Developer: Lionhead Studios
Mac Port: Robosoft Technologies
Mac Publisher: Feral Interactive
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.4, 1.6GHz PowerPC, 512MB RAM, 64MB video card, 1GB free hard disk space, full version The Movies
Review Computer: 2GHz 20″ Intel Core Duo iMac, 1GB RAM, 256MB ATI Radeon X1600
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Universal
ESRB Rating: T
Availability: Out now
Official Website: www.lionhead.com/se/
I want to like sandbox style games more than I do. All the way back to the Railroad Tycoon II, Tropico, Zoo Tycoon…I really wanted to get into this style of game. Most have been enjoyable, but they seemed to involve too much work to get to the fun. Too much to learn, too much to master, before you could really settle back and enjoy your creations. I blame it all on money. Why does money have to be in all these games? I don’t recall being restricted by finances when building things with my Tinkertoys, Girder and Panel Playset, or even just Matchbox cars and whatever household objects I could find around.
Feral Interactive’s The Movies was along these lines, with one important twist; it rewarded you. Learn everything, manage everything, master the tools, and hey! You’ve got a movie! Share it with friends and fellow virtual movie makers! Unlike Railroad Tycoon or Zoo Tycoon, in which the goal was to…uh…have a railroad or a zoo and a lot of money, the goal with The Movies is to have something you can actually watch and think, “Hey, that’s kind of cool.”
With the release of The Movies: Stunts and Effects, your films can now be even cooler…well, provided you feel that stunts and effects are cool to begin with. The romantic comedy types may not need this, but those who share my belief that every single movie ever made could’ve been enhanced with a prolonged sword fighting skeleton scene (especially all those Jennifer Lopez movies that weren’t called The Cell) will find plenty to enjoy here.
Well, plenty to enjoy outside of sword fighting skeletons, anyway, which aren’t included. Maybe they should get an expansion pack of their own?
What Stunts and Effects does bring to the set are plenty of explosions, monsters, alien spaceships, helicopters…everything that makes the independent film crowd run screaming for the Canadian border. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to become another Michael Bay (and really, isn’t one too many already?). There are plenty of new sets and props that can be applied to any style of film, including blue and green screens that really open up your sets for some wild creativity.
To help you capture all of these effects, Lionhead has built in a “free-cam” that provides better control over how your shots are filmed. You can move this camera with the WASD keys or set start and end points for smooth pans across your set. Now, that perfect shot you could never achieve in The Movies is obtainable, although you’ll have to work a bit harder to get it.
And that’s an issue, because The Movies was already a pretty complicated game. As I mentioned in my review back at Applelinks:
… The Movies is … a strategy sim, and that means micromanagement. Plenty of micromanagement. Getting the right actor for a part is easy, but keeping said actor happy is not. As the movies start to make money, actors’ demands increase. If their demands are met, they become unhappy, which translates to bad performances, which translates to poor box office. So, you give them makeovers, send them to rehab, whatever it takes. If they start to cost you more than they make you, you fire them and begin the search for the next young talent.
Unfortunately, a lot of The Movies is mired down in finance management and building placement and other such nonsense. If The Movies can be considered a bridge between The Sims and the Tycoon style games, I would’ve liked to see it lean more towards The Sims, where shaping personalities and handling individual conflicts and goals are more important than making sure you’re placing your actor’s trailer close enough to the cafeteria.
Stunts and Effects just compounds this with the addition of stuntmen you need to manage, and managing everyone else (your stars, crews, etc.) hasn’t been made any easier. So, although you can certainly make better looking movies with this expansion pack, the annoying bits of the game actually get more annoying, thereby hampering the potentially entertaining gameplay.
The Movies: Stunts and Effects is, therefore, an expansion pack for the hardcore fans of the game. It’s for those who have been making their own movies and sharing them at The Movies Online (and some of that stuff is pretty fantastic). If, however, you’re one of those who tried the game out but found all the micromanagement and sometimes awkward controls were putting you off, Stunts and Effects only compounds the issues. Better stick with uploading videos of your cat to YouTube.