With all the celebrity gossip and non-stop news coverage of celebrity train wrecks like Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Simpson, you really have to wonder why anyone would want to be a movie star. Sure, there are the millions of dollars and the screaming fans, but personally, I like to work in obscurity and not have weird people hiding in my bushes with a telephoto lens that would make Ron Jeremy nervous. That's why I was mildly enthused when I was given You're in the Movies to review. After all, who doesn't like to act like a idiot on camera and be in the movies?
Oh yeah, most of my friends who took one look at the packaging and refused to play the game with me.
Actually, you have to admit, the premise is pretty endearing. You set up a camera towards your couch, get a few friends together, act like morons in front of the camera while playing some mini-games, and then see your efforts spliced into a pre-rendered B-movie trailer.
Unfortunately, the end result is nowhere near as fun or memorable as we would have hoped.
The gameplay is simple, but unfortunately the set up is not. It turns out that the Xbox Vision camera is a lousy substitute for a real camera. When you start a game, the game will snap a photo of the background, and therefore detect anything that is different from the original snapshot. Unfortunately, this is where lighting throws an ugly wrench into your stardom aspirations. Everything from shadows to household pets interferes with the camera. When I played the game on a sunny day I didn't encounter much problems, but playing at night showed me that my apartment was far too dark. Playing at night, everything looked grainy, sludgy, and had trouble detecting my movements.
There's also the problem with setting up the camera in an ideal spot. I played the game on a flat panel LCD, but placing the camera on the entertainment stand proved to be too low, especially if you're 6'1 like I am. Eventually I taped the camera to the top of the TV, which yielded better results.
Once you've had your hissy fit in your trailer after the headache that is setting up the camera, you're (hopefully) ready to play. Your reward for all that effort? A mediocre collection of mini-games that are less intuitive and fun than were found in Sony's EyeToy half a decade ago. The game's "director" will give you instructions on how to play a given mini-game, upon which you commit the action to score points. Mini-games involve pulling a rope to get treasure, punching targets, and running in place. A lot. You'll do so much running in place playing You're in the Movies that you'll yearn for the simpler arm waggling of a Wii game.
By far the most fun you'll have with this game is by completely ignoring the director's instructions. When he tells you to run, give the camera the finger. When he tells you to pull a rope, flip the camera off. When the director tells you to pretend to fly, give the camera an obscene gesture. You see where I'm going with this. Just please, resist the urge to pull down your pants and moon the camera. People may get hurt and relationships can be destroyed. This public service announcement is brought to you by your friendly neighbourhood games journalist.
The game is also pretty boring for a party atmosphere. Certain roles are bigger than others, and it takes nearly 30 minutes to put together a trailer for four people. That's a lot of sitting around doing nothing while other people stand in front of the camera and play. It won't be long until your fellow party goers will demand the co-operative play of Rock Band or Guitar Hero. Don't attempt to play this game by yourself. Ever. I'm a trained professional and I did it only so you wouldn't have to.
Your reward for all the running in place is that the game captures the footage of you and inserts it into a B-movie trailer. The trailers are humorous and have a low budget vibe to them that is charming, but the video of you in sloppily edited. Your hips will poke out on the sides of cars, your pixelated shadows will show up, and your low resolution image will jarringly clash with the high definition backgrounds. At least there are a variety of different movies to star in, such as a cop movie, several horror movies, and romantic comedies. There are roughly 30 to choose from and unlock.
The problem lies is that the mini-games are all pretty much the same no matter what movie you're making. It's a slog the second time through some of these games, and it only gets worse from there. By the time you've made your tenth film, your Xbox will beg you for mercy, and your guests will all have left you alone to play with your crappy webcam while they go out and do something that is actually fun and worthwhile; like blowing through an entire paycheque at the local pub.
That's essentially all there is to the game. Once completed, the game holds a mock awards ceremony for the player with the most points, and then you can choose to save your video and send it to your email address for easy YouTube posting. Internet ridicule is now included at no extra charge.
The only other mode in the game is a director mode where you can edit together clips from different trailers, write your own scripts, and record your own dialogue. It's as much fun as it sounds.
Technical issues with the camera aside, the game looks pretty decent. The graphics are cartoony and colourful, and certainly lend themselves well to the easy going vibe the developers were clearly going for.
Audio is irritating. Right from the title screen you're treated to music that sounds like it was composed by the plan-Z orchestra for the Oscar ceremony from hell. Once in the game it doesn't get any better. I don't know what planet derives huge belly laughs from having an over exuberant director yell at you to "get your butt on the set", but it's not earth. No matter what you do, the director always tells you did a great job, even if you stood there with your middle finger extended.
In case you can't tell, You're in the Movies is an unfortunate waste of time. While I was initially excited by the possibilities the game presented, lacklustre presentation, huge technical problems, and boring gameplay conspire to create a disastrous product that has no business being at your next party. Don't buy it, don't rent it, don't play it, and if a friend invites you over to play You're in the Movies, do the right thing, and never speak to them again. Friends don't let friends play You're in the Movies.