The Movies

by Tracy Whitelaw
author awarded score: 95/100

The Movies Review
Published By: Lionhead Studios
Developed By: Activision
Format Reviewed: PC
Review by: Tracy Whitelaw

So you’ve always wanted to be in the movies huh?Well now you can, thanks to Lionhead Studios and Activision it’s your turn to get a piece of the action and work your way up to movie mogul, having fun along the way and hopefully avoiding the casting couch. As a ‘sometimes’ reviewer there are some titles that you hear about and you think “I MUST review that title”, this is one game that I have personally wanted to play since it was first announced, now I’ve had the chance and I want to share it all with you. Very soon you’ll be humming ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ right along with me.

The game first starts with a tutorial. A female voiced narrator explains what you’re to do, the speech is also shown in a speech bubble so deaf and hard of hearing gamers will have no problems with the tutorial. Everything works in a step by step format, making it easy to get into. Things are done using the mouse in a point and click fashion and various icons will let you know how your stars are doing. The great aspect of this tutorial is that it doesn’t last forever. Nothing feels more daunting than a tutorial that confuses you and tells you at length every single aspect of the game. The Movies doesn’t scare you off, rather it is a friendly fun introduction to movie making and the point and click aspect works great.

Create your own studio by naming it and choosing a studio logo from those available. I chose a rather stylish Jackie O type logo, this was the flag flown above my newly built studio. The cool option of naming your studio does make you feel more involved in the game so take pride in your name as it’ll soon be showing at the beginning of every film you make.

The Movies Review

Your new studios life begins in the 1920’s and it’s up to you to build it from the ground up (figuratively and literally). You choose the buildings and place them where you want to, including paths etc. You also choose the workers who actually build your buildings. Anyone who is familiar with Theme Park or any of those types of games will immediately feel at home with this title. You’ll take pride and glee in watching exactly where you put every single shrub, seat and loo, all adding to your overall studio rating. Once the basics are in place, you can begin to hire staff. You’ll need a core group to get your up and running, some actors, a director, film crew, extras, janitors, builders and that’s pretty much it. For the first few movies, you’ll be given ready written scripts and you start casting, shooting and then finally it’s your big release. Don’t be disheartened that your first film isn’t a blockbuster, it takes time to make it in this town. Your reviews are likely to be fairly dire as is shown below with one of my first encounters with the press…
“The acting was more painful than gouging out your eyes with a spoon” The Hollywood Reporter.

Ah well may only be a small time hack at present but I have dreams and I will be the next female James Cameron in no time at all. As you continue playing, your studio grows as you add more detail to it and get more sets, this improves your studio rating. You’re pitted against the other bigwigs in town who also run studios and the higher up the ladder you get, the better the chance of winning some of those much coveted awards. You can win awards for various things in the game, studio prestige, best actor, best film and so on but it takes a while to win these. You are given set tasks to accomplish that enable you to unlock even cooler additions to your studio lot, these come in the form of certificates that set you goals such as releasing 5 movies, earning a certain amount, obtaining a particular level of stardom and more. This helps you progress through the game and it adds to the overall desire to work your actors and actresses harder.

The Movies Review

A word of caution regarding your stars, they can be total pains in the butt at times! They start off happy, enjoying their new found jobs and exposure, but all too soon they’ll be demanded an entourage, a trailer and any other perks that you can throw their way. They get stressed, they’ll develop alcohol addiction or food addiction, they’ll walk off set and by God they will throw tantrums, but this is just part of what makes The Movies so brilliant. The trick is to try to keep your actors busy, give them things to do when they’re not working. You can put a bar, restaurant, rehab centre, basketball court and more on the lot so that they’re continually occupied. You need to balance their egos with their bank balance and make sure you’re paying them enough for them not to have a hissy fit but not too much that they’re heads become so big they won’t fit through the door. In this game you will be constantly juggling different aspects of gameplay. You’ll be developing your characters skills and stardom ratings, managing your studio lot, balancing your finances, reading reviews to see how you can improve and editing movies. Yes, I did say editing movies. As if the game doesn’t have enough depth already, you can actually make and edit your own scripts, movies and soundtracks.

