The Movies
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-12-19 PC Simulation Activision / Lionhead Studios

From running a movie theatre in Cinema Tycoon to making my own flicks in The Movies... Being a control freak in the entertainment business doesn't get any better than this!

The basics of the game start with lot planning and building. Only a few buildings will be available at first, so arrange them in a way that leaves you room for other things. Planning ahead adds to your lot's popularity, so make sure everything is connected by paths (but don't make large paved areas), place enough restrooms and snack vans, add some landscaping objects and make sure there are a few things your stars can be entertained with. Hire enough janitors to keep your grass green and your litter in the bins and enough builders to build and repair your facilities.

Once you get the Research Lab, you'll be able to hire some researchers and unlock new sets and buildings. More sets and new technology help keep your movies interesting.

You have full control over your crew. People will line up at the different offices to become stars, crews, researchers or maintenance staff. It's up to you to pick the most suitable for each task. Hiring someone is a click and drag process, with a twist for custom-made stars. If you have created your own with the Star Maker tool, every time someone is at the casting office waiting for a job you can drag them to the "Import Star" room and pick one of those you have created. No more Mr. Ugly in a movie, you can make everyone as gorgeous as you want, with the advantage of giving them acting experience in some categories and other useful. Make sure you explore all the options in the Star Maker, it really is a powerful tool.

Keeping your stars happy is as important as producing movies. As they become more popular, they will want more commodities, such as their own trailer and assistants. To hire an assistant, drag any of the job applicants (except stars) and place them near a star. Keep in mind though that hiring someone to be an assistant will leave you less people to hire for other jobs. The good thing is, when a star is about to retire, you can grab their assistants and promote them to stars or directors, since they will already have experience in the business.

Stars also want to keep up with the latest fashions and worry a lot about their image. The first step after hiring someone is to give them a makeover. Pick something they're happy with and that's fashionable, since only much later you will have access to plastic surgery. Yes, just like in real life, movie stars can get a facelift, implants and liposuction. This will help keep their looks and physique in shape, and sometimes checking one of your stars you will find little messages like "Maria Stuart, age 70, looks 54."

Since apparently movie-making is a stressful ordeal, your stars and directors will eventually get stressed out from working. Some will turn to food as comfort, others will drink themselves stupid. When someone becomes too much to bear, throwing tantrums (they actually do) and spending precious time in the bar while the crew is waiting to shoot a scene, it's time to place them in rehab. Unfortunately, you can only have one person per clinic at any given time, so it's a good idea to build a couple.

Drunken celebrities are also good publicity stunts. If you find one of your stars is staggering around your lot, place them at the studio gates and drag the photographers to them. Instant publicity! Although it does annoy the actors a bit, it usually raises their star rating.

Stars and extras that aren't busy can be placed in sets that aren't in use for practicing a certain movie genre. You can also place stars next to each other so they get acquainted. Both of these actions will improve their future performance on set.

The Movies is not only perfect for the micromanagement fanatic like me, but also for all those with a creative side. The custom script creator is just the right tool to spread your wings in the movie business.

You pick your actors and their costumes, choose the sets, customize the scenes including weather and lighting effects, choose the backdrop and add some props to decorate the set. There is a small issue with the props though: if the set has raised terrain, the objects will sink in instead of staying visible on the surface.

While a scene is still being shot you can doubleclick on the respective set to make a few more changes: pick from a selection of camera angles and add more emotion to the scene. It's funny to see how more or less romance in a scene goes from hand kissing to passionate smooching.

Later on you can customize your movie even more In the Post-Production Office, where you can even add your own music, voice acting fade-ins or fade-outs and subtitles.

I was overwhelmed with this game right from the beginning and have now played through five decades of "Didi Productions" movie-making. Makes me wonder how far the technology and advancements will go... I'll let you know when I find out.

Special thanks to Neil Wood at Step 3, Cathy Campos and Activision for providing a copy of this title.