You’d think that a bunch of clowns are running the movie studios this year. All this talk of a drop in attendance was attributed to things like piracy and ticket prices. In my humble and possibly wrong opinion, the reason was because the movies sucked. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to. Finally, we moviegoers are given some (fictional) power as The Movies puts you in charge of a studio. Everything from the actors to the layout is at your control, and if that isn’t enough, you’re also given the ability to make your own movies through a movie-making feature. It all sounds very ambitious, but does it just end up as more cinema hype that doesn’t deliver, like “The Island?”
The game starts off in an empty movie lot during the 20s. People were still a little skeptical of films at this time, and the technology was especially limited. Remember, this was the age of silent films and no color. With a nice chunk of cash to start off with, it’s up to you to put your studio on top and maintain it as the years go by.
Hey, where’d that building go?
One of the most noticeable things about The Movies is the streamlined heads-up-display. There’s hardly anything on the screen aside from a button that opens up the building options, a list of workers on the side, and a couple buttons on top. Added to this simplified approach is the guidance you receive when picking up a character. Paths appear that mark the best places for your character to go, which is helpful because it removes all the guess work usually involved in maintaining your staff in games like this. These simplifications work very well considering the game can get complex at times, but more on that later.
There are plenty of things to consider when you’re the head of a movie studio. An important thing is the lot itself. Buildings need to be connected via paths and catering needs to be readily available. Hollywood is known for its celebrities, but the common people are just as important here. Builders, janitors, screenwriters and movie crews are the backbone of the studio.
Admiral Ackbar says “IT’S A TRAP!”
Dealing with all of this is relatively easy since most of the workers do their own thing and they do it well. Micromanagement comes into play with the actors and actresses. Imagine the residents of The Sims, only this time they’re much more needy, jealous and egotistical. You have to deal with their salaries, images, relationships with other stars, and many other things. It can be intimidating at times, but all of the actors’ needs can be identified through easy-to-read bars.
If you give one a raise, the others become dissatisfied with their pay. If you give one a nice trailer, the others will get jealous. If you let one relax in the bar too often, they may need to get checked into rehab if an addiction develops. These jabs at the nature of actors are definitely amusing, but finding the right balance is where the challenge comes in.
Patience is required in order to tolerate these brats, and sometimes they can grow on your nerves. Fortunately, appeasing the actors proves to be incredibly rewarding. The mood of the cast is just one of the things that affect the quality of the film. How much the crew has talked with each other also plays a role in the chemistry, as does the experience in each genre. Some actors are just naturally skilled in some of the five genres (sci-fi, comedy, action, romance and horror) but others need to work at it. You can train them on a corresponding set, or simply have them be in more movies.
The production values put “Enemy at the Gates” to shame.
However, much like “A History of Violence”, even a great movie can bomb at the box office. This is why it’s important to check the public’s interest, which is displayed when assigning writers to a genre. As the makers of the “Police Academy” series know, the public gets bored of the same thing over and over again. That’s why it’s important to spice up the actors and sets.
There are a lot of things to keep track of in The Movies, and it gets more complex as time progresses. The scripts become more complicated, so a much bigger cast is needed. Movies start taking longer to film, so the cast gets stressed more often. Advertising and PR are also eventually developed, so films take longer to release and the budgets are much higher.
Who said that older movies are supposed to be more sophisticated?
All of this management certainly isn’t for everyone, but those who enjoy the many nuances will find themselves rewarded. It really is a satisfying feeling when you rack up the awards at the ceremony held every few years. It’s also a pretty nice feeling when an actor from a rival studio wants to jump ship and work at yours. If dealing with the egotistical stars and starting off with a puny studio isn’t up your alley, then you might find some enjoyment in the sandbox mode. Here you can start off with lots of cash, a pre-made studio, and make it so the actors are always happy. This way you can just mess around at your leisure and work on some quality films.
Another incentive to succeed is to add new options to the moviemaking mode. When a movie is completed automatically, you’re able to watch it, but usually it’s incoherent and unintentionally hilarious, so making your own film is a worthwhile experience. You can record your own dialogue and choose from many animations to get the plot moving. Depending on how much you’ve played the game, you can unlock costumes, new technology and new sets. Best of all, you can upload the videos online and even check out what other people are doing. Although all of this isn’t the main focus of the game, it’s still a great way to spend some time.
There’s a trailer park in the middle of my studio.
The transition from the 20s to more modern times is effectively shown through the graphics and sound. Although the graphics aren’t groundbreaking, the various technology upgrades, such as camera improvements, are easily noticed while watching the movies. The lot itself doesn’t see as many changes, but the mood is there thanks to the different radio announcers. Everything from the Cold War to the 80s lifestyle is humorously lampooned throughout. The music is appropriately stirring, which adds a nice romanticized touch to The Movies.
The heavy micromanagement necessary in The Movies may not be for everyone, but it’s easy to see that this is a good game. There are enough unique touches so it never feels stale or derivative, even though parts of it may seem familiar to some gamers. It’s a lot of work maintaining a studio, but those that stick with it will find themselves having more fun than they’ve recently had this past year at the theaters.
Eight out of ten