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The Movies is a terrific game that was released in 2005 and cast the player in the role of a movie mogul charged with running a movie studio and creating successful films. The management side of the game challenged you to build and run a studio lot, creating sets and facilities for cast and crew, and keeping your finances in the black. The game also allowed you to take on the role of director and create your own movies using a template system, which allowed you to select sets, characters, and specific scenes. It spawned a lively community of film makers who uploaded and rated each other’s productions.
The game was in development for four years, and the basic idea was inspired by the 1997 game Hollywood Mogul. Despite rumours of poor sales - which put a stop to console ports of the game - this was very well received by fans and critics alike. An expansion pack called The Movies: Stunts and Effects was released in 2006.
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As a studio owner, your first task is to choose a name for your studio and select a logo to match. The game begins in the 1920’s, starting you out with limited funds and an empty lot. Controls are intuitive, and sets and buildings are selected and placed for construction with a few easy clicks of the mouse. At first the lot seems like a huge expanse, but you’ll soon find yourself struggling to fit in all the sets you want to build, and it can become like a jigsaw puzzle towards the end of the game.
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Hiring and Managing Staff
You need to hire a range of staff, including builders to construct your new buildings and sets and maintain existing ones as well as janitors to keep the studio looking nice and clean. Of course you'll need scriptwriters, actors and actresses, a crew, directors and even scientists to research new options for sets, scenes, props and costumes.
Staff can be given raises, and your acting and directing talent have to be nurtured and moulded if you want them to pick up awards at the periodic awards ceremonies. Each of your actors and directors have personality traits which can make them a real handful to deal with. While it is tempting to allow them to blow off steam by downing a few at the bar after a shoot, it can lead to alcoholism and frequent absences, which unfortunately eats into your production schedule. You can also choose clothes for your stars, develop their relationships with each other, and even send them for a spot of plastic surgery.
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Scripts can be produced by the scriptwriters. As you progress, larger scriptwriting offices and developments in research allow for bigger films and more complex subject matters. You can also choose to make your own scripts, and this is where much of the fun comes from. Whether you want to remake a classic or invent a new story, the tools are at your fingertips, and it will take several hours of gameplay before you have exhausted the possibilities.
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Once you have a script ready to shoot, you have to select the various players. This is easily achieved by click-dragging them, as each character can be picked up and dropped wherever you want them. Once the movie is complete, you can do various post production edits as well as PR and marketing before you release the movie to see what the public reaction is.
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The art style is cartoony, and there are many touches of humor in the game coupled with an incredible array of content. Graphically it is quite impressive as you zoom in from your God view and swivel around with ease. The movies themselves can include various special effects and filters, so sitting back to enjoy your final releases which run in cinematic style is great fun. There are also hundreds and hundreds of animations in the game and a huge choice of costumes. The production values are very high and the game has a terrific polished aesthetic.
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The music, sound effects and voice-overs are really excellent. Each era of the movies is accompanied by a radio announcer who discusses various issues of the day in comedic fashion, some of which can have an impact on what films will be popular at the box office. Starting with the foppish 20’s announcer - who doubts these moving pictures will ever catch on - to the anti-communist 50’s announcer or the laidback and sarcastic 80’s announcer, the voiceover work is really superb and adds laughs aplenty to the action.
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The gameplay is finely balanced and this offers a satisfying challenge. The difficulty curve ramps up perfectly and the fact that the early period of filmmaking is sparse in terms of options helps you to get the hang of the game before the multitude of sets, costumes, and scenes explode into a vast array of choices. All of the menu systems and control mechanisms are intuitive and easy to master.
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The Movies is a superb game with a high level of polish and a great replay factor. It offers a wealth of content, and while the business simulation side of things is familiar, the ability to create your own movies is a welcome new development. You can pick this up for a budget price now, and if you’ve never tried it I strongly recommend you get your hands on a copy. It is easily one of the best tycoon style games ever made.