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Feel The Magic, will it “rub” you the wrong way?

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Team Sonic’s Feel the Magic XY/XX is one of those games that, despite its simple premise and gameplay mechanics, it just contains a certain charm that you can’t help but love. You play as an average Joe, who one day walks by a beautiful girl on the street. From that moment on, you feel like you must somehow capture this beauty’s heart and make it your own. Luckily for you, a Super Performance Group called the RUB Rabbits is on site and ready to help. Unfortunately, their idea of getting a girl to notice you includes wild stunts like parachuting out of an airplane and riding across rooftops on a unicycle.

Feel the Magic’s story is played out through a series of minigames, all of which use one of the Nintendo DS’s unique capabilities. Most are controlled via the touch screen and stylus, though there are some that require you to blow or yell into the microphone. The game is divided into 18 scenes, each with anywhere from one to three minigames you must go through. Every time you complete a minigame, you are rewarded with heart points, and when you reach 100 heart points, you clear that scene and go on to the next one. Most scenes are tied together by a series of storyboarded still images, though there are times that a few of the scenes animate as well.

Though the minigames don’t consist of much more than simply tapping or rubbing objects on the screen, I challenge you not to smile while you are playing. The situations that the unassuming hero is put through go from weird (protecting your love from a stampede of bulls) to downright creepy (helping the girl of your dreams undress as you keep a fire from dying), but they are all rather cute and fun. The way the game plays out really reminds me more of a little boy trying to get a pretty girl to notice him than a grown man attempting to do the same. The things this guy goes through are silly and idiotic, but you can’t help but love him for trying; and this is where the game’s real charm comes from. You’ll smile when the hero gets something right and is rewarded by his dream girl shouting ?Oh, yea!’ in her cute little voice, and you’ll frown when your rival runs up and snatches her out of your arms. For a game with minimal story and characters with no faces, Feel the Magic draws you into the game surprisingly well.

Team Sega designed this game with a unique graphical feel to it. A mix of 2D and 3D images, Feel the Magic adopts a visual style reminiscent of Apple’s iPod ads where the characters have no facial details and are covered in black skin. Colors contrast sharply with the black skin as everyone has some sort of crazy colored hair and clothing. Some areas of the game seem to do a bit more with the hardware (the giant robot level comes to mind), but the bulk of the game has very simple background and foreground images. While the visuals can’t lay claim to pushing the DS hardware to its limits, the animation is still smooth and the art style is charming to say the least.

The audio is very similar to the visuals in that it isn’t technically advanced, but it does have a very catchy and attractive feel to it. There are a few voice samples, but they are slightly compressed, as are the music tracks. The tracks are fun to listen to, but there just aren’t enough of them, and most of them are just remixes of the same theme.

No matter how fun and interesting the game is, though, it is over much too soon. With only about 22 minigames to play through, it won’t take you much longer than three hours or so to complete the story mode on normal difficulty. While there are a bunch of costumes to unlock, they don’t do much to pad the game. After completing each minigame in the story mode, you unlock it in the ?Memories’ section of the game, which is basically a place where you can play the minigames over again. In the Memories mode, you only get one life to try and complete up to ten difficulty levels. It’s fun to play through the game in Memories mode since in the story mode you only go up to about five difficulty levels. After completing all ten difficulty levels of a minigame, you will usually unlock a costume part. You can also unlock new costumes by touching predetermined areas on the touch screen during the storyboard sequences as well and booting up the game with select Sega GBA cartridges inserted in the GBA slot on the DS.

Feel the Magic XY/XX is a lot like other quirky Sega titles like Space Channel Five and Samba de Amigo in that it’s a lot of fun to play and has an outlandish charm to it, but once you’re done, there isn’t much left to do with the game. The Memories mode as well as extra difficulty levels punches up the longevity a little bit but not much. In the end, it seems this game was designed to showcase all the unique abilities of the DS, and in that aspect, it does succeed. Feel the Magic makes use of the touch screen, the microphone, the dual screens, and even the GBA cartridge slot. It’s easy to pick up and learn and most of the minigames can be played right off the bat without reading the instructions. All this game needed is a handful of more minigames and perhaps a few side games that don’t pertain to the single player story, much like Wario Ware. But even with all it’s shortcomings, this game is probably one you’ll want to have to not only play yourself, but to show to your friends; it’s almost as fun to watch as it is to play!

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