Master of Illusion
Nintendo somehow managed to avoid the undoubtedly strong urge to name this one Magic Training...
As part of the Touch! Generations line of games, Master of Illusion signals a unique brand of "non-game" that really stands out from the pack. Unlike some of the more popular casual marketed titles, Master of Illusion's success as a product is fairly easy to quantify. In Brain Age for example you may find a type of math you're weak at and may perceive improvement, but ultimately it's a subjective measure. In the case of MoL, you either know the magic tricks or you don't and after you learn them you can be confident that a new skill was gained.
The new question becomes whether you find these skills to be particularly useful, or whether you've become an effective performer of these skills... and that is where the game will find its success with people. Whether you enjoy it will depend entirely on how much effort you're willing to put into becoming a good magician, and that includes putting on shows for your friends and family.
To summarize the concept behind this game, think of those cheap "magic sets" you can find at Wal-Mart or Target. They typically come with a wand and a top hat, and maybe a colorful cloth and some instructions on how to make something disappear. Now imagine that instead of a magic set, you have a Nintendo DS and it will act as your show prop. The game puts you through a set of various exercises and modes, which will break down between tricks the DS plays on you, tricks the DS can teach you to show others, and little games that help you improve your illusionist skills (practice). The last part is where the game most resembles 'brain training'... you'll perform a set of skills, which in turn will net you points that unlocks further tests and tricks. Most of them are pretty dull, but there are a few bright spots among the roster that will keep you entertained for brief periods of time.
The tricks the DS can play on you are all fairly simple, but if you don't know the secret behind them will be sure to at least provide momentary pleasure. It's definitely does not resemble anything like a "game", but it does meet its goals and provides functionality that is completely alone in the gaming world. If you are interested in performing basic card tricks like predicting what someone is holding, this game can show you and you can become fairly good at these in turn.
You're not going to be the next David Blaine, but you can entertain a group of kids (which I did), or gift this to a child who will use it to make simple tricks into family fun. As its mission statement is basically a way to teach these simple tricks, the DS is a novel approach to this subject and definitely acts as a conduit to getting people introduced to the world of magic.
If you're the type of hardcore gamer who purchases things with the intent to become challenged or reach a high score, it's probably best to avoid this title. And as a compendium of illusions, it's fairly thin... it's not going to help you saw a bearded lady in half. Acting as a ice breaker is where the game is best, and beyond that mesmerizing developing minds with the interesting gimmicks and showpieces. The fact that the game comes with a deck of cards is a neat bonus, and helps drive the theme home and keep potential buyers focused on what they're getting when they approach this.
Since this is something that is not a game in any way, it's hard to exactly rate this on a videogame site. I considered not reviewing it at all, but it still seemed like the sort of effort that deserved evaluation. Approaching it as a magic kit for your DS and considering the niche this will draw I can't say it's entirely unsuccessful in what it sets out to do. There's nothing else out there to really compare to on game systems, and at best we can consider this an interesting start to a completely untapped realm of software that has some considerable room to grow.
What's Hot: Excellent gift for aspiring magicians
What's Not: Limited tricks; reliance on simple, obvious magic