The Movies is a Tycoon type game with many Simulation elements in which you are trying to become a movie mogul. First you'll have to build a studio, and hire employees of various types. Then as your studio creates movies, you'll be dealing with every aspect of the movies your studio produces.
This review is based on the Premiere Edition of the game. It includes a bonus DVD with some extra material along with a Premiere edition of the game booklet. Basic game play is not affected, but there is some additional information and items available to those who own this edition.
The game has two available levels of play. The first is the regular game, the second is the sandbox.
The regular game sees you opening a new movie studio in 1920. You have a building from which you can hire builders and janitors. From there, you'll have to build the rest of the studio. There's a lot to do and build at first, but the game puts you through a tutorial which will help you through this process.
For the most part, the tycoon portion of the game is relatively easy. Every movie I created so far has made money on release. Expenses are going up, but the profits more than keep pace with that. There are a few methods of getting feedback on your studio and your movies. The first is to pay attention to the reviews from every movie release. Anything with a red exclamation point is something that the reviewers didn't like. Each boxed comment has a little bar associated with it that gives you a better idea where your studio currently stands. You can also click the studio rating in the upper right corner to find out more details about your studio vs the competition, your stars and your movie releases.
One thing I find fairly cool about this game is that you can get as involved in making the films as you like, or just let your studio do all the work. You can either set script writers to work creating a masterpiece, or write your own script from the start (only after you unlock the Custom Scriptwriting Office), or tweak the script the writers produce into something you like better. You do have to move the script through the various stages of production. But for the most part, if you don't want to edit it or further influence it, you don't have to do so to succeed in the game. Every movie in the game can be watched on release or from the archives. Some of the earliest are funny just because of how awful they are!
The Movies has 5 movie genres for you to choose from: Action, Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi or Horror. At different time, different genre appeal more to the movie going public. This must be balanced against the fact that stars either need to practice a genre or work in a movie of that type to gain experience. If they have no experience in a genre, it hurts the quality of the movie. Of the 5 genre, it's easiest to only create movies of 2 or 3 genres and gain much more experience in only those types.
Where the game really gets into micro-management is taking care of your stars. At first they are just happy to work. As long as they get some time off between movies. Not too much, they can also get bored. But after a while, they want more money. Then they want trailers. Then they want an entourage. They get stressed if you don't give them time off between movies. It's important to give them a makeover at the start of a new decade. Fashions change and updating the look of one of your celebrities look is a quick way to improve their attitude and appearance.
Between movies, you can and should have your stars doing other things. They can develop personal relationships by setting two stars next to each other to talk. You can transport your star to an empty set to practice a genre they don't normally perform in. If you built a bar, you can put them there to drink a bit. If you built a restaurant, you can put them there. If they have a relationship that is going very well, you can put both people in either the bar or the restaurant (they are uncomfortable if the relationship isn't good enough yet.) The game promises that romance between stars can happen, but it must take a lot of placing them together to encourage it.
A studio that is going well has two types of rewards. The first sort are given to you as part of the Award ceremony. If your studio wins an award at the ceremony, you'll receive a special benefit that lasts until the next ceremony. An example would be winning the top director award means that you get a bonus called Midas Touch. It will boast the quality of every film this director makes until he (or she) doesn't win the award. It's quite possible to win multiple awards, my studio won 4 awards at the last ceremony. The second sort of reward is when your studio passes a set of milestones. These rewards tend to unlock very important buildings or sets. The first milestone award unlocks the Custom Scriptwriting Office, which allows you to update a script from your script writers or write your own from scratch. Another unlocks the Post Production building, which is where you can edit your movie for viewing by you, your friends or to upload to the official site. What counts as a first rate production from the game may look very odd to an actual human.
The sandbox lets you create movies with far less hassle then the normal game. Your studio can start with millions in the bank. You can force movies to be shot instantly, sets to be built instantly and stars will never misbehave. However, playing in the sandbox is limited by what you've unlocked in the main portion of the game. If your main aim to owning this game is creating your own movies, then this is where you want to spend your time. Be certain you've unlock the Post Production building before you spend too much time in the sandbox, it's the most important tool for editing your movie to your taste.
Much like the main game, you'll still need to own a studio, camera crews, maintenance people and of course, performers. Since you can start your studio with a large bank balance, you can just concentrate on making movies.
If you pick the option that stars never misbehave, that has a second consequence. They will also never be in a particularly good mood either. Movies with happy stars appeal more to the movie going public (in the game) then movies with neutral stars.
A little utility that comes with the game is StarMaker. This allows you to create a Star; set up their name, attributes, and manipulate their face until it's what you want. Once you have created the Star, you can save them, and in the normal game, instead of dropping a wannabe into one of the normal areas, you drop them into the Import Star box. The advantage to creating your own stars is that you have a lot more control over them. I found it quite useful to give them much more experience in a couple of the genres than the wannabes.
I have a number one studio which has been number one or two for well over five years. Why do I have so few job applicants? Why can't I make a cattle call for extras? It's a real concern because my first group of actors are approaching retirement age and I need to start training their replacements.
I found The Movies to be a compulsive game. You think you'll just be playing a few more minutes, until the next award ceremony. You look at the clock to discover that it's hours later.
The game has two major aspects, a tycoon game which is quite entertaining and a movie-making game which is also entertaining.
Final game rating 4 stars.
Sometimes, it's the little touches that make a big difference. During the awards ceremony, your studio will get much more enthusiastic applause then your competitors. Yes, the people really like you, your studio and your movies.
The first expansion pack is available for the game, it's Stunts and Effects Expansion pack. The description sounds like a must have if you are playing the game to create movies. If you are more into just the movie mogul part of the game, you can give this a miss.