The Movies - game review

Date: 2006-01-13 11:48:00
The review was based on the PC version.

The end of 2005 was to belong to Peter Molyneux, whose polygamous Lionhead Studios recently engaged in three relationships: with Electronic Arts, Microsoft and Activision, releasing one project under each of them. Daydreams. It is boring to mention Populous and Dungeon Keeper as a testimony to the greatness of the British game designer. Without diminishing these titles, it is high time to confirm the class and vision with some "contemporary" title that will knock everyone off their feet and redefine this and that.

In spite of that, Peter began to limit himself to a role analogous to what the Rolling Stones mean on today's music scene. A legend that returns from time to time, doing its job, but not being able to try to turn the world upside down again. And so we get Black & White 2 , whose leitmotif is "better graphics", and Fable: TLC , a slightly cheeky rehearsal of a quite playable cRPG (of the light ones) from a year ago. The third entry in the AD 2005 lionhead hat-trick is heralded for what else, the big breakthrough film studio simulation, combining The Sims with Tycoons and a twist of a video editing program.

So what is The Movies all about ? Standard: we start the game with a certain limited capital and a whole bucket of good will, which we decided to transfer to invest in the fledgling (1920s, 20th century) film business. So we build our own studio, hire future stars and technicians, and the huge corporate machine is slowly starting to get going. Our first film is created in an extensive, multi-stage process, which we release to the market to collect our first revenues. For the funds obtained in this way, we expand our range of possibilities, introduce technical innovations, and hire more people. Repeat the operation. Doesn't it sound revolutionary?

By no means, this is an idea presented to us in an already incalculable collection of all games with the word Tycoon in the title. The influence of another popular trend of recent times, derived directly from Will Wright's Sims , becomes apparent when we come closer to our actors and directors, moody snobs convinced of their own necessity. We must ensure that all their physical, mental and aesthetic needs are met and that their careers are wisely conducted so that the greatness of their names contributes to the growing publicity around our filming activities. And that's basically the whole ideology behind this title, which is conceptually very close to the recent Playboy: The Mansion .

Returning to the roots of economic and decision-making games, The Movies does not guide us through an orderly cycle of missions, but over a continuous period of time from the 1920s to the present day. The creation, growth and flourishing of our studio are therefore smooth and we are not forced to start all over again every few hours - OK. On the other hand, after some time of the game, we will lack a more serious motivation to continue the game, as apart from technological development and obtaining new certificates-diplomas, we will not experience any specific challenges here.

So, once we reach the first place in the ranking of film producers, the entire film production process will start to take its toll due to the excessive repetition of patterns. Each time the sequence of actions is the same, and we do not have the possibility of using any "assistants" who would deal with little things on our behalf. We have to create each piece of celluloid with the involvement of our own bleeding, which becomes more and more boring with each subsequent image.

The first stage of the film is creating a script, which will be done by hired scriptwriters in a building specially designed for this purpose. When they are finished, the material is transferred to the Casting Office (unless we want to process it manually - change the shooting plans etc .; it is also possible to create your own script from scratch), where we assign the cast and the director. After the artists are familiar with the roles, we can start shooting. This is where the real torment begins, as it is at this stage that our stars usually start to let go of their nerves due to too much stress.

Of course, it is on our shoulders to keep their exhausted ego in order, whether by sending them to a tavern on a stirrup shop, or by taking advantage of many other recreational benefits, into which we have invested so much money. We can always force the fuss to work by being sent to the set, which, however, may have a negative impact on the final rating of the film. Overall, head off. All in all, it's good that even the biggest booty in this game pays off, only the opportunity cost of lost time remains uneven. Otherwise, the players themselves would sooner or later start acting like those exhausted, stressed actors on the computer.

