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The Filmmaker Preview

by Eric Arevalo, game reviewer and beta tester

An indie developer with a mission

The power of rare games to stand out and impress

As a former PC games managing editor, reviewer, and now a beta tester, I have come across so many different types of games that I have played over the years. Many are ones that easily disappoint me in several areas, but there are a few rare games that stand out from the rest with awesome gameplay and story that have me playing from one night until the very early morning hours of the next day when the sun rises. Currently in beta testing, The Filmmaker, by small indie developer Unimatrix Productions, is one such example of an upcoming adventure game that has the power to impress you with its gameplay and story and one you should definitely buy when it releases in a few short weeks. A demo should also be available around that time as well so you can judge for yourself.

Unimatrix Productions - An indie developer on the rise

Before discussing the many merits of The Filmmaker, a brief history on the developer and their previous games is in order. Unimatrix Productions is a small indie company founded in 2003 that includes owner, writer, and game designer Christopher Brendel as well as co-owner and writer Elle Smith. Earlier this year, Unimatrix released two adventure games, Lifestream in April and Shady Brook in August, using their own engine to create a series known as Storycentric Worlds. The Storycentric Worlds engine is one that can also be used by other developers to create their very own games. Lifestream and Shady Brook have become so popular that they have been greenlighted for sale on Steam. The Filmmaker has also been submitted for the greenlight process, and I expect that just like the other two games we will see it come to Steam as well. Unimatrix Productions is definitely an indie developer on the rise as they prepare to release The Filmmaker and many other games are currently in development for release in the future. Stonewall Penetentiary is their next upcoming adventure game after the release of The Filmmaker, which is set in a prison and is scheduled for release in early 2017. A short preview of that game is included in The Filmmaker.

The new trend of interactive fiction games and the importance of a great story

Lifestream, Shady Brook, and the upcoming The Filmmaker have several things in common. One, they are interactive fiction games, which I consider to be a blending of the best of adventure text games with modern adventure game elements. Two, a very engaging story is an integral aspect of these games and is a major reason that this new trend of games is becoming so popular. In these interactive fiction games by Unimatrix, telling a great and engaging story really matters and is not an afterthought as you see in many other games where story is not given any priority. If a game's story does not capture my attention from the beginning, nothing else matters to me, as I believe a great story is what will make or break a game. When I first previewed Lifestream earlier this year, I was very optimistic at the potential of these games and their promise to impress and standout from others in the market. Now with the upcoming release of The Filmmaker, the third game from Unimatrix, I can definitely say that the promise of these games has been fulfilled and are definitely most welcome alongside the very best adventure games because of the engaging stories, nice art, and impressive sound and music that combine to produce very memorable gaming experiences. But what makes The Filmmaker such an impressive game, you may wonder. Read on to see why you should definitely give it an opportunity to earn your gaming dollars this holiday season!

The Filmmaker - An adventure game that surprises and connects with the player

An engaging story and well-written character that connects with the player

The Filmmaker is an exciting adventure that is divided into three different acts and occurs over the course of one long night. It tells the very engaging story of Brianna, the main character that you will play as and who is also a huge lover of B-movies. Brianna has recently had her life turned upside down with the recent loss of her father and the disconnect she now feels with her brother and mother due to this very painful loss as each is dealing with the loss in their own way. The brother deals with the loss by ignoring his family, the mother deals with the loss by locking herself away in her room, and Brianna deals with the loss by working many extra overtime hours as a nurse in a local hospital where she hopes she can make a difference in the lives of others. The loss has hit Brianna very hard, as she has not been able to move on from her fathers death. Brianna and her late father had an immense love of  B-movies, which is a very special genre of black and white movies that are still enjoyed to this day with a huge fan base and are very entertaining with very cheesy plots and storylines. Brianna used to go the Carson Stiles Gateway theater with her father before he passed away to enjoy some unforgettable B-movies by famed director Claude Ferucil. Those are the special memories that Brianna will never forget but treasures, as these were the times that she most connected with her father and their love of B-movies.  

