Imagine someone took Game Dev Story [$4.99] and turned into an arcade game, and you'll have yourself Pixely People Making Movies [$1.99]. Where Kairosoft turned game development into a number-pumping simulator, Nekomata Games has made a drag-n-drop game of movie-making madness.
While the two games play very differently, they share a kindred spirit. Both are about combining themes and genres to come out with crazy-popular creative works, both require careful human resource management, and both involve teams of tiny pixelated people who are bound to do your bidding.
Beyond that, the two begin to split apart. Pixely People is a very structured game, where development of one film begins precisely after the last one ends. You select a theme (like space, pirate or indie), and a genre (like romance, drama or action). You make up a ludicrous name or let the game create one for you, and you cast your roles. Once all the fussy stuff is out of the way, the real fun can begin.
Creating a movie is done in four parts: filming, effects, sound and editing. Each of those departments is a floor in an oddly vertical movie studio. Once the directors on the top floor complete a segment of film, they shuttle it down to effects. Those get added in, then sent down, and so on, until the segment is complete and its score is added to the movie's total. Meanwhile, the directors up top have started on the next segment.
In practice, this is a matter of filling up bars and managing timers. Each department has a scored based on the type of movie you're making. A pirate romance, the game asserts, lives and dies on its sound and editing. So while a segment's effects might only award a single point to that chunk of film, its editing might award 10.
The first step to earning a good score is managing these segments within the three-minute timer you're given to work on your film. You can add two or more chunks of editing to a single segment if you want, but this might back up your workflow and keep you from submitting much to the final score. It's something to weigh.
The interaction comes with handling your crew. Each worker you unlock has a specific role, so they start on the relevant floor. But you can drag them around near-freely to streamline the process. They get tired as they work, and might fall asleep before you're done, and they also have special abilities and drawbacks that effect your success—managing these things is paramount.
And then there are the auras. The cast you choose for your film decides the number of auras that could trigger for each department. One of your crew members will start glowing pink, say, alerting you that they should be dragged down to the (pink) sound floor. That will bump up that floor's score by ten for a little while. If another aura hits before that timer runs out it resets and bumps up ten more. Once you get more than a handful of crew members this takes nimble fingers and a lot of attention.
Once the timer runs down and you're done frantically dragging and dropping your team around, your score is totaled and your film is given a star rating. Earn enough stars with the right combinations of genres and themes and you can unlock new themes to work with, right up until you make the greatest movie of all time. Your team also earns experience—you can level them up to improve their good traits or reduce the bad ones.
Pixely People is a lot of fun, much more action-packed than Game Dev Story and at least as full of personality. But the static structure hurts it a little bit. You'll always have the same crew members to unlock, and you'll always perform the same actions on the same timers to make movies. This means little replayability and a decent chance you'll run out of steam before you reach the end. As hilarious as the customized movie posters are, they do eventually lose their shine.
Take a scan through our discussion thread before you let that turn you off, though. Nekomata is engaged with the community and is looking for ways to keep the fun going. And it's great while it lasts. At the very least this is a studio to keep an eye on, but I'd say Pixely People Making Movies is worth a lot more than that. It's no Hollywood cash-in; it's a fresh new perspective on a beloved classic. That's more than enough to cover the price of admission.
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