Universal Movie Tycoon brings more ads than add-ons

The business of making movies is an elusive one that offers tons of glitz and glamour. It’s a spotlight that many yearn for, but few ever step in front of. Luckily, the possibility has been improved with Universal Movie Tycoon. Now you, too, can run your very own movie studio, all from your iOS device.

Starting from scratch, you’ll play as a new executive placed in charge of building Universal Studios up into the home of beloved movie dynasties. Thankfully, you’ve got a very knowledgable secretary and an extremely hardworking foreman that heads up your construction team. With their help, you’ll build Universal Studios from a young upstart to a bustling headquarters for high profile stars and directors.

Universal Movie Tycoon

As one might expect from the title, Universal Movie Tycoon pulls from the tycoon style game formula. This means you’ll fill your dedicated land with buildings, landmarks, sets, and decorations that will add to the esthetic of your soon-to-be high profile home. The further along you get, the more potential big names you’ll be able to pull in and the money fake money you’ll make–and the more you’ll have to manage.

The appeal–and ultimately the downfall–of Universal Movie Tycoon is its defining feature: the ability to re-create some of your favorite movie franchises. While all of the actors or directors that you can hire in game are fictional, the movies are all very real. From indie favorites like Being John Malcovich to cult hits like The Big Lebowski and even the cherished Back to the Future series, you’ll be taking on the task of creating some of your favorite movies.

Universal Movie Tycoon

While it’s great to have the ability to see some of the best movies to come out of Universal Studios’ deep film vault available in game, it also plays like one giant advertisement. The script advisor will tell you how fantastic the screenplay for “Fast and the Furious” is (still not convinced, sorry Vin Diesel). Every time you finish filming a movie, you’ll be offered a link to buy the real deal in iTunes. It just feels like a billboard hidden behind the poorly placed thin veil that is held up with old tape and bubblegum and every time it starts to fall, a vaguely business looking guy in a suit runs over and holds it up, insisting there is nothing to see behind it.

In the process of recreating some of the best films of your childhood as well as hits from recent memory, you’ll be given the option to build sets specifically for those films. These will cost you more than the default sets and it’ll come out of your real world bank account. All of the movie-specific pieces cost what the game calls “movie magic.” What it actually is is surprisingly similar to what is called “movie magic” in Hollywood–money.

Universal Movie Tycoon

If you don’t want to pay, you’ll be able to get by on your allotted amount of movie magic for awhile. Just be prepared to wait. Like, a long time. One of the building that I built required a wait time of nearly 24 hours, which I could wipe out completely by using half of my movie magic. It’s a great model to get impatient people to make in-app purchases, but it’s obnoxious to people that just want to play the game. Plus, its easy to justify making small buys from studios and developers that one really wants to support. It’s harder to do so when a game comes from a major media corporation that is already shoving its identity and biggest titles down your throat. The entire experience is a little uncomfortable, really.

While Universal Movie Tycoon could easily function as a game–and be a rather enjoyable one at that–it refuses to just be a pleasant reminder of some of your favorite film franchises in the middle of a fun experience. Instead, it insists upon being an advertisement in game’s clothing, feeling more like a game version of Netflix that makes you earn your movies before you watch them–and even then you have to buy them. Plus, you have to buy “movie magic” to make the experience last longer than maybe an hour of actual gameplay. The “tycoon” style of play could make this title a blast. Instead, it’s the same tycoon attitude of movie studio executives that prevents it from being worthwhile.