While there are plenty of branded "advergames" (advertisements hidden behind usually shallow gameplay), it's rare that we find a branded game on either Facebook or smartphones that actually tries to be truly entertaining and keep players around for the long haul. Such is the case with Universal Movie Tycoon, a new freemium iPhone and iPad game that has been released to celebrate Universal Studios' 100 year anniversary.
The game is, as its name suggests, a tycoon title that asks you to build your own version of Universal Studios, where you can purchase scripts based on real world movies (Uncle Buck, The Fast and the Furious, The Big Lebowski, etc.) and then hire directors and cast members to actually film them. These in-game characters are fictional, but the movies themselves come with plenty of buttons allowing you to purchase them on iTunes (this is an advertising game, after all). Different movies take different amounts of time to film, and you'll be able to choose from a variety of set types based on the theme of the movie that you're filming. Of course, you have the freedom to set a romantic comedy in the middle of a high-tech lab, but you can also go for the more traditional small town if you'd like.
As you create films (films can even be "remade" over time, making it just like the real movie business!), you'll earn experience points that help you level up, and will be able to hire additional actors for your future pictures. You can use Movie Magic, the game's premium currency, to upgrade each actor's stats in various film genres so that their starring roles earn more profits for you, but this is of course voluntary. You'll also be able to use Movie Magic to speed up the filming process, or the building process of your movie sets or maintenance structures.
Overall, the only real things missing in Universal Movie Tycoon are social features. It's odd, as the pick-up-and-play gameplay within the title screams of the most basic mobile social games around, and yet there's no way to go visit your friends' movie sets or even add friends in the first place. What about the ability to hire your friends to star in your films? Or, the ability to ask your friends to your set to screen films pre-release? These seem like no-brainers, but are missing as of this writing.
Still, Universal Movie Tycoon is a polished little game with just the right amount of ads. Sure, you'll see iTunes buttons that suggest you purchase films, but these ads are fairly small for the most part and never really become annoying. If you're a movie buff who wants to take a very lighthearted trip through film development, you can now download Universal Movie Tycoon for free from iTunes.
Click here to download Universal Movie Tycoon on iTunes -->
Have you tried Universal Movie Tycoon? Compared to other branded games, how do you think this one stacks up? Is the gameplay solid enough to keep you coming back for more? Sound off in the comments.