Moviehouse Review – Finally, a Sequel to The Movies?

In theory, Moviehouse combines two things I love: video games and movies. It hands over the keys to a movie studio, letting you hire writers and directors to craft scripts and produce movies across genres. It almost sounds like a spiritual successor to The Movies, a fantastic tycoon game from 2005 that has been crying out for a remake or sequel. Sadly, Moviehouse doesn’t capture the same charm as The Movies, nor does it improve on any of the concepts from 2005. In fact, it actually goes backwards with gameplay so simplistic you might think you’re playing a mobile game.

The best way to tackle Moviehouse is to take you through the process of actually producing a movie. Step one is to get a script written by picking a genre and what sort of timeframe it needs to be done in; fast, industry-standard or as long as it needs. Then, one or two writers to pen it. After that, you need to pick a setting, hero and villain from either the cards shown or from your library of plot cards, each one matching the genre or not. Get the mix right, like picking a small town for a western, and the script will be of higher quality. The other thing that determines a script’s success is the Creative and Technical stats of the writers, both of which improves by churning out more scripts or via training.

With a script in hand, you need to click on the production lot and pick a director to bring the vision to life and decide how long they have to complete it. Once it goes into production you’ll have a few more choices to make as time rolls on: how much to spend on casting and who to pick for the lead role and the support role. Star power costs, but can bring in a lot more interest. You could also choose to be loyal to a few actors, increasing their star power over dozens of movies. After that, you also need to tweak a few sliders that control how much focus goes on Supporting Cast, Props and Effects, and Sets. Speaking of sets, you can also pick one or two locations to film.

  • Available On: PC
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Developed By: Odyssey Studios
  • Published By: Assemble Entertainment

Review code provided by the publisher.

Once a movie is wrapped up it’s on to distribution. There’s only the option of a theatrical release at first, but over time you can also put out movies on VHS, DVD and so on, giving you more ways to earn money from your flicks. Assuming a company wants to distribute your magnum opus (self-distribution has to be unlocked) you’ll be given a few contract choices that offer either set payments or a smaller payment with a bonus percentage based on performance. Once that’s sorted it’s time to see how the movie actually does: first, the critic reviews which are completely useless because you’ll often be given a 10/10 while the quote says something like, “I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse.” Maybe it’s a meta-joke about how useless professional critics are?

Slightly more useful is the crowd reaction which gives you insight into what sort of audience liked the movie and what worked and what didn’t. This should be the most important screen in the whole game, as it also shows whether your script choices suited the genre and if the chosen locations made sense. This lets you fine-tune further projects, or it would if it actually made much sense. Sometimes genres and plot points are classed as not matching even when they do: an abandoned ranch in a Western surely makes sense, right? Not according to the game. Filming locations are even tougher to gauge, like what genre does a rusty warehouse fit into? What locations work for a thriller?

Creating a script in Moviehouse by selecting different types of plot card

During the first 30 minutes or so, money was tricky. I was producing short films, getting them into production and barely making a profit off of the distribution. It was a promising start, indicating that I would need to pay close to attention to budgets and ensure that every script choice, set and actor made sense. That changed quickly, though: once my writer and director had a bit of experience, movies started turning a profit consistently and then the game opened up the option to invest in other studios. A few shares later, I had a steady income that easily covered most of my costs. Even rushed films were bringing in cash. It got to a point where failure seemed impossible: even attempts to make bad movies resulted in a wave of funds sloshing around in my bank account.

By two or three hours into the game, I had around $20 billion in the bank, was a major studio with three writers and three directors, and owned 100% of all the other movie companies. Everything made money, even the “bad” movies that were panned by critics. Hell, even if they bombed the 9 other studios I owned easily covered the loss. No matter the quality of the script or the skills of my directors, there was never a reason to not max out the casting budget, select the biggest production type and so it. It’s a mindless, monotonous process of clicking a couple of buttons and sticking the game on fast-forward.

There are plenty of examples of mechanics that are either nebulous in their effect or don’t have any effect at all. You can build and then add props to locations, for example, in a bid to make them more visually appealing, like adding a slasher mask to a cabin in the woods or maybe putting a rifle into a western saloon. I assume that this ties into the movie production when you choose how much effort should be put into the sets, but the game never communicates this. At no point is there an indication of whether the props added anything to the movie, and even after trying to run tests I still have no idea what sort of impact they have.

Standard view in Moviehouse, from which you can create scripts and put them into production.

And speaking of the directors and writers, when you level up your studio and unlock more space you can’t hire staff that are at least somewhat close in skill level to your existing crew. That means you either have to spend heaps of time training them or accept that any scripts or productions given to them won’t be as good. There’s never a need to fire a staff member to hire somebody more skilled or somebody who has useful perks. It’s all pointless: just pick a random name. Done.

The only thing for me to chase at this point was higher levels of research, but that mostly felt pointless, too. Why chase the ability to make blockbusters or sequels when I’m already acquiring cash like Scrooge McDuck? Other unlocks, like DVDs and streaming, are locked away until you reach the right year, so despite already being at the top of the movie mountain, I couldn’t research any cool new tech for another decade or so of in-game time.

It feels like nobody actually tested Moviehouse properly. No testers ran through it and pointed out how easy it is to dominate the entire industry in just the first 30 minutes, making the rest of the game a mindless click-fest. Nobody said that the research is heavily outpaced by everything else, or that numerous elements either aren’t explained or don’t have a tangible effect on what you’re making. Nobody noticed that even bad movies generate heaps of cash. Not a single person questioned if players should be able to hire more skilled directors and writers in the late stages of the game.


I also need to touch on the performance issues. Moviehouse is not a demanding game: the entire thing takes place on a tiny little cube with almost no moving graphics and basic menus. It looks like it was developed with mobile in mind and wouldn’t have any issues running on a cheap tablet. And yet somehow, it becomes a laggy mess the longer you play it. Menus slowly become unresponsive, a big problem in a game that revolves entirely around clicking on things and then waiting. I encountered many crashes, especially after a recent update which resulted in the game freezing when selecting cast members.

Maybe Moviehouse is intended to be some sort of crazy parody of the modern movie machine. Perhaps it’s supposed to make you feel like Disney, mindlessly churning out scripts and movies to feed the insatiable appetites of movie-goers, each new film built on an established template. I think that’s giving Moviehouse too much credit, though, and even if that was the intent it wouldn’t fix the big problem – it’s just not fun.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

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