There are two ways to approach this game. One of its layers, the economic one, has been discussed above. The second is a relatively extensive (for a game, of course) movie editor, which we can assemble at our discretion from ready-made elements: set design, choreographic sequences, shots, costumes, decorations, etc. Do not expect Adobe Premiere disguised as a toy, The Movies all the time remains quite a simple tool, from which, however, with a little creativity, you can unexpectedly squeeze a lot. In addition to editing the script before making the film, we also have the option of post-processing it: adding music, dubbing (own, recorded with the use of a microphone), subtitles, applying some effects to the image, generally a disco plays.

The culmination of our efforts is to export the work to a standard video format and make it available on the Internet, or to let it in the growing vortex on the official website of Lionhead community. There you will find official rankings of movies, actors and producers, supported of course by the possibility of browsing the ever-growing archive of fan art. Playing a filmmaker in the "official" way and taking part in competitions and tournaments organized by developers is certainly a more exciting way to use the game than the schematic slamming of money in a single player (the images we export can be created in the Sandbox mode, which allows you to start the game at a later stage, with a lot of money in the account and turned off disturbances like the moods of actors). Just go for a quick walk on the Lionhead side to see that people can really get a lot out by putting these ready-made pieces into a coherent whole.

Peter Molyneux cannot be accused of not trying to come up with new solutions for the user interface. The minimalism of the GUI presented in B&W does not exist in The Movies and we are simply flooded with dozens of information panels and indicators, mainly indicating the mental state of our stars. The catch is the way we control it all. 90% of operations are performed by grabbing objects with the cursor and dragging them to the right place, as in "black and white". So if we want to hire someone, we "pick" him up with the mouse and head towards the appropriate building, which will suddenly collapse into a flat blueprint divided into rooms. Each of them is described in a way appropriate to the effect that we will achieve by dropping the culprit in the indicated place. It is easy, intuitive, inventive and, importantly, explained in detail in the tutorial. Even learning how to use a movie editor shouldn't take more than 15 minutes.

In terms of graphics, there are no clear deviations from the relaxed, Sims convention, additionally supported by a positive sense of humor in the presentation of the everyday life of our tabernacle. It's hard to find fault with anything here, except for a bit of plastic animations of characters in ready-made scenes. Perhaps their wooden nature is dictated by the fact that they had to be universal enough to be used in various visions of users from around the world. Fortunately, the final effect can be made up through the aforementioned image filters (e.g. the style of the 1930s looks nice). Anyway, to find out what the editor built into The Movies really can do, just go to the official website of the game and browse the works there.

The musical setting plays a very important role in the game, being one of the most varied and interesting soundtracks of the year. Our walk through the decades of the last century is accompanied by changing musical styles, corresponding to individual epochs. The interplay between the developing world of film and the fledgling phonographic industry is perfectly reflected. Anyone who at the end of the 1940s will hear jazz songs performed by Big Bands, which gradually and almost imperceptibly evolve into the OST film styles that dominate in subsequent years, will understand it. This is all overlapped by the amazing radio announcers (also changing over the years), occasionally producing themselves on the air with texts that trigger spasmodic bouts of laughter again and again, reaching the level of uncontrolled spitting on the monitor at peak moments. We will see how all this is presented in the Polish language version. An optimist would say there is a lot to do, a pessimist would say there is a lot to spoil.

The Movies works better as a simple directorial game than a game. A good idea has been so skillfully transferred to the zero-one code that it will catch anyone who catches the bug for a long time. The only question is how many people are really interested in this kind of entertainment? There is no doubt that this is a great position for the younger part of game enthusiasts (after all, it is based on an idea similar to Lego bricks itself), but older ones may feel a bit unsatisfied while playing with it.

The economic layer was not well designed, for it forces us to automatically repeat certain patterns over and over again, where individual cases differ only in small details. And just as the Stones mentioned at the beginning have recently released their next comeback, Molyneux is doing its job perhaps more out of a calling and a desire to remember than to build the world anew. But apparently legends never die, right?

Krzysztof "Lordareon" Gonciarz