There have been many people who travel to Hollywood looking to produce that one big blockbuster movie. If only they’d played Tinseltown Dreams: The 50’s, they would know it’s as simple as completing a few match-3 puzzles!
Okay, so it may not really be that easy, but Tinseltown Dreams: The 50’s puts you in the position of assembling the cast and crew for Mr. Big’s studio during what appears to be – naturally – the 1950’s. The studio desperately needs a big hit. For day-to-day operations, you work with Betty, the producer with a much better temperament. Your job is to make different films in different genres (like The Romance Film, The Sci-Fi Film, The Musical, The Western) by earning money for a weekly budget, buying props for your sets, enhancing the lighting and special FX, and ultimately, putting a picture out for the critics to rate and your public to consume.
Earning money is the focus of the match-three gameplay, which while not a terribly original idea, is solid nevertheless. Stages are often shaped like something from the genre you’re trying to film. Clear a set number of gold squares to beat a level by making matches over it, and if you clear the level before the timer runs out, you’ll get bonus money. You earn a dollar for each regular pieces matched, and a hundred dollars per gold square cleared. If you can make continuous matches (creating a combo) a "craze meter" as the top begins to zap a popcorn maker. Once the popcorn maker is full, click the "GO" button, and popcorn rains down on the playfield, and each click of a kernel nets you extra cash.
Also present are the standard obstacles, like pieces behind a velvet rope (locked) or power-ups like a hammer (for breaking one piece), a fan (which re-scrambles a three-by-three grid, but also blows away any velvet ropes) or dynamite (which destroys all of one type of shape on the board). Sometimes a chest and key will appear on the board, and if you can maneuver them together, you will receive a bonus prop for your set. And if you’re really lucky, a present-shaped piece will appear which, when clicked, brings on a special big attack that destroys a large portion of the playfield.
At the end of each level, you’re given bonuses based on the gold pieces you collected, how much you kept the craze meter going, your popcorn bonuses and the time remaining on the timer. All of these gameplay basics and trimmings are fairly standard, but unlike the usual "buy resources for a garden/fish tank" games, the goals are a lot more fun here.
Remember, your goal is to make the best quality movie to wow the critics. Each film has 10 stages, wherein you hire staff and stars. You’ll need a costume designer, supporting actor and actress, boom operator, star actor and actress, screenwriter, director, cameraman and special FX master. You’ll be able to hire one of three choices per category. The less-experienced staff are,of course, cheaper, but won’t produce the same quality picture. Same with the stars: you don’t want to hire some guy who only did a car commercial, do you? It’s up to you to budget accordingly.
You will have a surprising amount of control building your sets. You can place anyone anywhere, and add as many elements as you like. You can scale them large or small, or flip them around. You don’t need to clutter the shot, of course, and if you have too many items, you can store them in the studio chest for later use.
After each set of 10 levels, you’re given one more chance to arrange everything in your shot as you wish, then it’s off to the grading section. You’ll be marked on your set design, acting, sound design, cinematography, and a final overall mark out of five stars. Impress the boss, and you’ll get to make more movies. You can always replay a film to get a better score.
The game overall is very polished. The graphics are nice, bright and clear. The music, while nothing terribly special, doesn’t annoy, and reflects the stage you’re playing quite well. It also has just enough cheesiness to accurately sound like a lot of 50’s films you may have seen. The selection of props and ways to use them is quite amazing, and is never hard to figure out the best way to use them.
Tinseltown Dreams doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to. It’s a solid, fun match-three title with a very fun design mechanic. The game isn’t too long (there are 70 levels to be had) but it really is a lot of fun designing the set, naming the film and crossing your fingers as those reviews come in. If you’re looking for a good puzzler, definitely give Tinseltown Dreams its shot at stardom.