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Do you remember when play used to be about imaginary games, inventive Lego constructions and tricks played on the grown ups. No? Well maybe I'm just showing my age again, but the game in hand today reminded me of that bygone age. More than that though, it was an excellent lesson to us all that games are supposed to be about having fun - imaginary, inventive, engaging fun.
Magic Mad Fun joins games like Bakushow DS and Pictoimage DS that aim to focus more on the creativity of the player than the preset game experience - and it certainly seems to live up to its name. This is a game that is packaged more like a card game than something on the DS. This is because in the box you get plenty of other paraphernalia as well as the usual cartridge and booklet. Rather than just throwing in some freebies these extra bits of equipment are in fact fundamental to the game.
Magic Made Fun teaches you how to perform a series of magic tricks using these bits and bobs and of course your mysterious (silky slim) assistant - your DS. As you progress through the game you are taught increasingly intricate tricks based on slight of hand, or subtle visual clues on the provided cards or the DS interface itself. The game divides into three areas: Solo Magic, Magic Show and Magic Training. Solo provides a collection of tricks that the DS plays on you (or indeed whoever you hand it to). Magic Show then develops tricks that you perform with the DS. Finally, Magic Training encompasses some rather trite mini-games - as we have become used to in the Brain Training series.
[The DS] can mysteriously know the object that has been silently selected by the player.
The Solo tricks largely rely on mathematical slight of hand, and employ a variety of methods to keep this fact from you. These are often the sorts of calculations that always end in the same result, regardless of your input. Even so, the first time you play them they are reasonably fun and with the top drawer presentation they are rarely a chore. The problem here though is that there is little reason for repeat play. Once you have trundled your way through each of these Solo tricks we suspect you won't be coming back here in a hurry. At least not until you can pass the DS to a friend or family member to see what they make of it.
The Magic Show tricks are where the meat of the game is to be found. These teach you to perform magic in front of other people. This might involve convincing your victims (err I mean audience) that the DS can predict which candles they want to blow out with the mic. Or maybe that it can mysteriously know the object that has been silently selected by the player. If executed well, these can be pretty impressive. Like any magic of this type, if you work backwards you can quickly piece together where the deception occurred, but this doesn't detract from the fun of the initial impression of proper magic.
The Magic Training mode is much more limited, and it has to be said is pretty derivative. It provides a variety of card themed activities that are meant to improve your card counting and handling ability. The problem here is a failure to incentivise the work, or in fact to convince that it is actually beneficial - probably because it simply isn't.
The visuals are all top notch, taking characters from the excellent (and unreleased in the west) Daigasso Band Brothers DS game. Quite what the relationship between the two titles is something of a mystery itself, but both characters and menus have certainly been sculpted by the same hand (with a fare degree of cut and paste from the other game). Either way, the game seems proud of their visual heritage as much of the cut scenes and talking is unskippable.
They come to the table with an inventive way to play and learn.
That is pretty much it in terms of what you get for your money. And here is another problem, there just isn't all that much to do. In the main the quality is there, but the volume is certainly lacking. The average magician (read: player) will get through the majority of the fun here in half a dozen hours. This is a shame as the idea is a good one and could easily have been fleshed out with some more advanced tricks.
Tenyo should be commended on the release of a daring title on the DS, one that certainly breaks the mould in terms of what is possible on the little machine. They come to the table with an inventive way to play and learn. If their attention to detail had been matched with a little more volume, this could have been a substantial addition to the DS's game catalogue. As it stands this is more of a curiosity than along lasting experience.
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