IFReviewed by Greg Boettcher on 2006-05-22 08:45
My opinion of this game changed a lot as I played through it. When I first started playing, I was quite impressed. The Magic Show (TMS) is a lot more polished than your average ADRIFT game. After that, however, I gradually became aware that there was a big similarity between this and The Act of Misdirection (TAOM). And considering that TMS came out about eight months after TAOM, my opinion of TMS dropped substantially. I was prepared to call TMS little more than a rip-off game. And yet, as I played further, my attitude changed once again. I discovered that although TMS starts off with the same opening premise as TAOM, it takes the premise in a totally different direction. What's more, that direction is quite interesting and fruitful, giving the game strengths all its own. TMS isn't the equal of TAOM, but still I'm pleased to give it a thumbs-up.
As I said, TMS's opening segment is quite similar to that of TAOM: you perform magic on stage. This segment in TMS is okay, although not as powerful as the one in TAOM, and frankly, not as original either. But that doesn't matter, because unlike TAOM, in which the middle and end are less memorable than the beginning, The Magic Show gets better and better as it goes on. As soon as you're done with your magic performance, you learn that your assistant has been kidnapped, and the kidnappers demand that you break into a museum to steal a precious artifact. To do this, you need the magic skills that you learned while performing onstage. So the middle and end of TMS build on the beginning. This is where TMS shows its originality.
While I was doing the on-stage performance, I noticed something odd about the magic tricks. Some of them are based on illusion or sleight of hand, but some of them really do seem to be magical. This became more and more obvious as the game went on, until at one point I stared in astonishment as I discovered that I no longer viewed my character as an illusionist at all, but as something more. If you want to know what I mean, you'll have to play the game.
The game is generally well written, with a few amusing moments thrown in. The rabbit provided me with a few laughs.
Better yet, the programming is pretty good. Room descriptions change depending on whether doors are open or closed. The description of yourself can change as well. This is better than I'm used to for ADRIFT, where I've sometimes noticed a tendency to avoid any kind of programming, including IF-THEN statements, exactly the sort of statements that are necessary in order to achieve the kinds of things that Jason Mac Innes does in The Magic Show. Even more praiseworthy is the fact that TMS did a good job of beefing up the standard ADRIFT parser to accept a respectably wide range of commands. This made the game a lot more playable and enjoyable.
There were a few typos, and a few bugs. One bug -- which is reportedly due to the ADRIFT interpreter -- involved occasionally getting two different responses to a command:
> put magazine on fire
You can't put anything onto the fire! That's not possible.
The one major design flaw involves the hint menu. The hints in it are adequate for the first part of the game, but after that they become so vague as to be worse than no hints at all. I think the author is aware of this problem and intends to fix it in the future.
Anyway, on the whole, The Magic Show is certainly worth a play. If I'm right about it being inspired by The Act of Misdirection, then I wish the author would have given credit accordingly. But, that aside, there is a lot to enjoy in this game. It's the best ADRIFT game I personally have played.