Penn and Teller's Smoke and Mirrors
is a 1995 game featuring illusionist duo Penn & Teller
. It was made for the Sega CD
. Although the game was completed, it was unreleased when its publisher, Absolute Entertainment
, went bankrupt, although the game had appeared in gaming publications beforehand. It resurfaced years later when an owner to a website that documents unreleased games received a copy from an initial reviewer.
The game is a collection of minigames, and is intended as a commentary on the perception that video games are harmful. As a Penn and Teller product, the game is humorous, and features their usual mix of illusion and debunking of fraudulent uses of such.
The game consists of the following mini-games:
- Desert Bus: The most well-known among the minigames, where you must drive 360 miles from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas on a desolate highway, without being able to go faster than 45 MPH, and with the steering bus pulling slightly to the right to prevent you from simply putting a weight on the drive button to keep it moving. Has been a subject of LoadingReadyRun's Desert Bus For Hope charity drive, and has also been ported to iOS and Android devices with proceeds going towards Child's Play.
- Mofo the Psychic Gorilla: A gorilla claims to have psychic powers and asks questions to predict the card a player draws from the deck.
- Buzz Bombers: Claims to be a demo for an "upcoming" two-player arcade shooter.
- What's Your Sign: Penn & Teller uses the Personometer to determine the player's sign as well as his/her birthday.
- Sun Scorcher: A space shooter which involves the use of "thermographics", as well as unskippable disclaimers that such features make the screen dangerous to touch.
- Smoke and Mirrors: An adventure game of sorts where a magical duo called Stinkbomb and Rot claims that magic exists and become sensational. The goal is to have Penn & Teller go around town, make their way through and head back to Las Vegas in order to expose Stinkbomb and Rot as frauds. Comes in Normal and Impossible difficulties.
The minigames contain examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The elements of the game are not immediately obvious to those who just catch a glimpse at the game. The manual is designed so the owner can set up the tricks in order to fool his friends.
- Bladder of Steel: The pause function is disabled during Desert Bus. This was invoked by the developers.
"There's no pause feature. No, it's not an oversight. Does your life have a pause control?" — The instruction manual, on Desert Bus
- Deconstruction: Desert Bus is a deconstruction of supposed "realistic" games, by virtue of simulating a very real, very boring bus drive.
- The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Thought you could cheat your way through Desert Bus by holding down the A button with something? Too bad the bus constantly veers to the right to stop this.
- Driving Game: The infamous Desert Bus minigame simulating an eight-hour drive from Tucson to Las Vegas — in real time, with no pause button, in a bus with a top speed of 45 mph and a tendency for the steering to drift (which meant that you couldn't just leave it running unattended or the bus would crash — whereupon it would be towed back to Tucson, still in real time, and you'd have to start again).
- Deconstruction Game: It's all done to show how aiming for full realism will not translate as fun.
- Eye Beams: In Smoke and Mirror, the Impossible difficulty setting has the player run into Lou Reed after one screen, who will shoot beams from his eyes at the player, who in turn is instantly killed.
- Foregone Victory: Player 1 will always win in Buzz Bombers. A trick to reverse the scores and disguise to the patsy exists.
- Full Motion Video: Being made for the Sega CD, the game features live-action cutscenes with Penn and Teller that play between minigames.
- Fun with Acronyms: What's Your Sign has the Cosmetic Research Organization for Clairvoyant Kinetics (CROCK) personometer.
- Interface Screw: Sun Scorcher has both warnings about "Thermographics" and when they (supposedly) break the TV.
- Never Needs Sharpening: Parodied in a few lines of the official release, along with a Stealth Pun to Polish The Turd every now and then:
Buzz Bombers(TM). The coolest, meanest competitive two-player action space alien game yet created. You'll want to play it again and again, because you'll never lose!
- Pinball Scoring: Inverted in Desert Bus. Driving the full, eight-hour route earns you one point.
- Practical Joke: The games aside from Smoke and Mirrors are designed so you can play one on player 2.
- Take That: Several, including buzzwords like "blast processing" (Sun Scorcher with "thermographics"), perceptions of "realistic" video games (Desert Bus), and hyperbolic difficulty levels (the Impossible difficulty in Smoke and Mirrors).
- Unbuilt Trope: Desert Bus deconstructs the idea of making video games painstakingly realistic years before trying to make games "realistic" became common.
- Unwinnable Joke Game: In Smoke and Mirrors, hyperbole is not in any way involved in the naming of the "Impossible" difficulty level; Lou Reed appears and kills the duo, then tells the player: