The Amazon Fire TV has become a flexible household hub for casual gaming. Standalone controller support without requirement of a remote, access to many of the Android-based games within the Amazon App Store, as well as the addition of GameCircle for achievements and other features. A benefit I didn’t expect while gaming on a set-top box like the Fire TV, is the ability to use a mobile device as a controller. Evil Magic Finger makes use of this ability very well. Evil Magic Finger brings players to the living room, by empowering those with controllers they already have in their pockets – their smartphones. Evil Magic Finger makes for a great game to be played in short bursts, by packing in some solid gameplay and being a fun game to play over a round of drinks. Visually appealing, it also brings to the room fitting music and sound effects for its presentation and downright funny victory animations.
I found Evil Magic Finger during a free promotion in the Fire TV gaming section, and am glad that I did. It’s a familiar take on a high-card game format, with a couple twists. Set in a duel format, the two players can be either two people or one player against the computer. Who can get the higher score by the time twelve rounds are played? Play the higher number (or lower, if that rule is set) and win that round. I did play on my own, but what really adds to the fun is playing against a friend. Each player has a few cards laid out at a time, to use against their opponent. Choose the card for the number, and if necessary, use a second card as a spell to alter the cards or the round. And it’s all laid out in medieval setting complete with a map you traverse as you progress through the rounds.
Evil Magic Finger includes a fair amount of strategy with the luck involved in a War-based card game. Having a few cards in your hand from your deck, each location you’re whisked off to every round also has an elemental affiliation. Meaning, your fire-based cards will get a bump in performance in matching land while your water-based cards will suffer from it. Neutral cards will remain unaffected, without any sparkly indication. This, along with the sigil activation (I’ll discuss this later), are just two things to keep in mind when playing a game in which the higher number wins each round. After you choose that player with the (hopefully) higher number, you’ll get a chance to cast a spell. Down a couple points? Use a spell to boost your card or reduce your opponent’s. There’s other spells, like that which flips the outcome and makes the winning outcome of that round to be the lower number. These spells aren’t separate cards; they’re the same numbered cards you use in the first round. So maybe your cannon has a decent number to use at first, but the spell written on it could entice you hold onto it instead as a spell after your opponent lays down their card. Each player being allowed to use as many cards as they have face up each round to affect the cards in play, they’re effectively raising the stakes by putting more cards into the play area. Because the winner of that round gets all of the cards, and their score is raised. Who has the higher score at the end of the game wins and gets the bragging rights. So this being the party game that I’ve claimed it to be, you will want to make sure your friends take that moment to read the spells on each card before swiping away in hopes for a victory. One spell could completely change the outcome of the match, and one more in response could do it again. Great for some harmless bets to be made based on the winner of the match.
Along with choosing the correct cards to use in each round, you will also have a task of enabling a sigil attached to your spell. Without doing so, the spell won’t work. This is something exclusive to the choice of controller, which itself is something uncommon in gaming. I’ve had different experiences in gaming by using different controllers, but never encountered an additional depth of play. It’s fun, but doing so means one does have to put down their drink! Play with the Fire TV remote for an easier run, and you simply choose the spells. Use a smartphone or tablet, however, and you have an additional task of swiping in specific patterns specific to cards to increase their numbers. Speaking of controller options, let’s me advise you to not use a controller. It’s not that the Amazon controller is bad – it’s that the cross and especially the joystick aren’t forgiving with the game. With the remote, you have four separate places for your thumb to give a command. Heck – you only need to really use the directions to play the game. Again, great for playing while holding your favorite beverage! But when you use digital controls that are close, like the controller’s cross, or analog controls that might recognize a bit of left/right before you move up, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. There’s no button confirmation once you make a card selection. You need to use the remote, because you’re able to provide distinct commands. Maybe a default of a button confirmation could be added in an update for set-top peripherals.
Before leaving the topic of controls, I’d like to mention that Evil Magic Fingers includes three options: single-player with a remote or controller, single-player with a smartphone or tablet, and multiplayer with a combination of either smartphones or tablets. Those using mobile devices simply need to download the Evil Magic Finger controller app for their device, and connect with the code provided on the TV. I’ve tried all options, to include with iOS and Android devices, and they all seem to work fine. I did encounter an uncommon internet connection problem that would drop the mobile devices as controllers, but I have a strong feeling that could be attributed to my home connection and not the game. Using a mobile device as a controller that requires an internet connection does present itself as a double-sided coin.
Having played each version, I will say that the game definitely is more fun with another person. Against the computer, there’s just no telling how they’re using their cards aside from the three difficulty modes. With another person, though, you also get to revel in the silly animations that vary depending on the card played and who wins. Maybe the archer will rock out as they pretend their bow is a guitar, or someone will get smashed on the head with a war hammer in a comical fashion. This game would be great playing on the TV in the background with friends over. Just download the controller app, enter your name, and challenge someone in the room. One wish of mine, which might not be possible on the Fire TV, is multiplayer with a combination of remotes and controllers or between set-top and mobile peripherals. Again, Fire TV might see both remote and controller as paired to control, without allowing them both to work separately. And though using a remote against someone with a smartphone would allow two people to play without two mobile devices, the smartphone would need to have the added sigil commands disabled. Another wish that may or may not be possible, is online play. I could see this being fun to play with another, and others spectating while in a queue. Maybe a thought for a sequel, don’t let this thought of online keep you from the game.
Speaking of the aforementioned sigil commands, this addition to the game is appreciated. But let me say what should come with this, what should be seen as a party game: redundant tutorials. The tutorial for Evil Magic Finger actually changes slightly depending on whether you started a game with a Fire TV remote/controller or a mobile device. Knowing this, it teaches you how to enable your spells with a sigil by correctly tracing the various patterns on the spell cards. However, if someone downloads the controller app and joins in, they won’t know this additional aspect of the game. You play through the tutorial with either control option, but it’s then relegated to the corner of a screen prior to beginning the game. So since this is 2016 and all, I suggest to the developers that they create an abridged version to play prior to each multiplayer game, with the option to skip. While I have the developer’s attention, let’s see our names on a local leaderboard with the amount of victories and losses! I know I enjoy seeing my name on the screen when I am victorious after twelve rounds. Oh – you can reduce the number of rounds, if someone just wants to jump in for a few. I couldn’t tell against the computer how it affects gameplay, if at all.
Before I recap, let me applaud those responsible for the visuals. The music and sound effects are strong, but what I want to highlight are the quality graphics for what this game sets out do do. No needless cutscenes or any other videos for that matter, are included. What you have here is a well-designed map that I want to explore more of, spanning to unknown places round by round. As you discover the outcome of each round, you are treated to seeing the cards you initially chose as players in animations, duking it out in a style reminiscent of paper puppets. Everything ties together very well. I’d sure like to see an explorable map and character art as features to unlock in the game, which would certainly add more to the game.
Evil Magic Finger is a solid example of what I expect gaming to be on a set-top box like Fire TV. Approachable presentation for a living room, accessible gameplay in short bursts, and enough replayability to keep it around in your list of apps on the screen. Though not necessarily a deep game by any means, the appropriate level of strategy, varied cards and humorous encounters, and the multiplayer keep it in my recently played section. Get Evil Magic Finger for your Fire TV if you ever have friends over, and get some medieval warfare hilarity happening in your living room.