But then the theater was suddenly closed, as the entire staff was murdered under very mysterious circumstances. The game begins six months after the closing of the theater, and Brianna is sent an invitation to its grand reopening, as well as being able to meet Claude Ferucil, the director of her favorite B-movies. Due to the gruesome murders of the entire staff, the theater is haunted, and you will see this in the mysterious visions and sounds that you experience by walking through every room in the theater, uncovering the clues of what really happened there and ultimately uncovering the sinister plot of why you were chosen to come to the theater. Little does Brianna know of the exciting adventure that will soon become part of her life once she enters the theater and finds out the identity of the mysterious figure behind it all. A series of gruesome serial murders, a haunted theater, a mysterious figure behind it all, and an evil plot against you and you have the makings of a grand adventure!

I was very surprised when I completed this adventure, as I did not expect for it to connect with me on so many levels. I connect with the character of Brianna, because I also love B-movies and their cheesy storylines and plots. The character of Brianna is so well-written, and its an integral part of what makes you want to enjoy and complete the adventure. The idea for this character came from Elle Smith, one of the core members of the Unimatrix tream. It is also interesting to note that Brianna will comment on so many different things as you journey with her. Be prepared to laugh at some of the many humorous things that she comments on as you are playing or feel for Brianna at those times when she reflects on her past and her family, as it is a very emotional experience from beginning to end for both Brianna and the player. I also connected with the five different types of B-movie genres that you will actually be able to experience yourself, which include the genres of sci-fi, film-noir, horror, action, and cartoon. All of these five different and diverse genres are ones that I enjoy and love as well. The mystery behind why you are able to enter these movies for yourself and become an actor in them is something better left for you to discover, as it is a major part of the engaging story that will ensnare you from the very beginning to an unforgettable ending.

Finally, I connected with an engaging story that had my attention from the very first moment that Briana arrives at the theater as she attempts to put all the pieces of what happened at the theater together, as well as her hope to reconnect with her family. Reconnecting with family, as well as moving on from the death of a loved one are central themes in this game that I am most familiar with in my own life, which is why it was so easy to connect with the character of Brianna so well. Another great story element is that Brianna keeps a journal and updates it when there are important events that occur. I have always loved the use of journals in games that help you to understand and connect with the main character better and what they are feeling as you play through the game, and I wish that many more games used a journal. I don't come across very many adventure games that connect with me on so many personal levels and in so many different ways that you can never forget when a special game like The Filmmaker comes along and surprises you with just how much it has to offer!

Gameplay that impresses with a very well-designed interface and creative puzzles

Just like in previous games from developer Unimatrix, a very well-designed and easy-to-use interface appears in the game. There will be a few sections that you can select to open on the left side of the screen. One is the main explore window, where you will play and where the main action occurs. In this window you can also view important information about the area you are in. This window also has a compass that allows you to move in many different directions, as well as an area where you can use valuable inventory items to figure out many different puzzles. There are a few other important sections that you can select, as well. One section will allow you to view vital information, such as an auto map that shows you the rooms you have visited so you don't get lost. Other sections include: a summary screen that shows your current objectives, points achieved, and percent of the game completed; while yet another section is your inventory screen, which has the objects that you have picked up in the game. One of my favorite sections is the one that has your journal and other important notes and items that you find in the game. At one point in the game, there will be an ancient and mysterious tome that you pick up that will reveal much of what is happening to you and will help you in your adventure. It is the inclusion of Brianna's journal and important books like the ancient tome and other important notes that you find in the game that helps to enrich the history of the game world that you are playing in.

There is no need to worry about these sections, as a very helpful tutorial is included that explains the use and importance of each of them. I was also impressed by the style of the interface, which was designed to look very much like a movie theater, which you can easily see by viewing the screenshots of this game. I have often been disappointed by the lack of a good interface in some of the games that I have played, which lessened my enjoyment of playing them; but fortunately that is not the case here.

