Megaplex Madness: Now Playing starts with a simple premise: You decide to save the decrepit historical Bowmont Theater. As you play, new theaters will open up, and you’ll have a chance to start up your own movie theater chain. Don’t let the simplicity of the story dissuade you from playing this very enjoyable and addictive time management tycoon game with a lot of personality.
There’s a good tutorial, and you’ll be given tips in between rounds as you play. Considering the amount of strategies you can (and must) use, it’s very easy to learn. Customers enter the theater with want bubbles over their heads. These wants include buying tickets and food, using the washroom, playing arcade games, and seeing the film. To fill these needs, you must pick up and drag the customer to the correct station, and wait for the need to be filled by the attendant. The attendant will move over to an empty station automatically. Later, you can hire more attendants to increase speed, plus you can upgrade the efficiency and number of your stations.
There are plenty of chances to make combos, which you’ll need to do in order to advance. Customers wear different colored clothing, and you’ll earn a nice bonus if you match a customer to the same colored spot. After 5 sequential matches, an arcade token will appear, granting you more cash. You can also get a bonus if you switch two customers whose needs match the other’s station.
Like in real life, some people have more patience than others. Seniors are very relaxed, but kids lose patience easily. If a customer runs out of patience, shown by hearts over his head, he will leave the theater. If you can grab him in time, you’ll be given one last chance to make him happy. Customers don’t lose hearts if you are holding onto them. Also, customers will gain a heart of you win the arcade game or use the gumball machine. The gumball machine requires you to pull the mouse down in one clean motion, while the arcade game involves pressing on the lit buttons of the controller correctly. Both are easy once you get used to them.
After several minutes, the movie will start. Once the movie has started, you can click the mouse over the "click" bullseye in any bubble when an action is ongoing (like buying tickets, pizza, etc), and that makes things happen faster. Customers’ patience also drops more rapidly after the film has started, so you want to get them serviced quickly.
There are three rankings of income – target, expert, and master. Target is the minimum you need to meet, but expert will give you a bonus arcade token, and master will allow you to make a repair on the theater. You can replay levels you’ve already beaten in order to earn the arcade token or repair credit. However, this will cost you a small fee.
Strictly speaking, Megaplex Madness is a time management game. However, there are a lot of elements that are played in tycoon-game style, as in games like Fairy Godmother Tycoon or Flower Shop Tycoon. This mostly relates to the sheer number of customers you service, and the focus on total income and not individual customer happiness. There’s a lot more strategy involved than in your typical time management game, especially as you reach higher levels.
The graphics are good and polished, though nothing fancy. There’s only a few customer types, and they all look the same. The animations are pretty funny, though. When you drag the customers to their different stations, they flop around a bit like rag dolls. Strangely enough, flinging around these tiny people is oddly empowering. Or maybe that’s just me? As for the music, it fits in the background, and you barely notice it.
From around level 15, the game becomes extremely challenging. By level 20 it’s nearly impossible, and you can expect to play rounds over and over before you succeed. You can replay levels as often as you like, and you don’t lose cash or previous upgrades bought even if you’ve failed the round, which means that each time you play you have a better chance of winning. Still, it’s hard to pin down a strategy at the higher stages. Just keeping customers happy isn’t enough. You must make big combos and gather tokens in order to meet the minimum earning goal, and that means a bit of planning plus a bit of luck.
Although getting stuck for a long time sounds really frustrating, it’s not too terrible, especially since the rounds change each time. You get a different randomized selection of customers each time, plus you can usually buy new upgrades, so you get a slightly different experience even if you’re replaying the same round.
The length is excellent. If you get stuck a lot like me, you can play for a dozen hours or so. Even if you manage to play straight through without any hiccups, you will have at least five hours of game play, combined with plenty of replay value trying to get better scores.
In short, Megaplex Madness: Now Playing is a lot of fun, and surprisingly entertaining. The rules are simple enough for beginners, but it’s challenging enough to keep experts addicted. If you enjoy time management or tycoon games, it’s definitely worth checking out.