I've done some bizarre things in pursuit of my gaming fix over the years. I kept my ZX81 RAM pack stable with a large blob of blu-tac, and spent hours working out the optimum volume for each game to avoid the dreaded "R Tape loading error" on the Spectrum. I blew dust out of SNES cartridges, and turned my moribund PlayStation upside down to help the wheezing laser read the discs. Yet I've never had to completely rearrange the furniture in my house and even change my clothes in order to almost get a game to vaguely work as it was intended. Until now.
You're In The Movies is a camera game for the 360; rather shockingly, it's the first commercial release to require use of the Live Vision peripheral since it was released two years ago. As the over-confident title makes clear, the idea is that you fanny about in front of the camera and the game then inserts your hilarious horseplay into a silly movie clip. It's a great idea, and one with immediately obvious appeal to the party-game crowd. It's just a shame that the technology isn’t up to the job.
Up to four people can play, taking it in turns to take part in camera-based mini-games. Sometimes the game will require two people to play at the same time, but it's mostly a solo affair designed to be played in a group. The motions you use to play the games are recorded, and will later be dropped into the movie in a different context. So in the game you may be hitting buttons to launch rockets at boats, but in the final film it'll look like you're a mad scientist activating some ludicrous apparatus.
As well as the minigames, you’ll also be asked to do some basic acting. The in-game director calls each player to stand in front of the TV and line up with an on-screen silhouette. Then you'll have to act shocked, scared or surprised. You may have to move in for a close-up and make kissy faces. Or maybe walk or run on the spot. After four rounds, the footage is chopped into whatever movie trailer you elected to make at the start. They're all purposefully cheesy, incorporating horror, sci-fi, action, disaster movies and "classics" - a catch-all title for various drama and romance stories.
It's a fairly long-winded process, though, and with four players it can take up to half an hour just to get to the incredibly brief pay-off at the end. There are loads of mini-games, but since they all revolve around a small handful of similar movements, repetition soon sets in. You can also expect to spend much of the game time sitting on the sidelines - which isn't always a bad thing, since it’s often more amusing to watch people doing this sort of thing than to actually do it yourself - but with no guarantee that all the footage will be used, the effort to reward ratio is unbalanced. It's also a bit stupid that you're forced to unlock the 30 movies as you go along, rather than simply having free rein to try everything from the start.
However, You're In The Movies is a social game, so these quibbles aren't too damaging in the short term. What is damaging is the simple fact that the game's key concept – that you’re in the movies – is fundamentally broken. The Live Vision camera was hardly state-of-the-art back in 2006, but here it's being asked to do things far beyond its meagre capabilities [or indeed any camera's, as noted by Sony's Eye Toy team - Ed.].
Your image is captured by having everyone step out of the frame in the "cutout studio". The game then analyses the background and when you step in front of the camera, it removes everything that isn't you and replaces it with an in-game backdrop. But it doesn’t work. The software is too easily confused, and the hardware too cheap, to ever produce a satisfactory effect.