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PS2/Xbox/PC Review - 'Playboy: The Mansion'

by Alanix on Feb. 22, 2005 @ 12:36 a.m. PST

In Playboy: The Mansion you step into the virtual slippers of world-famous Playboy Founder Hugh Hefner, building Playboy Magazine and the Playboy Mansion into dynamic cultural icons. Gamers also will live the lifestyle, rubbing elbows with stunning women and popular celebrities, and share the mystique of the Mansion by hosting extravagant, exciting parties. This preview features nudity, so parental discretion advised...

Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Arush Entertainment
Developer: Cyberlore Studios
Release Date: January 25, 2005

Hi there kiddies! It’s me again, your wicked Uncle Alanix, WorthPlaying’s resident pervert, with another game sure to raise the hackles of the Conservative Right. Faithful readers will remember my views on Singles: Flirt Up Your Life, and Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. I found these games to be somewhat sophomoric, but in both cases, a hoot and a half to play.

Unless you live in a cave somewhere, you must be aware of the current atmosphere regarding "mature" entertainment. This week, in fact, the House is going to vote on a bill that will fine individual broadcasters a half-million dollars for anything the FCC deems "offensive." I have listened and watched in utter awe as grown men and women actually discuss things like how long a fart sound can be played on the radio before it becomes offensive. The real kicker is that the government won’t even tell these people what they can’t say! There is no list of offenses. It’s another case of, "we’ll let you know when you have broken the law."

This has got to stop, folks. If I want to come home after busting my ASCII at work, and relax with either massive violence or sheer hedonism on my video screen, who’s to tell me it’s wrong? Am I the only one that remembers a little thing called the First Amendment? And what about a thing called responsible parenting? Why blame publishers and broadcasters when all parents have to do is exercise a little control over their households? Actually, I would propose a bill that would change the FCC’s acronym to (F)un (C)urrently (C)ancelled.

I will now step down from my soapbox and delve into the mainstream of today’s symposium: Playboy: The Mansion.

HUGH HEFNER IS GOD! (Sorry, I just had to say that once)

OK, let’s face facts.Playboy: The Mansion is patterned after a well-known life-sim game that we won’t mention. If you have played that other game, you will mostly understand the mechanics of this one. I am happy to say, however, that there is a lot more nudity in this mansion. Nothing makes me happier than watching a beautiful woman take off her clothes for me. Does that make me a pervert? Oh well…

The main point to this game is to live the Playboy lifestyle. You will constantly be surrounded by gorgeous women, rock stars, and other glitterati on your way to change the face of publishing and sexuality as we know it. Beats flipping burgers or changing oil, don’t it? (Grin)

You begin your rise to stardom with a modest mansion, and little fame. Your advisers (modeled after Hef’s own staff) take you by the hand through the first few missions, and acquaint you with the game’s interface. Again, if you have played that other game, you pretty much know what to do here.

Publishing the magazine is of utmost importance. While there may be other ways to earn money, the revenue from Playboy Magazine is your primary financial boon. Each month you need to shoot a cover, get an interview, some essays, and of course, shoot a centerfold. Yee-hah!

Sparking relationships between the photographer and his/her models can definitely make the photo shoot more appealing, and your hob-knobbing with celebrities makes for much more interesting interviews.

Oddly enough, in a game that seems to be drenched in sex, there is much more of an emphasis on interpersonal relationships at work here. Yes, you can have multiple girlfriends, and yes, you can have sex with them, but your girlfriends do more than just service your carnal desires. Once they are "linked" to you, you can have them chat up celebs and the like, and your relationship with those stars will benefit as a result. After all, it’s much easier to bond with a male rock star if a hottie Playmate keeps telling him how wonderful you are. This opens the door to revealing interviews, which, combined with the centerfold, photo layout, essays and cover make your fledgling publication much more popular, and as a result, more lucrative for you.

The interaction between characters is the true driving force at the Mansion. As in most games of this ilk, each person has his or her own goals, dreams and aspirations. In P: TM, these are represented by a bar graph affair color coded for ease of analysis.

What separates this game from some of its siblings is that Hef can introduce two characters with similar needs, start them to talking, and then go about other tasks in the Mansion. The two introduced characters will begin chatting, and their respective ratings will rise, all without your direct control. Hugh Hefner as matchmaker; what a neat idea.

When you begin the game, you start with a low amount of fame (a vital stat) and a fairly modest mansion, consisting of only a few standard rooms on the first floor, and bare office space on the second floor. Bare, that is, with the exception of a bed. Know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more?

Your first task is to build an office and hire staff. After all, Hef can’t do everything himself. You need to have Playmates to photograph, photographers to capture their beauty, journalists to interview the hottest new celebrity, and Bunnies to keep your guests entertained.

Then, you need to tell the world who you are! Time to publish the first issue of Playboy Magazine. But where does Hef get all those photos, and interviews and stuff?

Most of your time will be spent at parties. As your fame rises, so will the fame of your guests. Initially, don’t be too upset of a few A-List celebs turn down your invites. Just don’t reach too high. Keep your guest list in and around your current fame level. The parties at the Playboy Mansion are legendary. You begin by selecting a guest list. Keeping the magazine’s needs in mind be sure to invite at least one photographer and one journalist, keep a Bunny or Playmate around to make the guests feel good, and bring on the celebs. You also want to keep an eye on the gender mix of your guest list. While a party with one man and nine women may be his idea of Heaven on Earth, the women will soon be extremely bored. Diversity is the spice of life.

When it comes to the photography, you are behind the lens. How nice for you. The cover and the centerfold are under your complete control. You can dress (or indeed undress) your models in anything (or nothing) you choose, the camera angles are yours, and you can choose her poses. Bear (or would it be "bare") in mind you don’t necessarily want skin on the cover, but you don’t want a centerfold in a business suit, either.

The mansion building interface is also completely standard. As you progress, more items and furnishings will be available for you to buy. Your mansion is yours to personalize. You could decide to build a huge home theatre, you can build a massive arcade, and of course, the famous (some might say infamous) Grotto.

The game has more to offer as well. In addition to the mission based "career mode," you can also play in free-form mode, with no set goals other than the ones you set for yourself. Be careful here, guys… If you spend too much too soon, the babes will split like Pavarotti’s pants after a Wendy’s Triple Bacon Cheeseburger.

Xbox Live subscribers can download new content from the net, and the bonus points you earn during play allow you to unlock and view classic Playboy covers and Playmates as they were originally published. The loading screens are filled with Hef and Playboy trivia, some of which is quite interesting.

At once, Playboy: The Mansion borrows elements of life sims, role-playing and tycoon style games, and is full of beautiful, naked women. Will it win any awards? Probably not. Has it already pissed off the Conservative Right? Absolutely.

In the final analysis, Playboy: The Mansion is an entertaining diversion, and a nice tip of the hat to a man who not only changed the publishing world, but the country’s views on sexuality in general. To be fair, it hasn’t broken any new ground, didn’t dazzle me with its graphics, and included that same annoying pseudo-speak that all of these games seem to integrate. I know I’ll be playing it for a while, though. Come on guys if you want to pretend to be someone else, it may be fun to be Sam Fisher, Solid Snake or Darth Vader… but wouldn’t we ALL want to be Hugh Hefner?

Score: 6.5/10

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