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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Simulation

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Lionhead

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2005

 

 

- Perfectly on-theme all the time.

- Film making engine is fun and pretty powerful for this type of program

- The art design and overall production values are top notch

 

 

- A bit too much micro-management

- Sim-like elements are unoriginal and detract from the immersion in the game

 

 

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The Movies

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

The Movies by Lionhead Studios comes across as a mix between The Sims and Fill-In-The-Blank Tycoon.  Like the Tycoon games, players of The Movies are asked to micro-manage a large corporate entity, here a movie studio.  Running the studio involves doing everything from picking up trash through releasing a film.  Covered by the game engine are casting, shooting films, writing scripts, building sets, researching new film technology, costume design—really just about anything imaginable that is in any way related to building and running a film studio.  The Sims elements come in when dealing with cast and crew.  The “talent” must be kept happy.  This can be done by taking their minds off their worries (in a bar or maybe through training for a particular role), or giving them a makeover (image is very important to your actors), or introducing them to other stars.  All of the above must be handled correctly as things can go wrong: feuds develop between actors and directors, people become drunks or fat from too many hot dogs and need rehab, fashions change or actors/actresses grow too old for current fashion trends, etc.  Both the Tycoon elements and the Sim-like elements are handled very well, and the game as a whole is quite enjoyable.

 

the movies          the movies

 

Players start out with a tiny studio that is basically an empty lot.  At the game's start, it is only possible to write very basic scripts, build a standard sound stage, and make one-reel films.  However, a timeline at the top of the screen keeps track as time marches on.

 

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Historical events and scientific/film industry advances become available in time.  Eventually, players can build bigger and better sets, write more elaborate scripts, add state-of-the-art post-production touches, and simply make better films.  The early part of the game is a bit scripted (pardon the pun) as choices are few and the final films are short and stupid.  However, once the player gets control of the actual filming process, some really cool, funny movies can be made.  This is one of those games (like most business sims) that gets better as the game moves along.

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Having pretty much burned myself out on The Sims while preparing to review The Sims 2, I didn't get nearly as much enjoyment out of dealing with the actors and directors as I did running the production side of the studio.  Stars are incredibly whiny and require constant ego caressing to keep them happy.  That wouldn't be much of a problem if it weren't for the fact that unhappy stars make crappy movies—and sometimes even quit (taking most of the studio's Wild West film making experience with them perhaps).  I appreciated how well the people-simulation elements worked, but I think dealing with the “talent” took too much time and didn't add a lot of joy to the experience.  For my money, the game would have been a lot better without the Sims-like elements.

 

the movies          the movies

 

On a more positive note, a few small touches really added to the enjoyment for me.  First, I loved the awards ceremonies.  They happen roughly once a year (and continuously grow more elaborate) and I found myself really striving to win an award here and there (which was tough to do usually) .  I also loved the radio announcer whose updates on current Hollywood trends were not only funny but also helpful.  Both elements added a bit of realism while still being fun, something the complexity of dealing with the personalities of the actors and directors didn't do.

 

Of course, it is once the main game is over that the real fun of The Movies begins.  Once things are unlocked through playing the game, it is possible for the player to make nearly any film he or she can come up with.  A look at the The Movies website reveals just how powerful the film making engine is.  With enough effort, good ideas, and talent, amateur filmmakers can use The Movies to make some extremely good animated short films.  This gives The Movies nearly infinite replay value for those interested in machinima (animated films made from within a game engine).

 

I can easily recommend The Movies for fans of Tycoon games and for fans of computer animation looking for a fun, simply tool to make short films.  For my money, people looking for The Sims experience are better off getting it through The Sims itself as here the Sim-like elements just get in the way of the meat of the game.

 

- Danny Webb

(January 25, 2006)

 

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