We’ve all dreamed of being a famous magician, performing every night to scores of screaming magic fans on the Las Vegas strip… No? Just me then. Either way, Marvin’s Magic has been helping young illusionists learn the secrets of the magic circle since 1987.
Their most recent addition to the range, Marvin’s iMagic Kit, uses smartphones and video tutorials to bring magic bang up to date, (don’t worry, I won’t ruin any of the illusions by revealing how they’re done).
But did iMagic turn me into a regular Harry Houdini, or was I left performing for change on the street?
What is It?
Marvin’s iMagic interactive Box of Tricks is a magic set that combines traditional props and video magic effects with a smartphone app. If Steve Jobs had ever met Paul Daniels, and the two managed not to out-ego each other, they'd have probably come up with something like this.
Who’s it for?
Anyone who wants to learn the secret art of magic. The box states ages eight to adult, so we’d guess it’s mainly aimed at children, but if you’re interested in teaching yourself some basic yet effective card tricks, then this is for you.
What’s in the Box?
At the moment, the ‘Box of Tricks’ kit has around 20 magic tricks included in the app, and 13 props in the box, which is plenty to keep you or your young one busy.
The props include:
- A pack of cards
- A giant card
- Three mini cards
- A disappearing card box
- A Marvin’s Magic membership card
- Six augmented reality cards
- An iMagic Morph book
- A ‘frozen’ fly and mechanism for trick
- Two tumblers
- Two fly swatters
The props are very good quality. It’s clear Marvin’s Magic has put a lot of effort into the design and manufacture of the items. The only prop that lets the side down is the fly swatters, which are a bit fragile, and considering this is aimed at children that’s never a good thing. In time, additional tricks will be made available, and additional app updates will expand what can be achieved with the existing prop set.
At first I was a little sceptical about this kit. I felt combining technology and magic was a little bit like cheating. Surely the aura of magic, illusion and impossibility would be ruined by clumsily switching between physical props and your phone?
If you suck at sleight of hand like me, then the extra confusion of throwing a phone into the mix isn't going to help your abilities all that much. But for those who are already au fait with a little magical deceit, some of the tricks are really impressive.
What I like about this ‘update’ to magic, is that the app turns your phone into a mini magician's assistant, a smartphone-shaped Debbie McGee aiding you to perform and learn magic.
Through the use of step-by-step, speech-free videos housed in the accompanying app you’ll be Penn (or Teller) in no time. Every trick has multiple videos: one performing and one explaining how it's done. Each is slickly produced and easy to follow, if sometimes a little tricker to effectively replicate. My only complaint would be that you can’t pause or rewind the clips. If you miss something or want to quickly watch again, you need to start the video from scratch.
It's really interesting how some of the tricks work, and when I was given a pro demonstration before sitting down for my own review, some tricks were genuinely difficult to work out.
The majority of the tricks revolve around classic props that pair up with the phones camera to create a mix of augmented reality and video effects. For example, the ‘pick a card’ trick uses the camera to trigger a video effect that burns through the card, revealing the audiences’ chosen one.
What’s great about this kit is that your phone isn’t always necessary; it’s just more fun if you do use it. If you’re old-skool when it comes to magic, then you can use the app to teach yourself the tricks and then perform most of them without the use of computer animations for the grand reveal.
There are a couple of ‘tricks’ (we use the term lightly), that are purely animations, so you certainly won’t be impressing your mates down the pub with these (think, refilling your phone’s battery by touching the screen), but we’re sure young children will be delighted with them.
The app is quite large at 450MB but it’s really simple to use and quick to navigate through; the home screen lists all of the magic tricks and once selected you have the option to perform, or swipe left to access the ‘how to’ videos.
Unfortunately, we did encounter a few problems with the app on both Android and iOS. We thoroughly tested the app on four phones; two Android and two iOS, each of different performance levels. We were really disappointed that both the Android apps refused to work for two of the best tricks! The camera simply wouldn’t focus onto anything, which meant the app couldn’t trigger the animation to start. The Android phones that we tested the app on were a HTC One M8 and Nexus 5.
As these problems seem to be app based, rather than phone based you needn't worry about having the latest phone for it to work – hopefully they’ll issue a fix soon.
So, does the app make you a better magician?
Excuse the pun, but that's a tricky one. On one hand this is a great kit for children to learn how to perform magic tricks properly – the video tutorials from expert magicians are superb. But on the other, (if you already know the basics of magic) it isn’t necessary for most of the performances (and the tricks that fully rely on the phone are very gimmicky). The video tutorials are genuinely useful, so it's worth it if you’re picking it up from scratch.
The ‘Camera Card’, ‘Magic Man’ and ‘Life of its Own’ tricks, all of which use the camera to trigger augmented reality effects did not work on either Android phone (tested on an HTC One M8 and Nexus 5).
All of the tricks worked well on iOS (both a iPhone 4S and iPhone 6). The only issue I came across was an occasion where app froze after performing ‘Camera Card’, which meant we had to force close and reopen the app.
- Easy to follow speech-free videos
- A mobile phone isn’t necessary for all of the tricks
- Once mastered these tricks can look great
- You can’t pause or rewind the videos
- A couple of the ‘tricks’ are just video effects
- The app currently has stability issues
Should You Buy It?
Ultimately this is a kids product, so if you have a wanna-be mini magician then this would make a great Christmas gift. Just be warned, you’ll be giving up your smartphone if they don’t have one of their own!
Should you buy it for yourself? If you're looking for a bit of fun that will teach you some impressive but basic magic tricks then the answer is yes, but if you’re serious about getting into magic then this kit might be a bit too childish for you.
Struggling between this and a more traditional magic kit? The use of technology isn’t necessary, simply adding more pizzaz to your performance, which may be exactly what you need to jazz up your existing routines. But, if like us, you are a complete novice to magic, then this set is an excellent tool for self-teaching.
- Age Range: 8+
- Compatibility: Android and iOS
- Number of pieces included: 13
- Number of tricks included: 21
- Price: £24.99