If you’ve ever dreamed of being in the movies, be sure to give Sunset Studio Deluxe an audition. Chances are you’re likely to cast this fun Hollywood-inspired hidden object game in a starring role as your next desktop obsession. Apart from a few flaws – similar-looking objects, vague clues, the ability to only tackle a single scenario at once – it’s a surefire crowd-pleaser, if not particularly epic or Oscar-worthy entry into the genre.
Granted, you’re not exactly playing the role of A-list star here… rather, a poor peon working in the props department helping director Cecil B. Windmill stage upcoming films. Visiting a variety of themed sets based around popular Tinseltown conceits – e.g. adventure serials, sitcoms, swashbuckling epics – play amounts to little more than searching cluttered scenes for specific prop item like flippers, flashlights or crossbows.
The slow-paced, pixel-hunting action will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s already sat through Hidden Expedition: Titanic, Amazing Adventures or any similarly engaging outing. What’s more, Sunset Studio Deluxe‘s story actually offers a logical explanation as to why you’ve been tasked with collecting odd assortments of items – something that not all hidden object games bother to do.
Beyond simple searches at cluttered trailers or detective’s offices for movie props ranging from bullets to pink ties, tricycles and even the Holy Grail, you’ll also enjoy a few new conceits. For starters, a star meter that builds as you find objects at each locale – a dozen minimum are required to beat every stage – with scene rankings, collectible awards and final ratings awarded to individual shots and overall pictures based on your performance.
Also welcome is the presence of signature characters ranging from vapid stars to fat cat studio heads, who’ll chime in from time to time with help or catchy comments. Combined with a groovy soundtrack which offers familiar film score-style accompaniments to each encounter, and pop-ups including theater marquees and signs indicating different shot takes, it all adds to the game’s charming sense of ambience.
But what we’re really impressed with is the variety of power-ups (dubbed “tools” here) you can collect, which are awarded every few stages or granted in randomized mini-games following discovery of a bonus item, whose likeness is slowly revealed as you find other assigned objects. Given the setup – you’re assigned roughly half a dozen props to find, which must be located and clicked on, essentially making the title an interactive scavenger hunt – it’s obvious they’ll come in handy.
Bonuses doled out as you progress include spotlights which shrink the closer they’re held to sought-after targets; camera viewfinders that gain sharper focus when near key items; and scripts that type out hints as to where specific objects are hiding. Location-pinpointing outlines, cameras that provide snapshots offering visual clues to what more obscure items look like and clock-extending extras (you only have a certain amount of time to complete every level) are also forthcoming. Ditto for the occasional surprise quick-turnaround item, which – if found before a brief timer expires – offers an added star meter-filling boost.
All told, there’s quite a lot to admire here, especially when you tack on a more high-intensity “Rush Job” mode… but the tale isn’t without its rough spots as well. To begin with, you’re only given a list of a handful of objects to search for to start, with more added as you tick discovered props off the list, ultimately hampering the speed of your general sleuthing efforts. Many hints are poorly worded or confusing as well.
For example, on the horror movie set, when asked to find a “saw,” you may waste time clicking on a circular blade vs. handheld unit. Or, on the adventure set, likewise erroneously click on a snake that’s part of the handsome background instead of the well-hidden “pythons” incorporated into it. What’s more, many items are purposefully faded out or disguised – who knows why champagne is sometimes colored red – just to up the challenge factor.
Your role in helping make movies like “Mission Improbable 4” or “The Good the Bad and the Beautiful” is only nominal to boot. Unlike in titles such as Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate, you’re confined to exploring one location – although the order in which you do so is non-linear – at a time as well. And if you do find the minimum required number of items at said stage and just want to move on and not worry about boosting your star ranking or aiming for a big reward, sorry. You’ll still have to wait for the clock to run out – there’s no skipping ahead if you’re short of time.
Even so, between a grab-bag of innovative features, fun/familiar theme and varied range of backdrops ranging from western to science fiction-inspired sets, it’s obvious Sunset Studio Deluxe is destined to see its name in lights. And if you’re smart – or just have a soft spot for the motion picture business – you won’t want to miss the red-carpet premiere.