Power Factory

If you haven’t heard of Digital Pictures’ “Make My Video” line of games, I can’t say I’m surprised. All four of them sort of fell from notoriety, probably because they weren’t very interactive or fun. I also don’t know why this title was renamed to “Power Factory,” distancing itself from the other Make My Video games. Not much information about these titles has been stored, but it seems that Power Factory was developed first, but released after the other Make My Videos. Despite the title change, the gameplay is exactly identical.

Hawked as one of the U-Direct games, Power Factory calls on you to “edit” C+C’s three top hits – “Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…” and “Here We Go Let’s Rock and Roll” Even if you’ve never heard of the group, you’ve probably heard one of the songs. If not, you will – over and over again. These three songs make up all of the gameplay and the majority of the content. You can either free edit them and replay your work (with the ability to save your last edit to the console for recall) or accept “editing challenges” to mix the videos to client specifications, like fast cuts or the maximum number of shots of Robert Clivill√©s. Yes, you’ll need to know the various members of the group because these tasks show up.

No, you can’t edit Martha Wash into the video as the lead vocalist.

However, the term “editing” is used a little freely. The game interface consists of three monitors at the bottom and a larger master monitor in the center. The three smaller monitors track simultaneous, linear video “feeds” and are mapped to the A, B, and C buttons. Pressing A routes the video from monitor A to the master viewer, where it is recorded. Whatever you see on that master monitor at any time will be the final outcome of your edit.

One of the three feeds is always C+C’s actual video for the song in question, while the other two are always stock footage of cartoons or random images. These are pre-timed to the songs, so when the lyrics talk about a “bear-skin rug,” you can switch to video showing a frontier cabin with a bear-skin rug. They also jumble the feeds three times during each song to ensure at the very least that you’re not asleep at the wheel. The intent becomes to shuffle these images around to create a hip-hop masterpiece that supplements the words with visual style.

But if you’re actually expecting to EDIT, you’re wrong. C+C’s video is simply one feed, so you can never remix it. The best you can do is insert different video while overwriting the original. The game more closely resembles a video switcher, or live directing. The three feeds run in sync from the beginning of the video and cannot be stopped, reversed, or edited themselves. The game becomes something of a reflex challenge to cut on a meaningful image, or will require a couple playthroughs to master at what time the images you want appear so that you can know to switch to them. But all feeds are also already timed to match the words of the song, so it’s virtually impossible to create a bad video, or at least one that doesn’t make sense. Even just tapping a button every five seconds produces something reasonably okay.

Look ma! I made my video!

Effects are managed through a panel in the upper-left corner. They do affect the video in real-time, and include basic effects like flips, slices, strobes, and color filters, with the ability to have multiple effects running at the same time. You navigate up and down with the D-Pad and switch an effect on with left or right. This is a problem in some of the editing challenges, where you’re expected to switch an effect on for only a specific scene lasting maybe four seconds. You’ll first have to shuttle through the list to find the specific effect, and won’t have the kind of frame accuracy required to shut the effect off the moment the feed switches to new video. Again, you can never pause the videos.

The plot, as it is, casts you as a newcomer to the fictitious music factory of the title. Music is “manufactured” here in a setup resembling a cross between a Detroit auto line and Hell. CDs literally roll down an assembly line, get placed on anvils, and are forged with tinfoil hammers by two overburdened linemen named Franklin and Darryl. They act as your buddies throughout the show, and play off each other for some mild humor between editing tasks. An evil corporate executive in a wheelchair, and some kind of demon lackey (the whole feel of these segments seems inspired by In Living Color) torment the three of you. It’s mostly forgettable, and these video sections really just act as segues to convey the requests of an editing challenge.

The videos all sound great and look passable. The audio is obviously CD-quality, and matches any album you could buy in the store. The video exhibits blocky compression artifacts throughout the program, made worse because C+C’s videos were either pure black on pure white (creating blue, blocky halos) or in the same kind of steamy factory as the character sections. Drifting smoke is compression’s natural enemy, and they battle quite a few times here. It is a bit of a novelty that you have free access to full versions of the three videos, and gave the pack a bit of value if you were a fan. This would have been your only option for instant C+C video gratification, unless you taped the video off VH1.

You also can’t replay a specific challenge – the one you get is always picked at random.

The major issue I have is that the editing interface isn’t tight enough to support the requirements laid upon you by the editing challenges. It’s decent enough to cobble together something YOU like in the freerun mode, but you can only beat the game by successfully completing enough custom edits. These truly require you to play through the videos first and time out when specific events occur. You can only do this by starting an edit and intentionally failing it – there’s no preview option. So, if someone doesn’t want to see the word “freedom” in your edit, you’ll have to watch multiple times and mark on your own notes each instance when the word appears. You’ll have to watch for six still frames, write down the time each of their clips appear, and then follow those notes to insert them on the real pass. This is becoming some real work, and successfully playing a reactionary game is impossible.

Ultimately, no matter what you do, the game will think your video is rubbish and send it back. I don’t have the personal fortitude and strength of will to hammer on one of these videos until I know I’ve matched the requirements right down to the timecode, so I’m not sure if it’s even possible to win. I can tell you it is impossible to tell what the game is grading you on. Does it know that the 1950s hula hoop girl is on the B feed at 1:23:07 to 1:23:11, and fail you if your video doesn’t match that time exactly? Does it give you a second of leeway? Does it count if you just quickly switch over to that clip for a half second? Does an effect have to be on for an entire clip? These are the kinds of questions that only the programmers would know, and the kinds that would help you if you knew the answers. Even if you pass a video, I doubt you’ll know precisely why.

I can’t decide if Power Factory was a bad idea or not. Editing popular music videos has some appeal, but not like this. The custom requests are a good way to put some game elements to editing, but you’re barely given the tools to complete them. Pre-synched videos make putting something decent together pretty easy, but meeting the challenges is incredibly difficult and you’re graded on an invisible scale. I’ll even give them some credit for roping a reasonably popular group to participate, and licensing three hit songs, but you’re extremely limited in your creative control. Even if you’re a total fanatic, the videos are the best part. You can watch those on your own anyway.


The Good

Great sound. Three complete videos from a major music group counts for something.

The Bad

Limited editing ability, and not much of a game here. On a side note, the box art is hideous.


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One thought on “Power Factory

  1. Good god…

    Also, if Ray Harryhausen’s “Sinbad of the 7 Seas” one-horned satyr/cyclops is NOT available as stock footage(?), the box art is not only hideous — but full of shenanigans.

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