Hollywood Animal keyart
Image via Weappy Studio

The Hollywood Animal demo looks like a blockbuster in the making

Ticket sales at any cost.

One of my most anticipated games coming this year is Hollywood Animal. It has you run an up-and-coming movie studio, submerges you into a pool of complicated and morally bereft staff, and allows you to deal with problems using underhanded methods. Just like real life (maybe).

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The only thing that keeps me from claiming Hollywood Animal as my most anticipated game is that it seems like it might be attempting too much. There are so many variables at play and so much customization that it feels it would be complicated to ensure everything works together without a litany of bugs, cuts, and feature creep.

If the rather hefty demo shows anything; Weappy Wholesome has managed to do it.

Hollywood Animal Film lot
Image via Weappy Studio

Hollywood Animal starts off with you purchasing a bankrupt studio and making it your own. I won’t question how you came up with the funds. You select a logo and a name (I went with Middling Pictures) and you’re ready to learn the business.

The tutorial is interestingly structured. You inherit a mostly completed film that the previous studio was unable to release before they went bust. It’s a banger film (Hollywood Animals actually outlines its plot, which is a nice touch), and all you need to do is put the finishing touches on it and get it out the door. This introduces you to the post-production and distribution phases of the business. The former of which is relatively straightforward and the latter is one of the most mysterious parts of the game.

While that movie is performing in the box office, you’re then guided to hiring staff. This process is vast, so it runs the risk of being overwhelming. To ease that, you’re mostly just provided with your staff and given the option to rename them. Then you’re on to improving the studio lot, scriptwriting, planning, filming, decision making, and very slowly you’re let off the leash. It’s probably a good thing that you’re started off with a blockbuster already in hand because your movies are going to suck for a while until you get everything in shape.

Even though there is a tonne of room for your own creativity, the fact that Hollywood Animals is about repeating the same process over and over would normally bring the risk of going stale. This is especially true since the game starts in 1929 and slowly advances through time with events that mirror real-world history. However, there are so many things thrown at you that keep things interesting.

One of the first that I was hit with was that the previous studio ownership promised the lead actor of the movie a share of the profits. Even though that star had passed away, as the new owner, I was supposed to honor it for their family. Except the family never read the contract, so screw that. I had my lawyer bury it. It then went into my secrets pile, which is a collection of events that are at risk of being discovered.

Sure enough, this backfired. The family found out. Thankfully, I was able to settle out of court which didn’t cost me all that much more than just honoring the contract would have in the first place.

Hollywood Animal Theatre Schedule
Image via Weappy Studio

In another instance, security alerted me that a crazed and unpredictable man was waving a script around outside the studio. He wanted to sell it, but no one could know what was actually in it. It was cheap, so I took the chance and bought it.

It turned out to be an incredible script. 8 stars out of 10 is a great foundation for a production. However, the Mayor of LA came to me asking to have his daughter put in a movie. She wasn’t an actor, but having a favor from the mayor in my pocket would be useful.

So, I used this incredible script to prop up this talentless hack that was thrust upon me. It was going to severely torpedo the quality of the picture, but so what? It wasn’t my script. I’d probably never see the guy again. It wasn’t my staff I’d be pissing off, so I might as well just wipe my ass with the script just to keep the mayor happy.

I should probably note that there seems to always be an honest way to deal with problems, but honesty never built a successful business.

Hollywood Animals Scriptwriting
Image via Weappy Studio

But it isn’t just random events that will be gluing your gears. Hollywood Animals wants to be sure that you know you’re working with humans. Simulated humans, sure, but they each come with their own egos, prejudices, and vices. Hell, I had a scriptwriter ask for time off to take care of their ailing mother, so they have families too.

You’re not just going to be handling HR. Sometimes casting will be complicated by preferences. Actors will occasionally refuse to take on a certain role that they feel is beneath them.

One major roadblock I had was trying to cast a woman in the lead role of a thriller. A surprising number of actors refused to act in a movie with a female lead. I wound up having to pay out the ass just to fill one particular role because no man would accept this.

Then, when I tried to release it in theaters, the critics tore it apart simply because of the woman in the lead role. Critics are scum. I strategized my advertising to target women and was still able to turn a sizeable profit. The 1930s can sup upon my ass. We’ll see who’s laughing when it gets re-evaluated in a few decades.

Hollywood Animal Coercion
Image via Weappy Studio

In another situation, an actor was offered a better contract by a competitor. Thankfully, we had dirt on him. I threatened to reveal that he slept with a 15-year-old and put a stop to that talk.

Your “security” office can be upgraded in a number of ways. The demo ends after roughly 2 hours, so I didn’t get to really get into some of the ways you can flex your poor moral fiber. However, the upgrade track escalates to straight-up assassination. Your opponents will try to get dirt on you and undermine your stars, so you can also use security to protect your secrets.

As I said, it’s a lot. There is just so much to Hollywood Animals. Considering it’s largely menu-based, there are a lot of things that could be abstracted. However, rather than just cover the basics, Weappy Wholesome went completely all out. From the way that you get to pick the movie poster and tagline for your movies or the weather and time of day changes on your lot, there’s just so much color that heightens the experience.

There is still the possibility that Hollywood Animals could fall apart later on in the game, but considering a release date hasn’t been announced and the demo is already polished to a mirror shine, I’m pretty convinced that isn’t going to be the case. It’s shaping up to be one of my favorite releases this year.

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Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.