Blockbuster Inc. Review – Busting makes you feel good

Blockbuster Inc. is a worthy callback to The Movies, and other classic sim games.
blockbuster inc review gameplay

There have been countless moments in my life where I’ve wistfully sighed, looked into the distance, and said, “Do you remember The Movies?” Surprisingly, more often than not, the folks in my presence react in shock. Of course they remember The Movies. The Movies ruled. “Why hasn’t anyone done anything like The Movies?” And lo and behold, here comes Blockbuster Inc. to fill a much-needed void.

In Blockbuster Inc. you are an aspiring filmmaker with a pocketful of cash, a bare plot of land, and a head full of dreams. You don’t just want to start a movie studio – you want to create the best movie studio, filling your land with towering but profitable sets, and staff worth their weight in gold.

As a touchpoint, Blockbuster Inc. certainly fills the void left by The Movies – it allows you to run a studio, and fashion its future in any way you like. But it also adopts elements from the modern Two Point Hospital/Campus series, to great effect. As you establish your studio and begin producing films, for example, you’ll need to monitor the needs and desires of your flock of staff – movie stars, writers, producers, and directors.

They’re not overly fussy, but you will need to keep them happy by upgrading their lodgings, providing them with increasingly better quality food, and ensuring they have access to leisure and downtime between major shoots. With these elements, you have the flavour of life sim gameplay mixed in, for an all-encompassing movie-making sim with just the right amount of complexity.

blockbuster inc gameplay
Screenshot: GamesHub

You will need a leg up to get your studio coffers growing – you can start on easy, medium, or hard modes, with each defined by the amount of starting money you get – and once you learn the intricacies of Blockbuster Inc. you can really get the ball rolling.

To kick off your journey, you’ll choose an era between the 1920s and 2010s to establish your home studio. In each era, certain technologies and film themes will be limited, with each decade bringing new options to unlock. I chose to begin in the 1990s, at the height of action cinema (you get points to unlock each decade’s technology if you start later in the game’s timeline) and set about achieving one goal: to form the greatest action movie studio of the era.

The road to begin was rocky. Even choosing to play on easy mode, with a significant early money boost for my studio, I quickly found myself in debt. You really need to start small and profitable, and Blockbuster Inc. makes this difficult – as your early films will be genuinely terrible, with poor sets, and low quality film making all around. You can spend your time educating staff and building their skills, and then unlocking new technologies and studio features to help, but it’s a slow process. You’ll need to be patient.

Don’t do what I did, and waste all your money on extravagant sets, only for the talent to tank your debut features. You’ll lose a bunch of money, end up in loan debt, and your stars will be kicked out of their homes, making them unhappy and therefore worse at their jobs.

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Blockbuster Inc. rewards a more patient playthrough, with profits arriving over time, and only after understanding the many interlocking systems of the game.

If you start by filming TV episodes, you can build up your revenue base, and then eventually release higher-quality and larger films that form the basis of your studio’s reputation. You’ll even get to tackle writing and production duties, determining what sorts of films you’re making, who’s acting together, what action is taking place, and how the camera will move.

blockbuster inc gameplay
Screenshot: GamesHub

The controls here are fairly limited, and it’s unclear how much your direction actually influences the final score of your film, but spending time pairing your actors together, inventing a plot in your head, and directing the drama of each scene is still a lovely little activity. Some imagination is handy in these mechanics, as they can be dry – but watching it all come together as actors film scenes together remains a joy, regardless.

It’s a lot like playing with a dollhouse, watching your tiny little friends running around your studio lot, heading to catering, lounging, and eventually filming scenes together to make movie magic. It won’t always be magic, and plenty of my early films had scene scores in the 30-40 range, but with patience, training, improving sets, and unlocking new themes for films, the world is your oyster.

And at the end of the road, you have the Filmwood Awards to look forward to – a ceremony where your greatest achievements are honoured, and you can begin to build your prestige.

Blockbuster Inc. let me live my pirate production dreams

Perhaps my proudest moment arrived in the middle of my studio’s dominant reign. I really, really wanted to forge a new blockbuster, and had saved up the $5 million required to do so. It was to be a pirate epic, titled The Gifted Dinner, and I was certainly it would be my crowning achievement.

I devoted time to script writing with my best, most educated writers. I shot and reshot scenes until they were hitting the 80s in score. I directed every scene. I had my best post-producers creating wondrous visual effects for the adventure.

When it finally launched, it achieved rave reviews, and an audience score in the low 80s. Not only that, it became a commercial success, nabbing me $50 million in its first week on sale. That year, the film won Best Movie at the Filmwood Awards, and Best Actor for my chosen hero. My studio was also named Studio of the Year, and Most Profitable, lending me more fans and prestige to help my rise.

awards blockbuster inc.
Screenshot: GamesHub

What I noticed at the top, however, was that I had become too big to fail, in a way that did lightly derail the challenge of Blockbuster Inc. Having such a rampant success with The Gifted Dinner – which was earned over hours and hours of building up my studio – meant I was free to do whatever I liked. I had no more loans. My actors were well-treated, and my studio was well-stocked with extravagant sets and rooms for leisure. I could focus on whatever vanity project I wished.

But it all started to feel empty. Like I’d conquered a mountain, and my journey was over. This, as of writing, is the only major bugbear I had with Blockbuster Inc. While it remains tightly-focused and challenging in its opening stages, and you’re required to make tough early decisions to keep your studio afloat, once you have a few successes under your belt, and your wallet is flush, there are very few challenges that remain.

You will get random events that pop up and derail your plans – PR disasters for your chosen actors, studio subterfuge, offers to sell off your most popular IP – but Blockbuster Inc. feels breezy after a certain point. You can spend time unlocking new technologies and film genres for your studio, but after you’ve earned Best Movie and Studio of the Year accolades, there’s not a whole lot of dazzling newness beyond this.

On top of the mountain, you can gaze at your lands and behold their beauty. But if you’re looking for a greater reward, or a reason to strive further towards the horizon, Blockbuster Inc. won’t quite satisfy your deepest desires. With hearty sim gameplay that still provides plenty of hours of rewarding complexity, it remains a fantastic spiritual successor to The Movies – but it does feel like it should comprise higher mountains to climb.

Four stars: ★★★★

Blockbuster Inc.
Platform(s): PC
Developer: Super Sly Fox
Publisher: Ancient Forge
Release Date: 6 June 2024

A PC code was provided for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are rated on a five-point scale.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.