Publisher: Arush Entertainment
Developer: Cyberlore Studios
Release Date: January 25, 2005
Whenever you purchase an “adult themed” game nowadays you are playing a sort of Russian roulette where you either get burned for the purchase price or actually receive a decent game. Many games have tried to use the female form to gain sales, ranging from the horribly bad (BMX XXX) to the pretty good (DOA:XBV). The fact that there is a now a Playboy game is simultaneously surprising and yet not completely unexpected given that Playboy has a foothold in nearly every entertainment medium. Rather than just make Playboy: The Mansion an excuse to have topless girls pose on couches Cyberlore Studios has the roots of what could really be a solid premise behind the cheesecake factor.
Playboy: The Mansion could almost be called Sim Porn Magazine given the surprising amount of depth behind the visuals. Throughout the game you play as a relatively young Hugh Hefner just as he starts the roots of the Playboy name and publishes the very first issue. In the story mode you can choose either classical or modern décor for the mansion; classical being a bit more true to the look and feel of the mansion as it was when the magazine first started and modern being more familiar to the mansion as it is today. The player always directly controls Hef; interacting with people and objects in a fashion similar to that if you were to directly control a character in The Sims 2. Instead of having to attend to personal needs you have to tend to more relationship and business oriented needs, alleviating the need to have to send Hef to the restroom or cook dinner.
Rather, the depth of Playboy: The Mansion comes in the form of how you as the player actually get to construct and arrange each issue of Playboy. Each magazine needs a cover shot, a centerfold, a pictorial, an article, an editorial, and an interview to allow it to be published as the next month’s issue. Day and night passes in game but there is no regard to days of the week or even any form of the measure of time; when you publish the March issue it simply becomes April, and stays April until you publish the April issue. To start off your soon to be booming magazine chain you must first hire staff, such as photographers, journalists, playmates, and bunnies. Photographers are the people who you send off to do pictorials and to shoot cover shots and centerfolds, while journalists are tasked with interviewing celebrities and writing editorials. Playmates are the women who you essentially pay to allow you to take photos of them in their birthday suits, though the job shouldn’t really need an explanation. Bunnies are simply women who help you tend to parties, greeting guests and serving drinks in the immediately recognizable Playboy Bunny uniform (Which is apparently the only non-service uniform with a registered patent. Playboy: The Mansion has quite a host of trivia information in its load times.)
However, centerfolds and cover shots have the unique gameplay aspect in that you actually control the wardrobe, location, and the camera itself during the shoots. You can tell the model to pose in any portion of the mansion (Such as upstairs in the offices, in Hef’s bedroom, downstairs in the lounge area, or out by the pool, etc). During these shoots the models go through a routine, interacting with objects and caressing themselves as you try to maneuver to get the best shots possible with the 8 shots of film available. Obviously the physique and attractiveness of the model plays a part in the overall quality of the centerfold or cover shot, but also keeping the model centered in the frame, getting the right angles on shots, or even taking a photo just as the model winks all plays a part in the overall quality of the shot.
To get your other content you have to call upon your staff and host parties. Parties can have up to 10 people in them including your staff members, which you want to have on hand in case a celebrity wants to do a cover shot or an interview. As Hef you must chat with people to gain relations to them in casual, business, and with women the romantic categories. Getting their casual relationship high will allow you to gain information from them and to invite them to be a member of your inner circle of close friends, while getting their business relationship high will allow you to strike business deals with them which can gain or lose money. With the women getting your romantic relationship high allows you to make them your girlfriend and make love, which translates game-wise as the woman taking her top off and Hef burying his face in her bosom as they frolic on the couch. Once you have a solid relationship with people you can ask them to write articles for your magazine or interview them, or in the case of playmates and female celebrities the ability to take photos of them.
Each piece of the magazine has its own rating, which overall reflects the overall rating of that month’s issue, but each piece also has interest ratings. For instance, an interview with an astronaut will have high appeal to the gadgets crowd, while an article written by a pro skater will attract more of the sports crowd. Every month you can view the market predictions for each of the interest areas to see which area is booming and then tailor the magazine content to fit for maximum sales. Sports a big area for the next month’s issue? Interview Jose Conseco, write an editorial on “The Women of Sports”, and take some nude photos of some hot college softball player.
As a preview though, there are still a few areas that make the game just feel ragged around the edges. For instance, though you use your profits to buy furniture and other goodies for your mansion they are rarely actually used. People very rarely actually sit in chairs, but rather just having them in the room increases their leisure level. Hef himself doesn’t need to sleep, eat, or even sit down ever, not to mention you never leave the grounds of the mansion, which really wreaks havoc with the perception that time is actually passing. Actually measuring time would have been welcomed so that, if not to allow for actually allow for magazine due dates to shoot for as a constant objective, at least to be able to see exactly how much time you have left before your evening party starts. Relationships could use a bit more depth too, as it is far too often a matter of simply bringing up your relationship categories by talking about the same series topics to everyone.
Still, Playboy: The Mansion is turning out to be an adult-themed game that doesn’t ride on that fact to sell itself to the masses. It’s far from perfect in its current state, but even with the noted flaws it has a certain charm past the cheesecake factor that is topless women prancing about. Though at first glance it seems that Playboy: The Mansion would be nothing more than an excuse to show naked women on screen, as you play the game more you start to actually enjoy the mechanics behind it; tailoring your magazine to meet current trends, tweaking the issue price, and maintaining relationships with major celebrities to ensure a steady stream of top-notch content. Look for a final verdict Playboy: The Mansion after its release date, but it looks like this “adult themed” game just might actually have some decent gameplay in it.