As you progress further in the game, you will open up areas that allow you more creative control over the movies you’re producing. You can write your own scripts, develop your own films and choose minute details such as sets, props, costumes, music and speech. The black and white early days of film will develop through early colour right up to modern day coloured film and as this happens, your scriptwriters, directors and stars will improve, grossing you more money for your studio. This game has aims all over the place and to a certain extent it’s up to you how to play it. You can focus solely on reaching your goals and progressing through tasks or you can spend time developing friendships and studio style, working on your own little masterpieces in the editing room. Whatever road you choose to take, you’ll find yourself completely immersed in all aspect of The Movies.

The Movies Review

One aspect of The Movies that is worth its own section is the addition of ‘Star Maker’.
On your desktop you’ll see the option for ‘Star Maker’, this allows you to make your own actor or actress from scratch. You get to name them and then make them by appearance including every little detail you can imagine, even age, which is amazing as you slide the gauge along and see your creation age by the second. For the truly pedantic you can even do advanced face modelling so if you have a specific face in mind, you can make them. I decided to make Angelina Jolie, Gillian Anderson and Ali Later and I have to tell you, they all looked really like them. You can also adjust your stars personality including various addiction thresholds and other attributes. This is like every megalomaniacs dream come true. You are God, you do rule your world and you have all the power you could ever need.

Both male and female gamers are going to love this title. You can have female construction workers if you want to as there’s male and female workers for any job. There’s no sexism in this game because if you want your female character to be the hero or the traditional male romantic lead, do it. She may end up having a male name in the credits but does it really matter? This game is completely open to the female gamer. You’re not at any disadvantage here and if you want your two female characters making out in a film do it. Nobody can stop you muhahahahahahaha. It’s all up to you! This is fantastic.

I have to mention the sound on this game also. It’s brilliant. The background music alters dependent on the situation you’re in and in relation to the movie you’re working on. If you have an old silent movie, the music is the traditional piano playing along to the images on screen. Also, the general sound effects such as the studio radio, the news broadcasts (which alert you to possible news events that you can benefit from) and even the voice acting is just superb. The deaf gamer or hard of hearing gamer won’t be at any disadvantage playing this game. Everything is conveyed in speech and in speech bubbles.

What can I possibly say negative about this game? Well....... if I say it’s completely addictive could that be considered negative? No? Damn. I am really finding it hard to think of anything. The only problem I had was at one stage my director and actress got into a strop and I did everything I possibly could to get them back onto the set and working but nothing happened. It went on for years and I just couldn’t work out how to fix it. Because they were tied into this particular film I was making, I couldn’t release any other movies and my money dwindled away to nothing. It was darn near impossible to compete with the other studios at this time so I just scrapped the game and went back to my last save. I learned from my mistakes though and I won’t do it again.

The Movies Review

Overall, The Movies is well worth the wait. It’s an outstanding combination of character development, simulation, strategy and creative genius. You can tickle every gaming bone in your body with this game and it’s one that most people will easily be able to pick up and play. The control system is easy to use and doesn’t have you fiddling around for keys. You can control everything from a few clicks of your mouse and you can get as involved in the game as you want to. Lionhead are also setting up ‘the Propshop’, an online area where you can buy downloadable content with credits earned from uploading your movies to their site, lovely. I implore anyone with a PC to buy this game as it is one of the only games for some time that has had me whooping, hollering and clapping at the screen. You won’t regret buying this but you will regret that you no longer have time in your day for anything else. Make sure you set aside as much time as you can to play this, you’ll need it to become the next big thing in Hollywood. Bravo!

I really wanted to score this 10 out of 10, but is ANY game truly perfect? The only reason this isn't getting a 10 is because this sort of gameplay is not going to be for everyone, for me it's a dream come true. I'm giving it a 9.5 out of 10!