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The Movies states that it gives you a chance to run your own movie studio from the silent films, to the golden days of Hollywood, up to the modern day. It says you can write whatever kind of movie you want. All these things are true, at least to some extent.

The Movies allows you to run a studio starting in 1920. You begin with a gated, walled-in field of dirt and an employee office. Once you get the basics built – stage school, casting office, script studio, crew building and a set or two – you are ready to begin filming. You hire some writers to write a script, hire a few actors and a director, put the script and actors/director together, and wait. Yes, that’s it, at least in the beginning. You can jump into a scene as it’s being filmed and occasionally change a slider or two to modify a scene, but since you don’t know where the movie is headed, plot-wise, you can mess up your film’s continuity significantly. At this juncture it’s better to let the director and actors work on their own. Once they’ve finished, you release the movie and await public acclaim. However, the in-game audiences never seems to outright reject a film, no matter how bad it it is, so you’ll never lose your money on a bad film.

After a few years you’re told that there’s going to be an awards ceremony starting. This begins your task of out-doing all the other studios in the game. New studios open every once in a while so to keep things fresh. However, you rarely have time to dwell on your opposition thanks to the micro-managing your studio requires. Your buildings will decay, folks will litter all over your lot, and your actors are either stressed from being over-worked or bored from a lack of work (or both at the same time!).

You need to keep your little peons up with the current fashion trends and keep them from drinking and eating themselves out of a job. All too often you have to hand-hold someone during the filming of one of your movies since they’re just in a bad mood and wander off after each take to do something counter-productive. You have to keep them well paid, fashion them a nice trailer, give them an entourage out of your staff (which hurts your workforce), and still manage to get their skills up for making better movies. Oh yeah, the movies. I almost forgot that you get to make movies after all of that. For cripes sake, even your janiters need micro-managing, since they’ll spend more time watering grass then picking up the mounting litter around your lot if you don’t keep up with them.

However, once you get the custom script studio you finally actually get to make your own movies. While you can’t exactly make whatever kind of movie you want like the game claims, you are afforded a wide array of options as to the sets, costumes, actions, camera angle, and mood in your movie. You can only have three main actors in your film, so they’re the only ones who you can give global costumes to. This means that anyone else you add to your movie will need to be dressed for each scene you use them in. This is the easiest way to botch the continuity of your films, since the in-game audiences will notice if a character changes costumes between two shots, which will hurt your movie’s overall success.

As time passes you unlock allot more new sets, costumes and props for your films, as well as new movie-making techniques. However, the CGI you unlock seems to be limited to motion-capture-based costumes featuring characters that can’t be done by live actors, such as a zombie with a hole in his stomach.

The game’s presentation overall is pretty good. The graphics are fair, but for a few graphical glitches like characters walking through closed doors. The floorplan style of building interaction is a nice touch. The audio however is a mixed bag. For one, the characters seem to be mimicking SimSpeak from The Sims, but they only have about one or two lines that they repeat over and over.  In a conversation scene this gets old fast. On the other hand, the radio is a riot. I love the era-specific DJs like Wally Krunkleburger and “Mad Dog” John (“I spell as good as I howl!”). The news reports are also funny in their presentation and acting, like the story about a “short Austrian invading one of his neighbors.” However, the late-game DJs are very generic, and turn from funny and smart to just grating. The “Peace and Harmony” lady got so bad I ended up turning the radio option all the way off.

The Movies is a different game that allows you to explore your creative side without allot of experience. If you can get by some of the more frustrating aspects you’ll find allot to like. Thank goodness for Sandbox mode!

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