Some very clever and creative puzzles are also included in this game, which add very much to the fun factor as did the story and other elements. Some of the best type of puzzles that I love to see in adventure games are those that involve the use of the environment as well as the items in your inventory to figure out. In one clever puzzle, you need to open a cash register through the clues that you are given, and you must explore the environment around you to figure out. Its like I was playing Brianna as a detective, and it was very fun to be able to follow the clues that I was given and then smile as I figured out the puzzle through careful exploration of the environment. Other puzzles require the use of your inventory items to figure out, such as one in which you must figure out how to open a toilet that has been sealed with glue. But its not as easy as you think, as its a multi-layered puzzle and will require many different steps before you can solve it.

I also love these types of puzzles in which you must figure out several steps to complete because it makes it worthwhile when you finally solve them. But its not as frustrating as you might think if you can figure out what to do by following the clues that you are given. There is also a very helpful hint system that you can choose to use on many puzzles if you get stuck, so the game is tailored for many different types of players. Another creative puzzle is one in which you must visit a fortune teller machine and figure out the correct middle-colored ball that she has hidden under a series of three cups by tracking the different balls as she moves them around. I have sometimes been let down by the puzzles in other games and became so frustrated by how poorly-designed they were or how very difficult they were. In The Filmmaker, just the right amount of challenge is provided, and I was very pleased to see all of the different types of puzzles that you get to solve. As you play through the game, you will also be able to complete 25 achievements such as correctly solving the fortune teller puzzle three times a row. Completing all of the 25 achievements will award you with a bonus scene that reveals some very important story elements, so its worth completing all of the achievements to see.

Faithfully recreating the spirit of five different film genres through unique art, music and sound

Beyond a great memorable story, creative and challenging puzzles, and a well-written character in Brianna, The Filmmaker also provides some awesome art, music, and sound that help to make this game an even better one. Being that this game is from a small indie developer, the budget is limited compared to what you might see in other high budget games from major studios; but while the budget may be low, the fun factor and enjoyment is definitely very high. I will admit that I am a very picky game reviewer and gamer–and you have to be when there are so many games out in the market that demand your money, time, and attention–so I have to be very selective with what I buy and play. I expect certain elements to be done very well, such as in story, gameplay, art, sound, and music, and I was definitely not let down with The Filmmaker or any of the previous games from Unimatrix.

From the main title screen, to cutscenes that tell the story, to the beautiful portrait of the main character Brianna, and finally to the many locations that you visit in the game, art is used very well to tell the story of a mysterious and haunted theater and what happened to its staff. It really is impressive how nice the art looks, considering the limited budget of the game, but in the right hands a game’s greatness is not determined by its budget but by the creativeness and determination of the team that designed it. In regards to the main character portrait, I must mention how I really enjoyed seeing how it changed based on Brianna's mood, when she was sad and reflective, angry or when she was in a good mood. One of the best parts of the game that highlights the unique use of art, sound, and music to enrich the story involves Brianna and how she is able to actually go into each of five different B-movies and play as an actual character in them. You get much enjoyment out of experiencing five different film genres, each with its own unique art, music, and sound. Experiencing these five movies is also central in your quest to figuring out the mystery behind the murders of the entire theater staff and the one ultimately responsible for it all.

The first time I went into a B-movie of the sci-fi genre, I was simply amazed at how closely it spoofed the original Star Trek, a major sci-fi series from the 60's. I will also admit to the fact that I am a huge trekkie fan and, as such, enjoyed the intense fun that this movie provided. From the opening theme music of a starship trailing in the depths of the solar system to the sound effects of the starship going into red alert, you will be amazed at how well it was all so faithfully recreated in the spirit of the famous sci-fi series. Your mission in this movie, titled Aliens from Mars, has you playing as a cadet and figuring out how to restore main power to the shields and weapons as an impending attack from the Martians is close at hand. Being able to restore main power and raise the shields in time and ultimately defeating the Martians will depend on finding the right items that will solve the puzzles you are given. Play close attention in observing Captain Killum, leader of the starship, who had me laughing out loud at the very humorous lines that he had to say in conversations with his crew. There is also a very memorable space battle that you will fight at the end of this movie that will leave no doubt as to the power of this engine and what it can do!

