You're In the Movies Review
The core of You're In The Movies is sound, but technology woes and a reliance on repetition really get in the way of the fun.
You're In The Movies is a clever concept, but its appeal is fleeting. Using your Xbox Live Vision camera to create goofy little movie trailers that the game assembles via a series of camera-based minigames ended up being fun around three times. Once I had made three trailers, I realized that the only way I'd ever have lasting fun with You're In The Movies was to keep introducing it to new people and having some vicarious fun through them. Or I could start playing it naked. With four-player support, nude play might make for an interesting time, but even the most inventive nudists could probably get by with a mere rental.
The concept is simple, but effective. You and up to three players participate in a series of minigames that have you pointing, swatting at on-screen objects, pretending to run, and other big motions. They're all played with the Xbox Live Vision camera, so you'll see yourself on the monitor, swatting and gesticulating away. You'll also be asked to emote in various ways in a non-game setting so the game can capture you laughing, looking confused, and so on. Then all of these recorded clips are compiled and shoved into a brief movie trailer, as if you and your three friends are (wait for it) in the movies.
The game comes with 30 such clips, most of which are locked when you first get the game up and running. You'll also earn the ability to cobble together your own pieces. The film you choose to make at the beginning, of course, dictates which minigames you'll play, which expressions you'll be asked to make, and so on. The different trailers are nicely ridiculous and play off of movie trailer stereotypes pretty well, including obvious-but-solid bits like the 50s monster movie that features a large, superimposed lizard on-screen as the "monster." You'll find a smattering of different genres throughout, and though none is available as of this writing, the game appears to have hooks in it for downloadable additions.
With 30 flicks to choose from, there's kind of a lot of content to create, but there aren't enough minigames to keep you hooked from start to finish. So the act of creating a trailer, which takes around 20 minutes for four players to complete, gets repetitive quickly. Of course, if you want to invent your own fun, there's more to be had by totally ignoring the annoying director's instructions. Deadpanning during shots where you're supposed to act outrageous ended up being one of my favorites, and there's always the ol' "give the camera the middle finger" trick. Any of these make the resulting trailer weirder and a little more fun to watch because it gives the whole thing a Mad Libs feel, where you just act how you want and see it all come together in ways that make zero sense. As "pretending" to be an ass is my specialty, ignoring the game's orders is how I had most of my fun with the game.
Unfortunately, a lot of the fun things about You're In The Movies come crashing down due to the extremely temperamental nature of the technology at work. The game first asks to take a picture of your empty background. Then, remembering what it looks like when empty, the game attempts to find you and cut you out, making sure that you can appear on screen while removing everything behind you. It's very particular, then, about making sure that nothing changes in that background. If the lighting changes, or if you bump the camera, the whole thing is totally boned. On top of that, getting it to properly recognize you and cut you out from the background properly feels like a real chore. I've had success with other camera games at home in the past, but this one is harder to get working than anything I've used in the past. Even on the pro-grade green screen in our studio--which is made for this exact sort of thing--the cut-out didn't look so great. So if you play games in a room with challenging lighting or a cluttered backdrop that you're not willing to clear out, you'll probably never get it quite right. Again, if you subscribe to the whole "worse is better" theory of comedy, recording movies with missing stomachs and heads can be kind of funny.
Annoyingly, there doesn't seem to be a game-only version of You're In The Movies. It's only available as a package with the camera for $69.99. If you already have a camera, you're faced with either buying another one or hunting used bins for a separate copy. If you're already in the market for a camera, the bundle is a bit more attractive, but even if you consider the game to be the discounted item instead of the camera, you're still paying too much.
There are neat ideas at work, but ultimately, the premise and structure of You're In The Movies is a little too thin to recommend. If you're going to be getting a rowdy group together, and you're patient enough to get the camera working, it can make for a fun evening or two. But the thrills don't last.