The substance of Stunts and Effects is only as good as the property on which it rests.
Subtitle: Stunts and Effects Expansion Pack
Multimedia: The Movies
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Teen
Developer: Lionhead Studios
US release date: 2006-06
It seems appropriate that The Movies: Stunts and Effects' release coincided with the opening days of summer. Indeed, it is the splash, flash, and sizzle of special effects and daring stunt work that seems typically to be the bulwark of real summer movies. Art imitates art.
Alas, though, much like the stunts and special effects in real movies, the substance of Stunts and Effects is only as good as the property on which it rests. It adds a superficial layer of fresh new content to The Movies, but how much you enjoy it will depend on how substantive you may have found the initial game. I reviewed The Movies when it was released, and found it to be a solid, enjoyable purchase at the time. Thus, for the most part, I have enjoyed playing the expansion.
While the expansion does contain a few handy tweaks, it brings largely one new element to the table: the hiring, training, and utilization of stunt people at your studio. Since, the game is chronological (silent films to talkies to further developments in film technology), the newer content largely emerges late in a campaign; with the 1960s comes the ability to acquire stunt people for your studio and the arenas for which to train them in. Thankfully there is a handy quick start option for veterans of the game, thus allowing instant access to all of the expansion pack's newest features.
The new arenas are rather physically demanding and zooming in on your stunt person will generate a few visceral blockbuster movie-esque thrills. These workers will be burned, beaten, and otherwise harassed until they are ready for the big time -- real stunt work. Watching the poor bastards can be amusing the first few times around, and this brutal conditioning justifies a new measure of these characters attributes -- a condition meter that, when it begins dipping low, necessitates sending your new stunt people for a little rest and repair at another new location, the hospital.
However, the player may have little time to enjoy the pyrotechnics given this added complication to a game that already requires some pretty frantic multitasking in order to properly micromanage a thriving studio. Those stung by The Movies emphasis on heavily overseeing all aspects of the filmmaking biz may be put off by this added layer of complexity.
In addition to the aforementioned complications added by the expansion is also the issue of stunt successes and failures. Any scene in a film that contains stunts has a difficulty rating. If your stunt people are not sufficiently trained, they may blow the stunt -- leading to a lower overall rating of the film.
My chief complaint with the game is largely the length of time and manpower required for most of the higher end stunt scripts. Your studio may languish a bit as you work on the long, arduous process of producing a stunt-filled spectacle for the viewing public. The only saving grace of this interminable production time may be that it is fairly easy to train stunt people during filming as they only need to appear in scenes that involve stunt work. Thus, some efficiency, which is the biggest stress of any simulation game (but especially so in The Movies), can be maintained by improving stunt people's skills between takes.
On the whole, the additions largely amount to more flash than substance, which does at least remain true to the nature of the subject matter. Like their real counterpart, Stunts and Effects seems likely to aid in squeezing a few dollars more out of consumers over this summer. As I noted before, art imitates art.