System requirements: Windows XP/Vista; 1.0 GHz CPU; 512 MB RAM; DirectX 9.0; 330 MB hard-drive space
Release date: Available now
Have you ever wanted to produce feature films? You know, that business in which you stress out and lose your hair but could potentially cash in big time? Buying props, building sets, hiring actors, investing in special effects and praying to a higher power that the public won’t snub you: does that sound like your cup of tea? If your answer is “yes,” then you should play Lionhead Studios’ 2005 game The Movies, because Tinseltown Dreams: The 50s is nothing like that. If, on the other hand, you are into casual games such as Jewel Quest, then Namco’s latest release could be exactly what you crave.
In Tinseltown, you are hired by a movie mogul who is desperately trying to stay in business and needs someone to direct a movie for him. You are just the man/woman/child for the job, so off you go. Before you begin directing, you’re going to need to get some funds. As in real life, you earn money by completing puzzles. This one is just like Bejeweled: you arrange tiles in such a way that three of the same tile touch each other in a line either vertically or horizontally. You get extra points if you make a row of four or five disappear, and even more if you’re sneaky and can make it so that, once a group vanishes, others fall into place and follow it.
When the puzzle timer expires or if you hit a number of predetermined tile coordinates, you get to spend your dough. So you buy some props. Then you do another level and hire an actor, and so on. After you beat 10 levels, a movie is produced. It’s rated based on whether you bought pricey props and hired expensive actors and personnel. Then you move on to the next genre. While solving puzzles, you get a variety of power-ups and a popcorn feature, which is activated by points and set off by you. With it, some tiles on the board are replaced with popcorn and disappear in a few seconds, helping to move the game forward.
Tinseltown is a casual game. It looks best in a window, and if you should need to Alt+Tab out of it, the music automatically cuts out. This is so that your boss, who just walked in, can’t tell you’re playing. Much like PopCap’s casual titles, this game looks good. Clearly an effort was made to make it appear to be a professionally designed application, not just some mod that Eric and Dylan threw together in their spare time. The sound effects are fitting and non-intrusive, while the interface is clean, simple and intuitive. The game also didn’t give me any problems while installing and running it.
As far as problems go, nothing bothered me to the point of wanting to write about it, but if I must, here goes. The loading time is strangely long for such a tiny program; an entire World in Conflict map loads in approximately the same amount of time. The only available resolution is 800×600, and even though a full-screen mode is available, I’d like to see some more resolutions, because stretching-to-fit is ugly and the window looks awfully small on my giant monitor. Also, the entire movie-making theme seems unnecessary, as does the ability to move items and people around the set.
As long as you don’t go in expecting an involved simulation of the film industry, Tinseltown Dreams: The 50s doesn’t disappoint. It delivers exactly what it promises, no more, no less. If bright, pretty visuals and some casual puzzle solving are what you want from a game, then this one is a safe bet. Its price-tag ($7) means you can’t really go wrong. On the other hand, if the casual genre doesn’t appeal to you, you’re better off spending your money on a box of ice cream, a movie ticket, or 17 9mm rounds.