Genre: Point-and-Click Graphic Text Adventure
Release date: December 1, 2016
Reviewed on: Android, available for Windows
The Filmmaker is the third title that Unimatrix Productions has built with their Storycentric Worlds game engine. The first two, Shady Brook and Lifestream, were released last year and I enjoyed them immensely. As my reviews indicate, both are praise-worthy games that I recommend for those who enjoy an adventure with a focus on story and characters. For gamers who are not already familiar with Unimatrix, Christopher Brendel originally released all three titles as traditional 2D point-and-click adventures. Since then, he has developed a new game engine/interface and has re-released his stories in an entirely new format that advances the genre of interactive fiction.
The Filmmaker was originally released in 2010. While the essential plot elements remain the same, the new version expands the story and further develops the characters. It is now played from the first-person view of our heroine, Brianna. She is a young African-American woman who has recently lost her father and is dealing with the aftermath of family grief. Brianna is an avid fan of "B" movies (you know, the low-budget films that would have second billing if the world still had double-features), and these provide her a means of escape (albeit brief) from reality.
The local movie theater has recently closed after a series of untimely employee deaths. Since the story takes place before the days of Netflix and Redbox, this closure has had a big impact on Brianna. Imagine her delight when she receives word that the theater will reopen for one night to showcase a new title by acclaimed filmmaker Claude Ferucil. She enters the familiar theater with a sense of wonder and anticipation but soon discovers that all is not well in movieland. Claude’s recent film successes are tied to the dark arts and Brianna must vanquish evil and free the souls of those trapped in Claude’s web.
One thing I truly appreciate about the games from Unimatrix is that the interface and mechanics remain the same across titles. Starting The Filmmaker felt like greeting an old friend and I began enjoying the story without needing to pause and figure out how things work. For newcomers, the interface is very intuitive with icons for inventory, informational items, location maps, Brianna’s notes and directional travel. Although this is an illustrated text adventure, there is no typing. All actions are performed by pointing and clicking on a PC or tapping on a tablet. You converse with characters, make decisions, choose actions, throw punches, and solve puzzles…all with a single click or tap.
Brianna’s soul-saving quest is made more challenging by the puzzles that are an integral part of the story. Many are of the find-and-use variety but others include decoding messages, interpreting symbols, opening locked containers and avoiding death. To solve an inventory-based puzzle, items are equipped and used by clicking. Other puzzle solutions are presented as a series of choices that must be clicked in the correct order. Hints are available upon request for the more difficult conundrums.
The world of The Filmmaker is not just limited to the theater. A magic portal allows the player to enter the celluloid world of Claude’s films. There are five unique film environments with new character roles and storylines that become available as the full scale of Claude’s treachery is revealed. Inventory items and clues found in the films can be used to solve puzzles in the "real" world of the theater and vice versa. This adds a layer of complexity to the story and forces the player to think outside of the proverbial box.
Waging war with evil is risky business and there are several chances to die along the way. The game is auto-saved and fatal choices result in a chance to try again without losing any game progress.
The Filmmaker is the best that Unimatrix has released so far. The story is very well-written with dialog that flows naturally. The characters are likable and I could not help but care about Brianna’s fate and cheer her on. Christopher Brendel has proved, once again, that he is a man of many talents…a gifted writer with the unique ability to transform a story into an engaging adventure game.
For me, the Storycentric Worlds interface provides the perfect balance of reading and interaction. It is an immersive experience that is best enjoyed on a portable device when curled up on the couch.
+ Well written story with good character development
+ Intuitive game mechanics – all the fun of an illustrated text adventure without the typing
+ Better than relaxing on the couch with a good book
- Those looking for 3D environments with more action may want to look elsewhere