Playboy: The Mansion
Developer: Cyberlore Studios
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

Porn is officially a deplorable habit, but like Natasha Bedingfield, some guys secretly love it. There have been many games trying to tap into the “porn” (since it really isn’t) market in games, the most notorious being such titles as BMX XXX and the more recent Rumble Roses. But unlike the other two games, Playboy: The Mansion not only provides you with a bit of virtual crumpet but actually gives you a solid game to play too…

The game sees you as the infamous Hugh Hefner - the founder of the Playboy empire. You start from the bottom, and through parties and releasing issues of Playboy magazine you work your way to the top. The mere inclusion of a game premise and goals puts this game above any other game of its type, even if it is a bit simplified at times.

The game plays a lot like The Sims, from the same camera view to the same jargon language spoken by the characters. The mansion you start off in needs a lot of work, so there’s an editor where you can add all kinds of toys and showpieces in order to bring in the ladies. After sorting out the mansion, it’s time to put out an issue of Playboy and this is where the game gets fun.

In order to release a magazine you need six things to put in it: Cover shot, Article, Centrefold, Interview, Pictorial and Essay. The pictorial and article are the easiest as you simply hire a photographer and writer, tell them to get writing and they’ll produce the goods. Most of the others involve some wheeling and dealing with celebrities, which is where the game intermingles nicely.

In order to get a Cover shot, you have to throw a party with some cool celebs in attendance and then get chatting to them in order to build up a relationship. This involves only three strands: Friendly, Business and Romantic, but there are so many options it’s hard enough just to keep the relationships going. After making friends with Carmen Electra (some celebrities have submitted their names and likeness to the game), I asked her to do a cover shot. She agreed. All pubescent kids rejoice as we go to the Photo Shoot mode..

The Photo shoot mode is where you take cover shots of celebrities and centrefolds of playmates. After placing the model somewhere around the house, the model will then interact with the environment, be it a sofa or bed, striking various poses in a sequence. Its then up to you to place the camera in the right place and take the best shot possible. You can edit what the model wears too, and can make her topless if you’re really that sad, but the emphasis of the shoot is more on getting it right rather than getting your rocks off.

After the photo shoot the other items have to be completed by celebrities, and depending on what the celebrity is (sportsman, director etc) each article will be given a demographic. One menu shows how much your mag appeals to each audience (humour, sports, politics, pervs etc.), and your sales will reflect this. So releasing an issue of Playboy isn’t simply about getting all the articles and releasing it, it also involves getting the right demographics covered by the articles and pricing it properly. It’s strange that what seemed such a shallow game which offered cheap titillation could have such depths, but don’t worry, at times this can be shallower than the kiddies’ pool…

One part of the game which seemed pretty shallow in comparison to the rest of the game was the romantic relationships you could spark between people. After getting a woman drunk enough, and by flexing your muscles at her, it’s pretty damn easy to jump into bed with her, or the sofa, or the shower, or pretty much anywhere that’s available. And for those who have been waiting for some raunchy Playboy sex, it’s not what you expect…The bottoms remain on, and the animations for each venue are pretty damn silly. Breasts jiggle like jelly on a dune buggy, and the great Heff only lasts about five seconds. After a few romps you can then ask the girl to be your girlfriend. This only serves for you to have random sex at any time without having to strike up a proper relationship (pretty much like a normal relationship then..), and worse still, she charges you money for it! You can have more than one girlfriend too, depending on your fame, so you can boast to mates about how many girlfriends you have…

One of the biggest problems which affects one of the good parts of the game is the AI of the other characters - they really are as dumb as Playboy models! Parts of the game require you to introduce one of your friends to another so that they can hook up, or strike a friendship. This means you have to ask one friend to follow you, and introduce them to the other. Sound simple? It isn’t when the character rarely follows you, and when you introduce them, they usually don’t even talk to each other, they just walk off, and you have to keep trying again and again… And don’t get me started on your Playboy bunnies! You pay them to serve drinks and greet the guests, keeping them happy. But you’ll always find them talking to each other, whatever you tell them to do! Like a child, I usually have to tell one to follow me, then point to the bar, and tell them to use it, which rarely keeps them there for long. I never thought running a business would be so hard….

Playboy: The Mansion is like a Channel 4 sex documentary. It advertises heaps of sex, but when you play it, there’s actually hardly any in it. Luckily there’s a rather engaging game instead, with a good combination of relationships and business. The only problem is that it’s let down by the stupidest AI ever (until Jade Goody gets the game treatment), which can really frustrate you and ruin the whole experience. Fans of the Sims who aren’t offended easily will enjoy this, but those who want to buy this for some cheap thrills will be disappointed.

Best Bits

- Great game premise.
- A lot of technical detail.
- Good music.
- You play as the Playboy King!
Worst Bits

- Graphics aren’t too great.
- Sex relationships are a let-down.
- Really annoying AI.

by: Crazypunk

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