The Carson Stiles Theater just couldn't win for losing.
It was a small, older theater. It was beautifully ornate with a real balcony, but could only seat a couple hundred people. The modern Multiplex at the Mall had left its box office and profits dwindling. Things were looking bleak, and then Claude Ferucil showed up.
Claude was an independent producer/director of low budget films. That's a nice way of saying that he was a B-Movie hack. He made a deal with the Theater and made it the sole venue for his productions. His movies may have been cheesy and cliché riddled, but there was something about them which held you as though time itself stood still.
Word got around and people started to fill the little theater. Profits soared. It was unfortunate about the various staff members who had died. In fact, it seemed like one theater employee would die a gruesome death just before the release of each new film. Finally, the owner/manager himself died in a small fire in his office and the Carson Stiles Theater was closed.
That was eight years ago. This morning I received an invitation from Claude Ferucil to the grand re-opening of the Carson Stiles Theater including two tickets to his latest movie, Primal AtmosFear. Strange I hadn't seen anything in the Papers about it. But it sounds like fun...
The Filmmaker is the third offering from independent game developer Christopher M. Brendel. His first two games,Lifestream and Shady Brook, were story-centric games. The Filmmaker is his first attempt at a puzzle-centric game. Oh, there is a story here – Ferucil is a demon who kills people and uses their souls to empower his movies. You must free their souls and stop Ferucil. But that's it. No in-game exposition. No clever plot twists. Just lots of puzzles to play with.
And the puzzles are just wonderful. There are inventory based puzzles all around plus a couple dozen logical puzzles. Most of them are classic. All of them are fair – they can be solved if you think about it. Most have their clues scattered around the game. But be forewarned, many of them are quite advanced. Unless you solve the NYT Crossword using only the Across clues, you will want to get the Official Guide and Walkthrough.
Are there any down sides to the puzzles? Well... there is a slider, but it is only a 3x3. There is a maze, but is easily mapped – every wrong turn quickly becomes a dead end. There are a couple of timed sequences. There is one arcade game. So no, not really.
The graphics in adventure games tend to fall into three categories: Cartoon, Professionally Rendered and what I call Home Brew. A look at the screen shots will tell you that this game is firmly in the Home Brew camp. But this is good. Chris' express intention was not just to use B-Movies as a backdrop, but to make the game itself into a B-Movie. And it works quite well.
The game play is traditional first person point-and-click with all of its advantages and disadvantages.
The background music is cheesy. The voice acting is cheesy. The movie sets are cheesy. Perfect for a B-Movie celebration. I loved it. I expected to see Tor Johnson come for me at any moment. My only disappointment was the sci-fi spoof. The bridge of the spaceship looked like Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was a big budget production. Original Series might have been a better choice. But the cheesy captain made up for it.
So what do we have here? We have a tribute to B-Movies with all of their desperate charm. We have a collection of superior puzzles which will make you feel really clever when you solve them. We have an independent developer who created a game which was more fun to play than many of the professional offerings out there.
Final Grade: A-