IGN Review of Imagine Movie Star
Don't try and pretend you haven't fantasized about becoming a movie star. The perks are just too enticing to ignore. Fame, money, power, the ability to get out of speeding tickets…the list goes on. Unfortunately, not everyone is cut out to be an actor. It takes hard work and perseverance as well as a healthy dose of good looks and the all-illusive "it" factor. Ubisoft understands better than anyone how difficult it can be to break into the film scene, so they've decided to even the playing field with Imagine: Movie Star, a new Nintendo DS title that makes becoming the next big thing no big deal.
Movie Star begins by letting players sculpt their perfect celebrity from scratch, starting with the name. Be warned, though, the game is firmly and resolutely targeted at teenage girls and as such offers no option to create a male persona. It would have been nice if my manager would have mentioned that before I entered my name, but instead I became the first female celebrity with the decidedly masculine moniker of "Clint Dirkley." On the bright side, I no longer had to worry about not sticking out in a crowd of other actors.
The rest of the customization features are bare bones but at least give you some freedom when it comes to your celebrity image. Players are also tasked with dressing their character for success, though it's all a matter of personal taste. Finally, your manager asks what kind of movies you want to be in. Choose wisely as once you decide you can't change things up later in your career. Not that your choice really matters anyway, as the only differences affected by your genre focus are the titles of the movies you star in – a pretty disappointing letdown considering how much potential for gameplay and story variety this decision could have entailed.
Once you've perfected your self-image, the game proper begins. Your schedule can be accessed via your manager, and missions are accessed in an extremely linear manner. Complete one event on your schedule and move on to the next. Perhaps this truly is how real celebrities live their lives, but my limited experience with the lifestyles of the rich and famous (HBO's Entourage, mostly) would argue that they do what they want when they want. It would have been nice to be given a bit more freedom in choosing when or even what order to tackle the events, but there's sadly no option to do so, making the game feel more like a chore than an immersive simulation of the glamorous life of a movie star.
The events themselves fall into one of two categories. The first is a strange, initially jarring rhythm-tapping mini-game in the same vein as Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution. Essentially, various icons fall from the top of the screen until they pass a certain threshold at the bottom, at which point you just tap the icon with the stylus. The quality of these segments is wholly dependent upon the song you're forced to play in tune with, meaning you'll only really be enjoying yourself about a third of the time. The only things that change in these segments are the icons that cascade down the touch screen, like the cameras when you're walking down the red carpet or tiny little Oscars for when you're accepting an award. In addition, Movie Star doesn't include any licensed tracks, which is a big factor in what makes rhythm titles like Elite Beat Agents so much fun to play.
What's more, you'll be performing in this way no matter what kind of event you're attending. Sure, it makes sense to use the rhythm mini-game when your character has been invited to a swanky dance party, but not so much when you're giving an interview or going on a date with Hollywood's new leading man.
The other style of event is even more problematic. At one point early on during your celebrity's career, your manager forces you to start your own clothing line. From this point forward, the game alternates between the DDR-style rhythm games and putting together new outfits based on certain criteria handed down from the fashion firm sponsoring you. Calling this "gameplay" is a bit of a stretch, as you're essentially just clicking specific pieces of clothing that fit with the requirement. Reading the words "long skirt" and then selecting the long skirt isn't exactly a compelling way to play, especially after the tenth or eleventh time.
Additionally, I suggest the development team take a moment to look up the definition of the word "design." Players don't literally create their own clothing line as they would in Imagine: Fashion Designer, but rather pick and choose arrangements from the styles of clothing already unlocked. I'm sorry, but selecting pre-existing clothes from a line-up and putting them together does not make you a fashion designer. Trust me on this, I do it every morning when I pick out clothes from my closet and I've yet to receive a royalty check of any kind.
Imagine: Movie Star rewards successful completion of either activity with up to 1000 fans per event. Basically, accruing fans is Movie Star's way of doling out points to players, but naming them "fans" makes certain events feel awkward and out of place. I totally get why I would gain a bunch of fans for winning an award, but why am I garnering the same amount of admirers for a successful date? It's inconsistencies like these, however small they may be, that add up to ultimately break the illusion for gamers.
Speaking of building a fan base, most players won't have any trouble at all maxing out their throng of followers by the time they star in their second film and the narrative reaches its conclusion. Even playing on normal (easy is the default difficulty), getting all 1000 fans for each event is pretty simple, and the clothing segments offer absolutely no challenge at all regardless of your difficulty settings. Completing the game does unlock a hard mode, but the linear nature of the story means not many gamers will actually want to play through a second time.
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