The Filmmaker


Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Unimatrix Productions

Released:   April 2010

PC Requirements:   IBM PC or compatible computer, Pentium 733 MHz, Windows XP, Vista, or 7, 64 MB RAM, 2 GB hard drive space, 1024x768 resolution, 24-Bit Color display, 4x or faster CD-ROM drive, and a Windows-compatible sound card and mouse. 




by flotsam


This latest offering from the maker of Lifestream and Shady Brook, The Filmmaker offers a slightly different approach from its predecessors. Whereas those two were essentially story driven, this time the emphasis is on the puzzles. Which, given the maker says it is his least favourite part of game development, is no mean achievement.  

It started life as a simple concept – a player wanders through an abandoned movie theatre, and can enter the films made by a mysterious director. Mr. Brendel says it is a concept that has been with him since he was twelve. In its gestation it was known as Prism, but given the emphasis on films and especially their makers, this is a more apt description. There are, however, some key prisms to be had.

Directed by

The Carson Stiles Gateway Theatre is the setting, a complex that has seen its share of tragedy, both celluloid and real. It's been closed for years, but is re-opening with the premiere of a new film from director Claude Ferucil. His varied oeuvre includes the noir classic: "A Detective Story", the sci-fi cult hit: "Aliens From Mars", and the animated, definitely not for kiddies flick: "The Fuzzies". This time it’s horror, with the forbiddingly named "Primal AtmosFear", and you have two tickets.

Except there is nothing on. Nor is the theatre even open.

The lights are on inside though, and as it's raining, if you can work out how that door lock works, at least you can go in and stay dry.

Mr. Ferucil greets you -- sort of. He wants you to do something. You have nothing better to do and it sounds intriguing. Six shards need to be found and recombined. What happens then is anyone’s guess.

So off you go a-treasure-hunting. Tried and true adventuring, with puzzles all over the place.

I thought the story was lacking, not so much in its idea but in its telling. But hold on you say, the main point was the puzzles, wasn’t it? Well, yes it was, so let's talk about them.

Except that before we do, it's worth mentioning that Mr. Brendel also tried to emulate the design and feel of a B-Grade film, with, as he says, all its campiness and cliché. In his own words, the plot is goofy, and I can’t disagree with that. There is an excess of cheesiness at times, and if you want even more cheese with that, just find some of the Easter eggs. It didn’t always hit the mark, but then B-Grade films don’t. You groan and giggle and squirm at the ham-fisted nature of some of the goings-on, and I did that here.

Produced by

So what of the puzzles?

There are a lot for starters, with a blend of situational and straight-out puzzles. In retrospect, I think there were probably more of the latter -- but it may just be because they were so much more obvious. I don’t think they got harder as I went along, but a couple certainly got more intricate, in that information or objects found in one environment had to be used to solve puzzles in another.

Those environments include five films which you get to enter and explore. This aspect provides welcome variety, as everything else is played within the theatre. The films are an important part of the plot, so I won’t tell you anything more here, other than that some aspects reminded me a little of Shivers.

But I digress.

Some of the puzzles will be familiar; many will not. Minesweeper and a logic puzzle are among the former, and there is a slider (which isn’t nearly so diabolical as it might first appear) and a mazish environment (which I always find irksome). The crane grab puzzle might cause a palpitation or two, as it is in every respect an arcade game. There is a variant on a logic puzzle involving coloured skulls which I liked a lot. The runes challenge was probably the most complex. A couple fewer Fuzzy riddles might have been in order, but that’s a matter of opinion. All up, there are plenty here, and plenty of variety, and it would be an ornery puzzle fan who couldn’t find quite a few to like.

Several come with a bypass option, provided you can find it, and very early on you might work out a way to get additional hints apart from those that litter the game world. I thought clues were well distributed throughout the game, although a cue to leave one or two of the films might have been warranted. Suffice it to say that if you don’t feel that you can move ahead in a film, you very well might not be able to, so go visit another one.

Special guest star

One puzzle was particularly ingenious in design. Without giving it away, it reminded me of that puzzle in which you have to find three mistakes in a piece of text, and the third mistake is that there are, in fact, only two mistakes.

It might be apparent from the above that the game is fairly open. Just about all of the theatre is accessible from the start, and you can find the shards in any order. You can’t get access to the films until a certain way through the game, but once you do, you can jump back and forth between them. If, as I did, you lack an essential item, you can return to the theatre and continue looking.

Compared to the others, the final film is fairly one-dimensional in terms of its solution. But by then it's getting to the pointy end of the proceedings, and there is evil to be vanquished, so a little linearity is probably in order.

The Filmmaker is made with Adventure Maker software, and its graphical qualities are limited. No Oscars here for best looking picture or character modelling. Which doesn’t matter, unless you insist on commercial level graphics.

There is a horror tinge to proceedings; nothing scary, but there is a slightly gruesome scene or two – Melanie’s death stands out. There are several deaths, and deathly events, and you too can die, although the game just gives you another chance.

Playing is point and click and simplicity itself. Inventory items are across the top of the screen, and you just drag them into the game world. Ditto to combine or examine. Any player will be able to jump right in. Navigation gets a bit fiddly at times, but nothing major. Hot spots are generous and save games are unlimited. Subtitles are available. The Filmmaker installs from one disc and plays from another.

I did have the odd crash and lockup – maybe three or four times in total – but I just exited and loaded a saved game. Again, nothing drastic.

The Filmmaker harks back to those games where around almost every corner there is another puzzle. You will be unlikely to finish this quickly. So in that respect, it represents good value for money. It won’t win prizes for its plot, but it wasn’t meant to. However, if you have a hankering for some good old-fashioned puzzling amid your exploring, you may very well find what you want here.

I played on:

OS: Win XP Professional SP3

Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz

Ram: 3.25GB DDR2 400MHz

Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb


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