Hollywood Animal Impression – Behind The Magic

Love it or hate it, or both, Hollywood holds an incredible cachet in popular culture. It’s not even any one studio or movie. It’s the whole town, its history and its culture as they’ve evolved. It’s hard to remember Hollywood (as a cultural institution of sorts) is only about a century old, give or take. Motion pictures have been around longer than Hollywood (if only by a small margin, as time is measured), but the two are inexorably linked. We’ve had games which have focused on the production and creative aspects of moviemaking, but Hollywood Animal is aiming to give you the warts-and-all experience of being the head of a major movie studio. And it’s a lot more than just drama queen directors and dewy eyed starlets looking to make it big.

Hollywood Animal puts you in the shoes of a newly minted studio owner, having just bought the place in a bankruptcy sale. The demo only covers two years (from 1929 to 1931), but Weappy Wholesome managed to pack a lot of activity in those two years. The demo’s first six months or so guides you through the basics of building up the important buildings related to a studio and the process of producing a movie from script development to distribution options. And from there, they sort of leave you to figure out the auxiliary buildings that are involved, as well as throwing you a bunch of curveballs in the form of incidents during production, individuals outside of the industry who might want a favor or two, and the usual problem of employees who need a break or two.

May not look like it now, but this is going to be where dreams are made. And maybe a nightmare or three.

Visually, Holloywood Animal (at least at the start) is going big on the Art Deco style for its buildings. Oddly, though, there’s a lot of weird weather effects going on at the same time. You don’t normally see major dust storms passing over what is now Hollywood, but that may simply be artistic license. The UI is mostly intuitive, and it’s pretty easy to get an idea of where current projects are sitting, whether it’s construction of a new facility or the state of a film production. Where things get a little crazy is when you start digging down into the various layers of information. Sometimes, it’s a little funny, like when you run across seemingly odd combinations of foibles and flaws in actors and other individuals. Other times, it’s a little daunting, such as when you don’t have a good way to fine tune how many theaters your newest effort will be screened in. Overbooking just to get your head of distribution to tell you you’re being nuts every time you come up with a new film seems… counterproductive.

There’s a lack of great audio in Hollywood Animal from what I could tell. What’s there is mostly limited to sound effects. There wasn’t much in the way of music, certainly no covers of period-specific pieces (some Gershwin would have been perfect for the demo), just some jazz which sounded too modern for the time period. Definitely no voice work, which I can understand and even live with. What’s there is cleanly recorded and well utilized. I just kinda wish there’d been more. On the other hand, it’s a demo, so not everything’s going to be on display. This is probably one area which will get more interesting in the final release.

‘Course, you might be a little more sane than other people in the C-suite.

Gameplay in Hollywood Animal is, to an extent, a typical city builder, albeit your “city” occupies a very small area, and there’s no mechanics for demolishing structures (another feature I’d expect in the full release). You set down a core building, and within its zone of control, you’ll put in auxiliary buildings which give you new options to work with. However, you’re also dealing with terrible employees of every stripe, bad behavior on and off the set, burnout, workplace “incidents,” and political issues ranging from crooked mayors to Prohibition. And that’s just the first two years.

Depending on what’s in place in terms of facilities, production methods, and management “techniques,” you’ll have an array of choices with which to solve the issues that present themselves. At the same time, you’ll also be kind of wondering how some of these systems replenish their currencies. The “petty cash” mechanic which you can use to handle unexpected purchases (or pay out bribes) never mentions how you can move money into it. It was all going out. Being able to move money around a little bit would have been a good thing to include. I never went broke, but it did get a little chancy towards the end. Research also seemed to be a little wonky, but I’m chalking that up mostly to the demo’s limitations than anything else.

Thank God, I only signed her to a one-picture deal.

One final note regarding gameplay and narrative: you’re starting in “Old Hollywood,” the beginning of the place, at a time when there was some seriously ugly aspects of American culture and society going on. Hollywood Animal does make a point before the game even starts to mention there’s going to be a lot of mention of racism, sexism, and other behaviors which are not acceptable to contemporary culture. Frankly, Harvey Weinstein would be a piker back in those days. As studio head, you’ll certainly have the option to make some choices which are grotesque. You’ll be dealing with people that under any other circumstances you’d rather see run over by a truck. You can almost feel the ghosts of George Reeves and Marilyn Monroe looming in the background. Two years was quite a bit in the demo, mostly owing to one particularly cursed production. I confess there’s a certain morbid anticipation to see what sorts of dirty business pops up once you hit the 60s and 70s.

Hollywood Animal might be in the same genre as classics like The Movies or more recent releases like Moviehouse, but it’s not in the same league. It wants to show the glitz and the glamour right alongside the grime and the graft. Just looking at the locked off portions of the tech tree, I foresee some truly grim “True Hollywood Stories” bubbling up from different playthroughs. Or maybe you’ll be able to position yourself as somebody who didn’t take shortcuts and became a Hollywood legend for a different reason. We’ll see once the full release comes out, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Axel played the Hollywood Animal demo with a code from the developer.

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