Another movie has you play a character in a film-noir style movie titled A Detective Story, in which you play a secretary that helps a detective named Dick Rome with one of his current cases. The theme music, writing, and cutscenes used for this movie just like the elements in the sci-fi spoof definitely make you appreciate the genre of film-noir style of movies. Film-noir is a style of movies made popular in the 40's and 50's such as the 1941 black-and-white film, The Maltese Falcon.

Yet another movie that you will play in is titled The Count, which is an homage of the classic black and white 1931 Universal horror film Dracula that starred the famous Bela Lugosi. In this homage of the famous Universal monster movie, you visit a Gothic castle with its sinister dark figure. Your mission here is to figure out the puzzles that will allow you entry into the mysterious crypt of Count Grimbald and find a way to ultimately defeat him. As I played through each movie genre, I could definitely tell that Unimatrix had done an enormous amount of research to be able to recreate the spirit of each film genre faithfully and created each one with the care and attention that they deserve. Each movie had its own unique elements that separated it from the others due in part to the different genres that each movie is from.

As a lover of all of these different film genres I appreciated seeing all of the different details that were included to make each film stand out, from the layout of the starship in Aliens from Mars to the creation of the Gothic castle in The Count, and many other special details seen in the other movies. Just these three film genres highlighted here: sci-fi, film-noir and horror go very far in showing just how much content that you can expect from the game and of the very popular film genres from history that were chosen.

This was only but three examples of how well-designed each of the five movies that you will be a part of will be, how carefully the developer has designed each with great and unique music, appropriate sound effects, and impressive art assets to tell the story of each of the five different movies that you will become an actor in and solve the puzzles involved in each. Other interesting things to note are that the mood and tempo of the music will change based on the emotional state of the character, which was nice to see, whether Brianna is reflecting on her life, whether she is danger, or in a great mood. Another interesting feature is the use of the many different sound effects throughout the game, such as the sound of rain falling outside of the theater and the sound an evil barrier that blocks access to a room makes as you get close to it. There are many unique sound effects that enhance the game in various areas. This game definitely has a very high value in terms of the most bang for your buck in the amount of content that this game will provide. Expect to experience a very lengthy adventure that includes over 8 hours of gameplay, an hour long soundtrack, and over 400 pieces of original artwork to tell the engaging and heartfelt story of Brianna, as she uncovers the mystery of the haunted theater and its murdered staff.

An adventure game that stands out from the rest and deserving of your gaming dollars

This holiday season, there are so many games that will be released and sold, and often it is not easy to determine which ones you should buy and devote your time to. One that is definitely deserving of your gaming dollars and is a clear choice is The Filmmaker by Unimatrix Productions. With Lifestream, Shady Brook, and now The Filmmaker, I have seen each game improve upon the last as the developer utilizes and improves the Storycentric Worlds engine that powers these games. It gives me much hope as to the future of these types of interactive fiction games when the Storycentric Worlds engine can produce a game like The Filmmaker as well as the previous two. I am a huge supporter of indie companies and the games that they develop, especially those that stand out from the others and deserve my time and attention. Unimatrix Productions is one indie company that you can definitely trust in utilizing their Storycentric Worlds engine to produce games with memorable characters, engaging stories, great art, and awesome gameplay and puzzles. Designer Christoper Brendel and writer Elle Smith, core members of the Unimatrix Productions team, are to be applauded for the great work that they have done on The Filmmaker. The faithful recreation of many of the different types of film genres featured in this game is definitely worth the price of admission by itself!

After having played and completed The Filmmaker, it has earned a spot at the top of my very short list of the very best games that I have played in 2016! You won't regret giving The Filmmaker an opportunity, especially if you are a gamer that enjoys games that connect with you on so many different levels, features very faithful recreations of popular film genres, and offers tons of value for the price! Look for The Filmmaker to be released in the upcoming weeks!


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