Movie-making is a tough business. Fortunes can be made. Flops are almost inevitable. And beneath all the bureaucracy, an art form practised around the world that is enjoyed by millions. Moviehouse is the latest management sim game from Odyssey Studios that tries to capture the glitz and grime of show business. Does it do this well though? Or will it bomb at the box office? Let’s take a look.
Similar but different
When I first saw this game at an unassuming booth at WASD London 2023, it almost immediately caught my attention. As a fan of Lionhead’s The Movies, I felt a small wave of nostalgia wash over me. Whilst The Movies and Moviehouse are similar on a surface level, the latter takes a more concise and composed approach.
There are no buildings to position or characters to drop off at certain points in the bid to fulfil jobs. Rather than having this slightly unruly system of doing things, a lot of Moviehouse is static. Each of the movie studios the player manages is framed as cute little dioramas, set within a larger studio. There is a degree of charm here, but people looking for a more energetic game might be disappointed.
A little more focused
Instead, the game concentrates on the minutiae of movie-making. Writers and directors can be brought on to make the films, each with their own individual abilities and preferences.
A host of options for each film can be customized from simple things like genre and name to more specific elements like how much budget the special effects department gets. Locations can be scouted, sets can be built and props can be made. This all adds to a film’s complexity, an attribute that is directly monitored. At points in the production process, the player is also asked to identify a certain technique of film-making out of a 2 answer question. It’s almost like a little movie knowledge quiz. If you know what b-roll footage is, then you should be alright. Although an external expert can be hired to advise for a small fee.
Players can even invest in competitors to buy them out. Why compete with other studies when they can just be bought outright? This also provides the studio with a steady amount of revenue each month allowing for slightly riskier film ventures.
Progression is key
In terms of progression, the player must fulfil certain criteria to proceed. Things like releasing a certain amount of movies, or dominating a certain percentage of the industry are examples of things that need to be pursued. All objectives seem to be cumulative, so even if moving to a bigger lot, nothing gets reset.
There’s also a decent number of upgrades to obtain. Additional ways to distribute films can be obtained, through VHS production and beyond. This is a great little way to monetize the back catalogue of films that have been produced.
A little slow sometimes
I didn’t really find many game-breaking bugs. In one instance, the game seemed to soft-lock itself, but this was easily fixed by exiting to the main menu. Trying to select a character portrait was a little unintuitive when they were waiting on feedback regarding their jobs. And while the little dioramas have personality, at times I just found myself staring at the screen with nothing much to keep myself distracted. It became a bit of a waiting game. Biding my time for the next script to be written, or the next movie to be completed.
I also feel like there’s little to no challenge to the game. None of my films seemed to not make money, and nothing seemed to really go wrong. It was just kind of a straight walk to the end. I’m sure these issues will be fixed in due time though.
A love letter
Moviehouse feels like a nice little love letter to the industry, chronicling the last few decades of film. From what I can recall, The Movies is notoriously difficult to get working on modern systems and is only available in physical format. Much like the VHS, it seems to be destined to be left behind as old media, with more modern and updated options available.
I’m very happy for Moviehouse to replace The Movies as my studio management game of choice. There is a vast amount of difference between the two, but as a sweet little indie title for less than £10, it’s a decent addition to a Steam library. Despite the game falling a little flat due to a lack of things to keep me wholly entertained, it was a mostly fun experience.
If you want to watch the video review, I’ve linked it below!
Disclaimer: A code was provided for this game to aid in writing this review.