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The Magic Show Reviews
Author: Jason Macinnes
Date: 2004

Score: 4 Otters

Reviewed by Cobra1

Being a fan of magic, I couldn't help but try this widely mentioned game to see how it could stack up against the competition. The good news...it does. It does indeed... 

Tricks Of The Trade 

You play the role of Justin Case (or Justina, if you chose female), famous magician, illusionist and so on. At first, there's nothing special about the night...just another group of stage magic to entertain the masses. They are the standard magician acts (pulling a rabbit out of the hat, escaping from a box, the magic hoops, etc). Luckily, there is no order required for this...just perform the tricks as you see fit. Even if you screw up a couple, the game moves on (albeit, minus a few points). The tools and tricks are mostly easy to figure out (or maybe that's just me, considering my practice with minor stage magic at home) and the interface didn't complain much about pulling them off. However, an automatic exit would have been nice, to let me know I had attempted all of the tricks available. In either case, once finished you head back to your dressing room and the real game begins... 

Sleight Of Keyboard 

The second and third parts of the game use what you know from the first part. The watch for hypnotism, the cape for invisibility and more. Whatever you performed earlier is now going to be re-used, just in a "real-life atmosphere". And use them you shall...Just about every last item you have will be used to achieve victory, including that poor rabbit. *snicker* 

Most of the puzzles are understandable on what you need to do...All that is required is keen observation (isn't that true for magic anyway?). This is no puzzle in the game that causes a player to go "Why was I supposed to do [this]?". All is either explained or at least hinted at the reason on its requirement, before or after you solve it. 

Oh that silly rabbit... 

Even if you do have a little trouble, it's worth sticking it out. The plot can be a little corny at times, but it pulls itself off decently. Sure, your opponent may seem rather "average enemy type A" most of the time, but it became hard to resist as I went deeper into the game. Better still, there are several scenes in The Magic Show had me snickering or choking back laughter (I played this late at night and didn't want to wake anyone up). Minor things like the audience of the show to major laughs like the "rabbit decoy" in the museum (You'll know it when you see it)...or maybe that's just my sadistic side showing. 

Ta-da! A bowl of goldfish! 

The only complaint I really have is the sudden jumps in skill between each part. The first part is pretty darn easy, plus any trick you have problems, you can be shoved in the right direction by asking your assistant about the tool in question. The second part provides far fewer hints, but the solutions are not TOO hard to figure out (admittedly, I spent a couple of hours looking for how to disable security). The third  (and I'm guessing final) part increases the difficulty of the puzzles by an extreme amount! A timed puzzle, followed by a no-hint brain buster right inside the gate...literally. Such an dramatic switch in skill is lethal to those unprepared, leaving most players to grasp for their last save file, or even restarting in some cases. This is heart-rending, to get so far only to be shot down by unexpected skill switches. 

Despite this, The Magic Show contains a decent amount of gameplay and comedy for its download. So get out your wands and start mystifying...It's going to be one interesting night! 

8/10 (Quite Enchanting) 

Reviewed by David Whyld

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 you're 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. 

Oh dear. 

Here we have a few of the most unhelpful hints I've ever come across. A few of my favourites: 

How do I do the coin trick? - Amaze the audience with your slight [sic] 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 for something? 

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 

Reviewed by DIY Games (November 2004)

The Magic Show is an excellent ADRIFT game, where you play a magician, trying to perform magic tricks and survive the evening. The writing is excellent, straight to the point and with very little unnecessary load, and the puzzles are very well designed. Unfortunately, as some of the tasks are time-limited and they are related to magical tricks, they may frustrate inexperienced players who rush into new situation without diligent research of their previous surroundings.

Reviewed by Greg Boettcher

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. 

Reviewed by Laurence Moore

How do a rate a game good or bad if you're disinterested in the settings and lead PC from the introduction? 

Well, that's the problem I had with new Adrift writer Jason Mac Innes' debut game - The Magic Show. I wasn't sure what to expect from the title but I did have a pretty good idea and hoped I would be wrong. Unfortunately, no, I wasn't wrong. The scenario is that you play as a magician about to head out on stage. That's pretty much the only background you can glean from the opening scene as you admire yourself in a dressing room mirror. The initial presentation, just as vital as the actual writing, was fine. It seemed free of spelling errors which shows, at the very least, a basic level of testing (a plus point for a newcomer). However, the choose your gender prompt seemed out of place. I always imagine a magician to be male with an attractive female assistant. I don't know many female magicians. Then again, I don't know many magicians so I am probably talking out of my rear. 

That slightly mimesis-breaking quirk aside, how did things pan out? 

Location descriptions are more than reasonable and I was quickly able to conjure the setting I found myself in. Some tenses were wrong - fluorescents illuminate light (lit) passage - and describing both crates and posters adorning a wall does not sound right. Various items mentioned can be - and need to be - examined and there is always another level of descriptive text although I saw nothing special when inspecting the floor and walls (pointless, I know, but if you mention them then back them up with more than you see nothing special. I would suggest you see nothing special about the floor is better than just nothing special). 

Now I encountered a problem when I examined the counter and saw a napkin. It's not a bug but, surely, I could see the napkin from the beginning yet it was not displayed as an available item until I examined the counter. If the counter had been a high shelf then, logically, I would have been unable to see the napkin until further examination. However, the counter has a stool tucked under it which suggests that visibility is not a problem. Ergo, the napkin should be visible from the beginning. Looking under the counter throws up the same response as examining it - which is wrong - the action is different. I can forgive a first time author for missing this but the option to look under the sofa is covered so why not the counter. 

Movement has been customised so there is no you walk north upon leaving the dressing room but you open the dressing room door and walk north which is good to see. However, I would suggest a page break before then detailing the next location otherwise the text becomes a little squashed. 

I made decent progress with the game and began to enjoy certain aspects - performing on stage - but I won't reveal too much of the unfolding plot. There are, apparently, multiple endings, but I am yet to reach a satisfactory one. 

All in all, I rate The Magic Show as a reasonable first game. Not the best, definitely not the worse, either, with the right balance of good things rather than bad. The scenario didn't capture my attention but I am certain it will have an audience with other players. Overall, I failed to find that many glaring errors and there were more positives than negatives. The game had three beta-testers - it shows - but I was a little surprised that certain obvious errors were missed. The Magic Show does have edges that need sharpening and surfaces that need polishing but I am confident the author can use this as a platform for a second game. I just hope he doesn't wait another twenty years! 


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