Feel The Magic: XY/XX review
Alas, The Feeling Doesn't Last
The DS is no stranger to games that make use of its various non-standard console features these days, and of course when it first arrived on the scene developers jumped at the chance to showcase what they could do with them. Project Rub (aka Feel The Magic) was Sega’s contribution during this early stage of the handheld’s life that endeavoured to use everything the DS had to offer with a quirky collection of minigames.
The game offers two game modes - story and memories. Story is naturally the main progression mode where a loose story is fed to you in an attempt to provide some justification to playing the increasing insane minigames. Generally, the ingame delivery isn’t quite as clear cut as you might hope it to be but it has an interesting method of portraying it through the comic book style still shots, although it also adds in captions before each game just to make it clear why you’ve decided to go scooting across narrow planks on a unicycle. It’s not going to win any awards sure but taken for what it is then it’s nice.
As for those minigames Project Rub covers a wide range of activities to lose yourself in that define crazy pretty well, whether you’re clearing debris from the road as people come careening along in shopping trolleys, deploying parachutes by entering numbers before an unfortunate demise or calming a rampaging herd of bulls before they can do any serious damage.
There is a decent selection, if not quite outstanding, and you’ll find yourself doing a number of different things. However, the actual effectiveness varies from one game to the next. The aforementioned bulls game is a time trial to tap out every bull that appears onscreen while avoiding smacking innocent people away. It’s an excellent test of fast reflexes and identifying which targets are which. Another game has you trying to rescue the girl who has fallen into the water by blowing the sail of your boat just enough to stop by the girl without missing the target area or ramming into the sharks that appear. Controlling the amount of pressure you put onto the boat is an interesting alternative skill test where the challenge is tuned just right.
However, while my overall opinion of the minigames is a positive one, there are a few sour apples that haven’t been executed anywhere near as well. The dancing minigame challenges you to match the moves of the girl in time to the rhythm, but the margin of error allowed for the timing is so ridiculously small that you’ll be hit with failure excessively to the point of invoking pure hatred. Another game has you “calling” to your girl using the microphone (even though you could just blow into it instead of shouting, which is advised as it makes you seem less crazy) but it’s really just an exercise of how much vocal pressure you can apply as opposed to demonstrating any actual challenge. Unlike the sea rescue game, this one seems to exist purely to validate the microphone in some way rather than a genuinely interesting application of it.
The story mode’s structure helps to lessen the frustration of the bad games partly. The game is split into multiple scenes that consist of a number of games. Successfully completing a minigame adds a set amount of love points for that scene, with the goal being to accumulate 100 love points to advance the story. The game lets you repeat minigames for love points, meaning if there is a bad minigame you have the option of ignoring it and playing a different game in that scene to meet your points quota.
Well, that is when other options exist. Not all scenes have multiple games available, especially in the case of “boss battles” that only offer the one game. When the game is something like chasing after a vehicle and slingshotting people to cause damage it can be fun and is thus a non-issue, but if you end up stuck on a frustratingly difficult game then it can easily cause players to become stuck on something that might be more down to bad design rather than a genuine challenge impeding progress.
Another feature designed to help is that players are given three lives during each minigame attempt in story mode. Failing results in losing one of the lives and only losing all three makes you fail the minigame entirely. Even this only results in losing some love points (if you had any) and allowing you to retry as often as you want. Of course, when it’s the kind of game where you’re failing repeatedly in the first part of it then this might not come as much comfort.
Completing the story mode opens up increasing levels of difficulty, just in case things weren’t quite hard enough. If after that the challenge of the story mode seemed weak to you then memories mode intends to mock your confidence. All the story mode minigames are here but with a few differences. For one, your stock of lives is always one, meaning you fail completely the moment you miss a goal of whatever game you’re playing. Additionally, there are more “levels” in each minigame with difficulty continuing to increase as you pass each level. Needless to say that simply clearing a game in story mode does not mean you’re ready to curbstomp it in memories mode.
If anything, I feel that these harder challenges really aren’t going to have such widespread appeal. There’s only so much touch screen swipe spam you can do before you start feeling tiring and just want the ordeal to end. Again, this is less to do with an actual challenge and more the design just making you irritated with it.
Which leads to the fairly limited replay value of the game. Sure, you can jump to any game you’ve opened and play immediately as often as you want. You just won’t care that much to revisit many of them. Even the ones that aren’t inherently bad just lack the substance to entice you back often.
The game does come with an interesting visual charm as the characters are represented via silhouetted bodies with plain colour clothing. While this might seem like a lack of detail on the characters, closing choices and general behaviour more than make up for this, presenting a cast that is quite wacky and interesting to look at. The female lead also has a limited customisation factor in clothing choices that you can unlock, but these are only used in some locations.
Animation where it is used is done very well, helping to bring to life the scenes and minigame events very well. Where the game skips animation it opts for an interesting array of comic book style scenes to help move things along.
Sound is considerably more weak though. Music is entirely forgettable, sitting in the background and seemingly doing very little. It’s certainly not offensive by any means but you just tend to forget it is there. The sound effects have a strange role where I remember some of them decidedly more vividly than the music, such as the cheer of the rub rabbits or the effect that plays as each comic book panel appears. So this at least works fairly well but little comfort in the face of musical indifference.
Should you get Project Rub? Maybe if you rent it or see it really cheap, which is possible this long after the initial release. It’s certainly not worth full price, as the game has some worrying flaws and generally lacks replay value. However, for a good representation of what the DS functions can be used for and a wacky plot to tie it all together, it might just be worth checking out.
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