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Sun 28th Aug 2005
By David Whyld - See all my reviews
Games by newcomers to the ADRIFT scene seem to be few and far between these days so I approached The Magic Show with a fair amount of trepidation. The description of the game listed on the main ADRIFT page was at least reasonably interesting:
A skilled magician, you expect it’ll just be another night working at the dinner theatre. Or so the evening begins as you head out onto the stage to perform your usual feats of magic. But the night will be longer than you think and your magical skills will become a matter of life and death.
So I decided to give it a whirl.
The Magic Show begins with you, a magician (either Justin Case (heh heh) if you’re male or Justine Case if you’re female) preparing for the night’s entertainment. You’re in your dressing room, a sparsely furnished location which would just about get away with so sparsely furnished if it wasn’t the first place you see in the game. Most items mentioned in the room description can be examined but there are a few lacking descriptions. The napkin is frustrating in that examining it reveals writing which supposedly can be read but "x writing" and "read writing" both return an error message. "Read napkin" works fine, however, and looks to a good luck message from one of the game’s testers.
I got into some guess the verb hassles with a magic wand. I’ve got my top hat on which, I’m informed, has been magically locked and can only be opened with my wand. All well and good, but where is the wand? By the time I got round to examining my top hat I’d already given the dressing room the once over and never saw any sign of it. A second, more careful, inspection proved no more fruitful than the first. Now I’ve played games in the past where the writer has forgotten to override restrictions and you can pretty much get away with murder in games like that. I tried it here - "get wand" - and the wand was mine! Wa-hey! Apparently it had been in the sleeves of my tuxedo all along although as the tuxedo isn’t listed amongst my inventory items, I had no reason to assume I was wearing it. "x you" doesn’t work, "x me" reveals the tuxedo and a few other items. But why weren’t they listed in my inventory?
Once you leave the dressing room, the game starts properly as you entertain (or try to at any rate) an audience with your magic tricks. Most of the tricks are the standard fare that you’d expect to see at any magic show: levitation tricks, sawing a woman in half (why is it always a woman that gets sawn in half?), card tricks and the like. The first time I tried them, I came seriously unstuck with most of the tricks because I was lacking a key item needed to move them forward. Without it, I wasn’t able to get the tricks to proceed and - here’s an annoying thing - there’s no way of backing out of a trick partway through and trying something else. So if you’ve picked a trick and can’t figure out how to finish it, you’re basically stuck with no way out. Want to hear something else annoying? The ’undo’ command has been disabled. So you can’t even backtrack a few moves and try something else. As I didn’t have a save game at this time, I was forced to restart.
One nice touch which I felt the game lacked would be a timer set to have the audience start heckling you if you just stand around for a while without performing any magic tricks.
My second time through I did considerably better. I did the levitation trick. A problem I ran into was with precise spelling of a certain word. The writer uses American spellings of words like "realise" or "synthesise" whereas I use the English spellings. As one of the words you need to type is the American spelling, you might struggle a bit trying to figure out why your perfectly logical command just isn’t working - unless your American of course in which case it’ll work perfectly. Ideally, both versions of the word should have been covered.
Another aspect of the game I didn’t like, and which the lack of ’undo’ made especially worse, was how all the items you find in the first location are returned to their initial location as soon as you enter the main area of the game. I was particularly annoyed to find myself manacled in a black cabinet and unable to reach the skeleton key I knew I had on me. It had been in my hand when I left the dressing room yet the game, in its unhelpfulness, had returned it to my pocket and so therefore it was out of my reach. Normally I’d just hit ’undo’ a few times until I was free of the cabinet, get the skeleton key out of my pocket and then carry on with the game as normal. But with ’undo’ disabled, that’s not an option. Quitting is an option and one I came seriously close to taking right then.
Fortunately, the cabinet trick is one that plays out to completion without any real input from you. Just sit there and wait a few times and the trick is over. You don’t get much of a boost to your score but at least you’re through it.
When I left the stage - my score was about half of the maximum amount so I guess I didn’t do especially well with the magic tricks - I expected the game to be over. But instead there was a letter awaiting me in my dressing room informing me that my assistant, Tiffany, had been kidnapped and I was required to steal something called the "Golden Scarab" from the Tri-City Museum or the kidnappers would murder her. Rather than calling the police, I instead head off across town to the Museum…
… and that’s as far as I got. The museum is locked and the doors seem to resist my best efforts to unlock them. Apparently the doors are locked from the other side - clearly the museum employs its own brand of magicians who are capable of walking through walls and don’t require such things as doors with locks on the outside. Unfortunately the walking through walls trick isn’t one I’ve learnt myself and so here I must resort to more mundane methods of affecting an entrance.
In theory anyway. In practice I got well and truly stuck. I couldn’t get the doors open no matter what I did. I found some cars in the parking lot but the description of each just gave me a description of the cars as a whole. Was this a bug or just a writer being lazy? In desperation, I turned to the hints.
Ah, the hints. Now, I’m normally all in favour of hints as I’m one of those people who get stuck very often and seldom finish games without them. So when I first typed ’hint’ in The Magic Show and saw a whole list of them ready and waiting for me, I was quite pleased. Until, that is, I actually tried one of them.
Here we have a few of the most unhintful hints I’ve ever come across. A few of my favourites:
How do I do the coin trick? - Amaze the audience with your slight of hand.
How do I get in the museum? - Explore. There are more ways than one for a magician to enter a building.
Help, I’m no good at riddles! - Fortunately, you’re not alone.
How do I do the levitation trick? - The trick can be frightening for a volunteer who’s not in a peaceful, relaxed state of mind.
I don’t think there’s a single hint in the game that I actually managed to put to any use. Most are simply irritating. A few are downright infuriating. One involving the cabinet trick actually says that you’re carrying the item you need to perform the trick - yet because you’re currently manacled, you’re unable to reach it. Confession time: this is the first game I’ve played which contained hints that I found myself wishing didn’t have hints. None are helpful in the least and most seem to be attempts, successful admittedly, on the part of the writer to annoy the player. Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to have one of the hints actually be useful?
I didn’t get any further than being stuck outside the museum. Of the four hints I quoted above, the middle two are what I got when I arrived at the museum. As neither gave me a clue as to what I was supposed to be doing, I decided it was high time I gave The Magic Show a rest and tried something else. In a way, it’s a pity the hints are so bad because if they’d have been better I’d doubtless have spent a lot longer playing the game and might even have finished it. I’d have certainly enjoyed it more.
It’s got good and bad parts. The magic tricks are nothing new or original (old hat really and any credible magician wouldn’t be seen dead performing them) but interesting all the same. The style of writing is good and if there are spelling or grammatical errors I didn’t spot any. My low score for the game - 4 out of a maximum of 10 - reflects the annoyance I felt for most of the time I was playing. The appalling hints (it’s probably wrong to even call them that) were a big disappointment and the lack of ’undo’ was even worse. At times it felt like the writer was deliberately going out of his way to annoy the player and while I’m sure that wasn’t the case, The Magic Show has so many things about it that could be made more user-friendly that it’s hard to imagine he was unaware of what a frustrating game this could be.
4 out of 10
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
I really enjoyed playing this game., Thu 30th Jun 2005
By thatguy - See all my reviews
My only reservation was that it is a little too detail oriented, but that is just me. It is a great game and I give it 4 out 5 stars!
Fri 17th Dec 2004
By rotter - See all my reviews