming quirks with them. Maybe I should describe those eight magic tricks right now, instead of talking for nothing! First law, a magician never speaks for no reason.

Vanishing Card: The magician spreads the 12 figures (all four Kings, Queens and Jacks) on the bottom screen, face-down. You shuffle them with the stylus, and then pick 5 cards. The magician on the screen asks you to pick one with your mind. After which, the magician says he'll make it vanish. He shuffles the five cards, removes one... and when he shows the cards again, THE ONE I WAS THINKING OF WAS GONE! Holy cow! How the Hell did the game do that??? However, I'm not buying that the DS can sense brain waves. Even the Xbox One can't do that.

Finger Pulse: Pick 5 cards from your deck and input them in your DS. Then, turn the real cards face-down, but they keep their position. Touch the first card with your hand that isn't holding the stylus. Some instructions will appear on the screen, which ask you to move your finger left or right between the cards. Follow the instructions, and when the instructions are over, you're asked to rub a lamp on the bottom screen. The card that appears? THE ONE YOUR FINGER IS ON. Amazing! And it freaking works, too!

Mystic Breeze: You must touch the TOP screen with your finger. Yeah, don't ask how it works. The 12 cards on top show the 12 months of the year. Move your finger the number of times corresponding to the number your month is associated with. After which, blow in the microphone; some cards will fly off. You follow more instructions, blow in the mic again, and more cards vanish. Keep going. At the end, only one month is left. Guess which one? The one you are in at the moment! So, right now it's December. But it works for all the months. Not an impressive trick, though...

Knock, Knock: Shuffle your deck and pick 14 cards. Put them face-down in your left hand. Now the game asks for a name or nickname that is six letters long or less. ...What do you do, if your name is Charles Alexander? Tough! You follow instructions to set cards on the table equal to the number of letters in the name you picked, twice. Choose one of those two piles and discard the other. Look at the top card of the remaining pile, put it on the cards in your hand, and put the remaining cards of the pile on top of it. Put one card at a time from the top to the bottom of the pile, eight times. And then, tap the apartment building on the bottom screen with each card, one at a time; discard that card each time it's the wrong one. When it's the right one, verify if it is. AND IT WILL BE! ...Okay, a relatively lame trick, actually. Not my favorite, I'll admit.

Today's Special: A magic square is presented to you. You know, those games where the sum of all vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines is equal? Pick one, and the game erases all the other cards in that line and column. Do that once, twice, three times. Then, pick the final card. Whichever numbered cards it is that you picked, the result will be a two to four-digit number, which spells out... Today's date. Yeah, not so awesome...

Finger Yoga: Pick a “finger yoga” post among the five on the top screen. You get instructions to make each finger yoga pose; you get the instruction for each pose one at a time. when you reach the one you picked, do it, and then keep going until the final screen. The Finger Yogi will guess which pose you made. I guessed the trick to that one, by the way. But I'm not telling.

Magic Gems: Nine Gems are placed as a circle on the top screen. Pick a number; the gems will be picked according to that number. Pick three or five gems always by moving a number of times equal to the number you picked. You either get WATER or OIL. Then, what do the remaining letters make? The other word, with an exclamation mark!!!!!!!!! Water and oil never mix. I'll be honest, this trick was also a tad lame...

Last but not least, Deep Psyche: A psychiatrist will judge your present state, but for this he first asks you to input your date of birth. He'll divide the number in four groups, and then ask some questions that will be calculated with those four groups, increasing or decreasing the numbers. At the end, the four groups have changed; the psychiatrist rearranges them. What is that? I can read something... Gotta flip the DS... It says I HOLD DS (with a DS symbol between HOLD and DS). Wow! Er... Good?

Well, those solo magic tricks were okay, but nothing spectacular. I guess, if I want to have fun with this game, I have to try the real deal: The Magic Show section. There's a whopping FOURTEEN tricks to learn in this game, so I better get started. This is the main section, the reason why you probably bought this game in the first place. These tricks are so much better... because you will actually do them yourself. And also, those tricks are more creative than those from the Solo Magic section.

How can you learn the trick? When you select a trick, press Select for three seconds at the trick's Start screen to learn the trick. I'll do my best to keep the secrets with me, because as you know, a magician never reveals his secrets... And I think I tell more jokes if I just describe the magic trick and not how it's done. Heh heh. When you press Select at the Start screen, you are brought to some cutesy anime-styled characters doing the trick. It's adorable. After which, the trick is explained to you. Well, why am I wasting so much time? Let's get into describing the fourteen tricks!

Two Candles: On the top screen, two candles: One red, one blue. Ooh, they are so pretty, especially around Christmastime... I can blow on them, and they'll go out. Oh, cool. Then, when I get to the next screen, ask your public to pick one candle. Someone must tap it with the finger. Remember, top screen. I ask the public to blow in the microphone again... and only the candle they didn't pick will go out! HOW DID I DO THAT?

Okay, time for me to open a little parenthesis here. Most of those tricks are achieved by you inputting commands into the Nintendo DS, commands that your public must not know about. It's the same to a stage magician doing a number of manipulations with his or her items to make it look like there's some magic. The whole point is that your audience must not know what it is that you've done. In some cases, it's pressing a button (those are the most obvious ones). In others, it's how you draw something on the bottom screen with the stylus. It changes depending on the trick. Other tricks have a totally different explanation. To be a good magician with this game, learn each trick to and through before showing it to a public. Will they find it weird that you're using a DS as main item in your tricks? HELL YEAH! They'll just reason that it's programmed to be magical, so they won't look for a trick. But sometimes it's kind of obvious. As an example, the Two Candles trick can be spoiled if your audience has good hearing... A problem that you will face with other tricks. Another slight problem with this game is that most tricks you can learn cannot be replicated without a Nintendo DS. That might be a problem, but it's not so bad... As long as you don't mind having to rely on your machine entirely. Okay, let's continue.

Shuffle Games: A three-in-one! For each of those three, I hand the DS to your public, and tell them to pick one of the choices. For Birth Month, they pick a month. For Future Vacations, they pick a country name. For Recreation, they pick an activity. Nothing incredible so far... I cannot look at the DS. After this, for each trick, my public must tell me, one by one, all the choices that are on the screen. For the Birth Month one, they must tell me the months in the way the arrow goes on the screen. For the two others, your public doesn't have to tell them in any order. And each time, I'll find out exactly what it was that they picked!

What, over 2,000 words already? Wow, you don't see time pass when you're playing with magic! There's still too much to show you in this game, so why not wait for Monday? I'll tell you everything else you can find in this magical game. As for me, I'll watch some tricks by Luc Langevin on Youtube. I'm totally in the mood to watch more stage magic! Hell, I might just practice the tricks again and do them to you! ...Or, I'll try to make sure you can imagine me doing them.

See you later! *Imagine I disappear in a puff of smoke*