The Movies Review

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Graphics: 8.5
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 9.0
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 8.7
Review by John K.
With tons of tycoon games being released lately, the question of whether we need yet another came to mind when Lionhead Studios announced The Movies, where players must build and maintain a movie studio while making their own films. Although a tycoon game has never been made where a movie studio is run, many were still skeptical as to whether the legendary Peter Molyneux could pull it off successfully—but their fears were misplaced, as it seems Molyneux has hit the gaming jackpot twice this year; once with Black and White 2 and now with The Movies.

The Movies opens in the 1920s and players receive a large empty studio lot and $150,000 to start them off. The first thing players must do is hire some staff for the Staff Office, and get some builders for their lot. From here on, players can build almost anything that comes to mind with regard to the words ‘movie studio’, from Casting and Production Offices, to various Sets to shoot movies on. After players build a Scriptwriting Office and hire a scriptwriter or two, the scriptwriters can be put to work on writing a Comedy, Horror, Romance, Sci-Fi or Action movie. Once a script is finished, the cast of the movie must then be chosen at the Casting Office, and then the gathered crew can start rehearsing the script, after which the movie begins shooting.

Like any tycoon game, The Movies is based on a drag-and-drop principle, where buildings and other items have to be placed on the lot strategically because your lot’s attractiveness counts. Players’ studios get a rating based on their capital, lot attractiveness, hired movie stars, and quality of their resulting productions. At the beginning of the game there are 5 competing studios but, as the game progresses, more rival studios open to make the player’s life even more difficult.

When movies are being made, a temporary rating—out of a maximum 5 stars—is given to the script. Each star has 5 segments for a single rating, so ratings are subsequently incrementally increased with a one-fifth minimum. When the actors are finished rehearsing the script, a second temporary rating is given to the movie, based on the actors starring in the movie and the first rating together. When the movie is done shooting, it then moves to the Production Office where the movie can be released and a final rating is given to it based on various elements such as script novelty, actor experience, and even crew experience. Players can view the movie from this screen and read some short media reviews to better help them improve their following productions. The quality of the movies also depends on what mood the actors are in, how experienced the crew is, whether the director gets along with the actors, and other small factors. Actors and directors can also grow stressed during the job, which results in them seeking comfort through drinking or eating. If players don’t pay enough attention to the eating and drinking habits of the actors and directors, an addiction can form and trips to a rehab center become necessary. It’s great to see that the progressive mood of the cast and crew has been thought through in such great detail.

As players progress through The Movies’ timeline and get closer to the present day, new technologies become available. Production Offices become available for adding subtitles, soundtracks, and voiceovers to your movies. As time passes, better Scriptwriting Offices also become available for purchase as well, so stronger scripts can be written, which in turn results in movies with better ratings. New technologies can also be researched in the Lab, so that, over time, players can make full-color movies with higher quality features.

After some time, a Custom Scriptwriting Office becomes available, where players can write their own scripts based on standard shots and actions. At first glance, this feature seems a little shallow, but it’s surprisingly deep. Players can make sophisticated movies with the Custom Scriptwriting feature, but must be careful that the movie isn’t too long for the current cast or they will get fed up and wander the lot during shooting. The custom scriptwriter is basically a drag-and-drop timeline for preset scenes, and they are automatically linked to each other. This is not where the custom scriptwriter ends though; if players want to gain total control of the movie they can change details such as lighting, backdrops, and camera angles. Though this may not appeal to all players of The Movies, it’s an extremely decent feature that gives players considerable control over their masterpiece in the making.

In the Sandbox mode players can create movies without having to worry about competing with other studios and maintaining a good studio rating. This mode seems to be in place for people to just express their creativity and produce great movies, after which they can export the movie to common video formats, or even upload the movie for others players to see and judge. Publisher Activision has already announced upcoming award shows for productions made within The Movies, where players can win actual real-life prizes.

Graphically, The Movies is reminiscent of EA’s popular series, The Sims. The models are realistic and, when viewed up close, everything looks extremely strong. But the real stunner here is that the game’s zoom function can be used to go from up-close to bird’s-eye in one swift motion—without any loading whatsoever. This is particularly interesting when players want to watch a scene that is being shot, without having to lose the ability to manage the studio properly. The movies made by players as they progress through time vary from grainy 1920’s black and white productions to beautiful full-color epics.

The music in The Movies also evolves depending on which chronological era the player is in; the disc jockey on the accompanying radio station playing over general gameplay also duly changes, which is a solid addition. The music varies from big band to funk, and this seems to keep the music from becoming monotonous. After sound is added to movies, the acting dialog plays in character gibberish, comparable to The Sims’ language. Sound effects are true to the Hollywood style, and directors will yell “Action!” and “Cut! That’s a wrap!” during shooting to notify the player of the progress made.

The Movies is a truly amazing game and Lionhead Studios deserve a lot of praise for it. There is no other game like it on the market, which proves that Peter Molyneux never ceases in his ceaseless search for innovation. Running your own studio can certainly consume a lot of time, but everything remains fun and rewarding throughout, especially when your movie becomes a box-office hit.