Excuse me while I pop my eyes back into their sockets, then I’ll get this review started. Okay, that’s better. Why were my eyes out of their sockets, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Naked ladies. Playboy: The Mansion from developers, Groove Games, and published by Arush, is packed to the rafters with them; so many, in fact, that they caused my disbelieving eyes to shoot out of my head. It hurt.
In Playboy: The Mansion, you assume the role of a young Hugh Heffner who is just starting the Playboy magazine empire. It is a simulation game, similar in play style to The Sims series, but with more of an adult male heterosexual spin. You live in the Playboy Mansion, and basically run the magazine from there. You hire writers, photographers, and playmates to pose for the centerfolds. You issue assignments, and choose which articles and pictures make it into the magazine. Of course, what is a game about the Playboy Mansion without the parties? And there are plenty of them, as the game requires you to throw parties in order to meet celebrities, whom you need for interviews and photo shoots.
The game keeps track of time depending on which magazine issue you are currently working on. So, it basically remains January until the January issue is completed and sent to press. Once you have completed 12 issues, you move into year 2. To complete a magazine, you need a number of things. You can tell your writers and photographers to take care of the articles and pictorials; you just choose the subject and they will do the rest. To take care of the centerfold, you need a playmate on hand as well as your photographer – one of the cooler parts of the game – and you actually get to control the photo shoot. You choose which area of the mansion you want to shoot in, tell the playmate where to pose, and then you actually get to take the pictures. The playmate will assume different poses for you while you change angles, zoom in and out, and click away with your camera. The playmate will even sometimes use nearby objects in her poses. If there is a bed close by, she may crawl onto it and give you a whole bunch of new poses. You can even make wardrobe changes, or choose for her to go topless.
You will also need an essay, a cover shot, and an interview to complete the magazine. To get these you have to throw a party, so you can meet some celebrities. The list of said celebrities changes and grows longer as you play the game. The playmates you’ve used for centerfolds in the past become celebrities themselves once their issue has been published. That is definitely a cool feature. The game even has some real-life celebrities like the musicians Uncle Kracker and Felix da Housecat. You actually get to choose what type of party you throw, too (i.e. casual, formal, lingerie, swimwear, etc.) and which part of the mansion you will be throwing it in. The parties are important for making business contacts, friends, and schmoozing your famous guests into doing interviews, writing essays for the magazine, or (if they are female) doing cover shoots.
Once all of the elements are finished, you then choose the articles, the photos, and which cover you want to feature on the magazine. Shortly after the magazine is sent to press you receive a report on how many copies were sold and how much cash you subsequently raked in. These profits are then added to your bank account, which is used for paying your staff and improving the aesthetic of your mansion. Having taken care of these things, you are ready to start on the next month’s issue. Or, you can relax with the playmates and have a little ?fun’ before getting back to business.
You see, the game not only focuses on the production of the magazine, but also on the entire lifestyle behind the Playboy Mansion. Yes, as Hugh Heffner you can charm your way into having sex with practically any woman (playmate or celebrity) in the game. This isn’t the barely visible brand of ?Woo Hoo’ from The Sims, though. This is ?right on the couch in front of everyone, while waving a cowboy hat in the air’ sex. Granted, the on-screen characters aren’t completely naked; the women remove all clothing except for their panties, and Hugh (thankfully?) keeps his boxers on. That hardly means much, though, as the characters go through all the prerequisite motions and make all of the expected noises – Al l of them. It’s actually rather surprising how blatant it is; this game is definitely not for kids. The developers pulled out all the stops when creating the sex portions of this game. You can ?get it on’ on all sorts of objects: beds, chase lounges, couches, or even in the shower. Each object has its own sex animations, too. So while the bed has a whole cowboy/bucking bronco thing going on (complete with aforementioned cowboy hat), the leather couch has its ?breasts in the face’ animation. Even different couches have their own specific animations. It probably takes some of the tedium out of the sex for poor Hugh. It must be rough, buddy.
The gameplay here is very similar to The Sims series. You select actions using a circular menu that pops up over your head. The more you converse with someone, the more options become available. You can buy all sorts of fun items for your mansion, from new furniture to a trampoline for your female companions to bounce on. Relationships must be maintained, or you will lose your friends. Where this game differs from The Sims is in its mission feature. There are missions that you need to complete throughout the game, from securing two girlfriends at once to making a new business contact. Most of these aren’t too difficult, though, as they are things you need to do in order to produce your magazine. You get points for completing missions, which you can then use to purchase cheats and/or unlock photos in the gallery. The photos you unlock are genuine centerfold photos and covers from real Playboy issues. Again, please note, this game is not for children. They are a nice addition, though, and it gives you something to shoot for once you have played the game for a while. On top of all of this, you can also change the clothes of anyone in your mansion. There are tons of different outfits to choose from, and most have a topless/bare-breasted option.
The graphics in Playboy: The Mansion rise a little above average. The characters are realized in a more cartoon-like style, so realistic graphics weren’t the goal here. The actual characters are all rendered smoothly, but some of the backgrounds and objects could have perhaps benefited from smoothing out. The animations, on the other hand, are all superb. This isn’t surprising when you look at how much detail has been put into the photo shoots and sex interactions. The game’s sound is also great. There are music tracks from real artists, which are pumped through the stereo in the mansion, and the characters’ voices (although they speak in unintelligible gibberish) are pretty funny.
Surprisingly, considering its sensitive content, Playboy: The Mansion is pretty engrossing. While interaction with the ladies is entertaining, that is not what I am referring to. The actual running and production of the magazine is executed terrifically, and truly makes you feel as though you are making all of the decisions regarding its ongoing production. Some aspects can become a little tiresome, like having to throw parties all the time just to get some interviews, but the fact that there are always new celebrities added to the list makes it a touch less bothersome. The game is well crafted, and has more depth to it than the title would lead you to believe. It doesn’t matter, though; you probably didn’t make it past the line of the review that referenced ?naked ladies’ before you rushed out to immediately buy or rent the game. You probably didn’t even read the whole review. Thanks a lot!