Lionhead's anticipated and innovative movie maker simulation finally arrives - is it a true blockbuster or storm-out-in-disgust rubbish? Let's find out...
PC, PS2, Xbox, GCN
Beware of The Space-Chickens! In space nobody can hear their clucking! You may scoff, but this was a huge hit of mine back in the 1960s starring the charismatic Will Erol, who remained loyal to my studio right up until the day that he retired a movie legend.
As you can probably tell, The Movies is something special. It takes all the unique elements we enjoyed from the Theme Park series and throws them in the blender with a limited but excellent movie making package. In the style of the Bullfrog classics players are tasked with building their own movie empire, starting with the movie lot. In the familiar interface setup it's easy to place buildings around your lot such as sets, trailers and even a plastic surgeon - for those Drew Barrymores on your cast (shudder).
The most unique thing about The Movies' approach to the 'business empire' game is how it handles time. The game starts in the 1920's and slowly progresses in time, sort of like Doctor Who if his TARDIS picked up a flat tyre. At first you'll only be able to put out Charlie Chapman-esque efforts, but as the perils of time ravage your empire the environment will change and scientists will discover new technologies, as well as costumes and sets.
The Movies offers an devilishly immersive game experience. Juggling writing movie scripts, maintaining your lot and keeping your stars happy will have your head so wrapped up in The Movies that you'll be down Sainsbury's printing off business cards. This isn't exclusive to the more seasoned gamers among us either - inexperienced movie tycoons are helped along by the games simple and convenient interface. Clear markers help point out problems on the movie lot, whilst useful trails guide selected stars or movies to relevant buildings.
Simply put, the game has been designed so that the experience is as deep or as user-friendly as you would like it to be. Whilst scriptwriters will happily work away like monkeys on typewriters, if you're feel adventurous you can dive into the Advanced Movie Maker and create your own scripts. All those daydreams and pub chats are finally at your creative fingertips; Badass Badger Barbers 3 will finally get a movie deal, and make millions. Take that Warner Bros!
Things can get hectic very quickly in the world of The Movies; your snobby stars will soon moan for entourages and makeovers, whilst holding up movies because they're too 'stressed' to carry on. You could send them to their executive trailers, or off for a quiet drink at the bar, but personally I just fire their arses and get in new brighter, younger stars. Combine this with the problems we had involving a lack of builders and sets falling apart, and you could well have a movie tycoon style breakdown. How glamorous.
Those familiar with Microsoft Movie Maker from back in the day will feel immediately at home amongst the buttons and dials of The Movies' Advance Movie Maker. The process essentially involves selecting from a massive list of pre-scripted scenes and then mashing them together in a movie script. Whilst this isn't the most in-depth piece of movie making software, even when compared to the previous Microsoft effort, the creative process becomes a lot more open when you move on to the editing room (which I will come to in a moment). However the player does have some choice in how their scenes play-out, a number of options are available per scene to change the actor's moods, camera angles and their location on the set.
Right, editing. This is the real meat, and indeed two-veg, of the movie making process. Once your script has been completed, perhaps involving a gripping love story about space-chickens which you shamelessly stole from the intro, then you can take it to the Editing Room. This most grand of rooms is where you can chop down your scenes, add music, sounds, voice-acting and subtitles. Cutting is useful if a part of a scripted scene isn't appropriate for your movie, for example one of my scenes had someone jumping over a rooftop and laughing. With the power of the editing room I could cut out the laughing, and put in some comedy voice acting as well, which is lip-synced perfectly by the way.
So as you can see, editing opens a plethora of options to the player who would otherwise be limited by the scenes on offer. The more creative people out there can make some wonderful movies with this game, as is proven by The Movies' website where players can upload their creations once they've finished. We here at Kikizo have created movies that can only be described as complete masterpieces, and we could even win some awards for our efforts very soon (shhh!).
The Movies is a really captivating, creative experience. There's enough game here from simply running your movie empire and building a pleasant movie lot; many an hour has been squandered managing the business and decorating the lot with new plants, before we even got around to the fantastic movie making package. That's the part of The Movies that will really defy time, the main game experience will only last a short while but players will surely mess around with movies and share them online for a many a year to come. I've had the pleasure of reviewing all of Lionhead's big-hitters this year, but this is probably its greatest achievement.
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