Finally! It's about time a resource management/casual tycoon game came along that's more than a fresh coat of paint and a few new tricks! Hollywood Tycoon puts you in charge of a movie studio, giving you the power to buy scripts, hire actors, build sets and much more. As you earn cash you get to upgrade everything from your sets to actor trailers, prop studios, script centers, distribution buildings and more, allowing you to make bigger, better movies that rake in millions of dollars of profit. And it's fun for hours upon hours, too!
Making a movie has been whittled down to a very simple process of building a themed set, choosing a script, selecting an actor and clicking on the "start" button. Which genre of set you build is up to you, with choices ranging from western to sci-fi, horror to historical settings. Script cards scroll by on the top of the screen, simply grab one and drop it onto your set to get the movie started. Next, take a yellow actor card from the queue and drop him or her onto the set. Now you're ready to film! Each script and actor has a cash value listed at the bottom of the card, all of which goes into the cost of your movie. Lower-budget scripts and actors will get the job done, but remember you have to spend money to make money.
Each script and actor has a star rating in one of four categories: drama, action, comedy and romance. Money is made by matching scripts with sets and actors with scripts. Let's say, for example, your script has a two star rating for drama and one star for romance. To get more cash from the production (and, by implication, make a better movie), use an actor with the same ratings or, at the very least, a rating of any value in both categories. Once the film is ready and you enter the evaluation screen, you'll (hopefully) see the cash pile up.
The physical game world is divided into two main areas: production buildings and movie sets. You'll spend most of your time fiddling with sets themselves, keeping them repaired and upgraded as necessary. The other corner of the map is used to upgrade the actor pool, get better scripts, increase distribution and so on. You won't spend much time here, as the upgrades are costly and, once built, don't need much attention. But when the cash starts piling up you should scroll down to see what you can accomplish.
Speaking of upgrades, each movie set is actually a four-tiered building that you can improve as your cash flow increases. Basic sets only have enough room for one actor, limiting the cash bonus you get for properly utilizing an actor's skills. With each upgrade, however, you unlock an additional slot and can combine actors to meet the demands of your increasingly complex scripts.
Although not you aren't pressured by the passing of time, Hollywood Tycoon takes place in yearly increments as indicated by the calendar icon at the top corner of the screen. As the days and months tick by, your studio ages and sets need repair. You have to buy wood for construction and film to create movies, both of which can only be done between rounds, so pace yourself so you don't have to end the year early and lose precious movie-making months.
Analysis: I have a bit of a soft spot for the old days of Hollywood. The movie industry was still trying to figure itself out in the early 1900s, so artists were throwing their creativity in every direction just to see what they could accomplish. Now, of course, movies are a commodity we take for granted. They're more likely to be filled with pointless storylines and big explosions than real art (Transformers 2, I'm looking at you).
Hollywood Tycoon's initial setting brings back the feeling of movies as they once were. It's a business, of course, but the focus isn't necessarily on money as it is on pairing compatible sets, scripts and actors to create a movie that works. You feel a quiet impulse of satisfaction when you get everything right, a response that goes well beyond the cash you earn. Later, once the lot is filled with sets and production buildings, you have to run a tight ship to stay afloat. But the entertainment value never leaves the game even though things get a little more complex and challenging.
There are a number of bonuses you can work for with each script, such as awards for good editing, creative props, costumes, bonuses for pairing actors with identical stats, etc. In fact, progress in measured in the form of achievements, most of which you obtain through normal play. Collect 20 achievements, for example, and you'll move on to a new chapter. It's an especially nice bonus how the game's progression mirrors the history of movies, if on no other level than the background music.
My only issue with Hollywood Tycoon is a minor one: scrolling. Moving the mouse to the edge of the screen nudges your view in that direction. This is fine, most games of this nature feature the same mechanic. But your row of actor and script cards is at the top of the screen, as are the filter and speed buttons for the marquee, so any time I went to change these settings the screen scrolled up a bit. I had to re-adjust my view each time I chose or filtered a card out of the queue, which was an easily preventable fault.
There are literally so many good things to say about Hollywood Tycoon I couldn't fit them all in a review. The interface might turn you off at first, as it's a pretty busy screen to look at, but give it a minute or two and clicking around becomes second nature. Don't let the "tycoon" in the title fool you, this is no rehash of every game you've ever seen. It's a bit of movie-making magic.