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Critical Reception: Nintendo's Master of Illusion

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to the Nintendo-published Master of Illusion, a unique magic trick instructional title for the DS handheld that critics describe as "this generation's magic kit."
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Master of Illusion, a unique magic trick instructional title for the Nintendo DS that critics describe as "this generation's magic kit." Similar to Nintendo's Brain Age series and the recently released Flash Focus, Master of Illusion advertises itself as an educational title, and not a game. Master of Illusion includes a deck of playing cards, and contains step-by-step instructions that explain how to perform several rudimentary magic tricks. Not enough critical responses have yet been submitted in order for Metacritic to issue an official Metascore, but Master of Illusion's first three reviews average a rating of 73 out of 100. Matthew Kato awards Master of Illusion a score of 8 out of 10 in a brief review at Game Informer. "You might think the Wii is perfect for parties at your house," he begins, "but this game and its magic tricks will make you and your DS the center of attention." Kato explains: "The tricks you perform on others with the DS are easy to learn and even had a few members of the GI staff perplexed as to how I pulled them off." In all, Kato feels that Master of Illusion serves a useful and interesting purpose, even if it comes at the price of magic's inherent mystery for the user. "Even though the game pulls back the curtain on some fundamental elements of performing magic," he writes, "it’s still fun and even head-scratching at times." GameDaily's Carol Orsini offers up a review scored at 7 out of 10. "Packaged with a stellar set of cards and nifty magic scarf, Master of Illusion has got your bases covered with everything a growing magician needs to begin a successful magic career," she praises. "It even gives advice on how to deal with pushy, know-it-all fans; 'You've got a keen eye' will forever be ingrained in our magic vernacular." Orsini emphasizes that Master of Illusion's attention to audience disruption makes all the difference in providing effective instruction. "The most enjoyable mode is Magic Show. Here, you can take your practice and tricks on the road, so to speak," she notes. "While a lot of these tricks are pretty nifty, especially the ones where you pretend to be psychic, most verge on a tad obvious. Luckily, Master of Illusion's manual instructs you on how to deal with mistakes you might make or problems you might have with your illusions without spoiling the atmosphere or the show. Your deck of cards will soon become your best friend." Controls also work well, according to Orsini. "You use the stylus for practically everything, and it's quite pleasing," she says. "The microphone is also used for tricks that require wind or the blowing out of candles, and that is equally fun. It's good to see a DS game that takes advantage of its resources." "Master of Illusion isn't the kind of magical instruction that'll have you hosting 'The Masked Magician' anytime soon," Orsini warns, "but it's fun, interesting and at times will give that noodle of yours a workout. If you've got a flair for the extraordinary or want to know the secrets behind magic tricks, this game will suit you." Craig Harris at IGN describes Master of Illusion as "this generation's magic kit" in his 7-out-of-10 review at IGN. "But instead of the trick hankies, cup and balls, and collapsible wands," he continues, "you use the Nintendo DS as the tricks' 'prop.' Master of Illusion is easily one of the most unexpected products on the Nintendo DS." Harris states that Master of Illusion might not satisfy those in search of a more traditional game experience, however. "It's certainly unique, and there's entertainment value in Master of Illusion, but keep in mind it's not a game," he cautions. "Most of what you get out of this product is what you put into it. If you're not willing to show off your skills to wow an unsuspecting audience, the whole idea will be pretty much lost." Harris also acknowledges that Master of Illusion can be problematic, both in and of itself and in relation to how users perform with it. "Any poor performance can easily reveal how the tricks are done, so a lot of the "issues" of Master of Illusion isn't so much the package's problems, but of who does the tricks," he admits. "But the game could have certainly done a better job demonstrating how the tricks could be performed... maybe through short video clips of someone who knows what they're doing." Otherwise, Harris recommends the game to interested parties who are committed to showing off their learned magic tricks to others. "There's certainly nothing wrong with trying to be an amateur magician, and this Nintendo DS product is a neat way to learn how some familiar illusions are performed," he concludes. "But if you have no interest in performing these tricks for others, you'll completely miss the point of the product... and should skip it altogether." As the newest member of Nintendo's oddball assortment of edutainment releases, Master of Illusion's greatest obstacle is whether its potential audience will embrace the concept. Critics claim that the title is effective in the teachings it advertises, however, and if players approach Master of Illusion as more of a tool than a game, they should be satisfied by the end result.

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