Sims Gone Wild
Money makes everything better. Take pornography, throw some money at it " and it becomes art. Trouble making friends? Get money. All of a sudden, everyone wants to hang out with you! Awkward around women? Out of shape? Use the Money Cheat and you're instantly The Man. It's that simple! No more sweating or repeatedly lifting heavy hunks of iron dangerously over your skull. Like Apollo Creed so wisely said: "Be a thinker, not a stinker."
Then a fter all this success is achieved, with people simply throwing themselves in your general direction, you face a new problem: What do you do with yourself? Life gets boring without a sense of risk. And that, unfortunately, is exactly what happens in Playboy: The Mansion, a place where you, as Hugh Hefner, can do no wrong. That makes a great life, but not a great game.
The flow of Playboy is given to you step-by-step in a lenient, tutorial Mission Mode or you can wing it in a Free Play Mode, though "Play" is term loosely applied. You must first choose up to ten compatible people among celebrities, models, rock stars, pro athletes, or politicians. Social engineering is inherantly a dull venture, since what you're doing is eliminating factors which would contribute to chaos " and chaos should be the fun part, especially in The Grotto! Thankfully, you can have your assistant choose the ten most compatible people for you. She'll do a much better job at picking them instantaneously anyway than you would with an hour to kill, so strike that one off the "To Do" list.
Once the incompatables are weeded out, you will throw one of your countless Playboy parties and schmooze with the invites through Sims-esque dialog trees in a hunt for six types of content: Cover Shot, Centerfold, Essay, Article, Pictorial, and Interview. At the mansion there are no dates or times, and your job as The Uber Bachelor is to make sure your guests are happy, and that their Sims-like drive meters are full. This means making introductions, leading them around the mansion telling them to drink if they're bored, and talking to your guests about whatever they want to talk about, since Hef has no drive meters of his own. Ol' selfless Hef just lives to make others happy.
When a person likes you, which will take all of five minutes, you can extract the content you were really after. Now a game where throwing parties is the gameplay's core has a ton of promise, that is if the parties don't suck. Slow dialog and character movement, redundant animations, and the inability to multitask soon make parties a chore. Add on the limited object interactivity, and the game's promise of fun is all just pillow talk. No "Do Body Shot" option at the Modern Bar?! Unforgivable.
There is a spark of "Yay" here and there, most of which involves having sex on a well-placed couch in the middle of a crowded room, or taking pictures of the playmates as they go through multiple poses using the furniture around them. As impossible as it seems, even taking pictures of topless women gets tiresome after time, since the variation of the girls' appearances is quite limited. Boob sizes, skin tone, and hair vary, but if you happen to be a butt man, you also happen to be out of luck. Though you can swap their outfits at will, which is a bonus.
The magazine content you'll get from your partygoers is dependant solely upon the character's profession with the content quality determined by the relevant value of one of three meters: Physique, Charm, or Intellect. It's a good foundation for a sim game, but Cyberlore must have designed this game with the prepubescent and/or stupid in mind, since they removed all strategic or decision making depth. Of the eight pictures you took for the Cover Shot, if you decide to use the one of the girl's knee with dirt in the background, its still has the same quality rating as the good shots. Also, if a runway model with a high Physique value who worships the ground you walk upon is your live-in girlfriend, the dialog option of requesting a Centerfold doesn't even appear. She's just not the right "profession." Or a Playmate who happens to have a PhD in Bioengineering cannot write an essay, since, you know, hot women are dumb.
Better content means a better mag, which you can sell at a higher price. Not that a rag with Butter Bean's man-boobs on the cover won't sell for big bucks anyway. Hiring lame staff won't make much of a difference either. It's really just impossible to fail. So "Strive for Better Content" is also knocked off the To Do list for you.
Every party is successful, every magazine sells well enough, and the Playmates - the incentive to buy the game - do not get better physiques as you progress. Thus, what could have been true open-ended strategic gameplay becomes a basic one-track, no-brains guided ride just for the hell of it.
The graphics, not surprisingly, are Playboy: The Mansion's best asset. The mansion, objects, people and costumes are vibrant and well detailed. Though some of the furnishings' designs, like their interactions, are rather uninspired. Hef, rather than walking with the stride of confidence we imagine, looks like a hunchback. And naturally, the girls are sufficiently" ahem... bouncy.
When you buy a stereo system, you are able to choose between a healthy selection of Jazz, Rock, Techno, Flamenco, Industrial, and Hip-hop. No Grammy winners here, but they do the job well. The dialog is primarily Simmish, with occasional bursts of English by the game's assistants imbued with mediocre acting talent.
A consequence-free game is not much of a game; it's more of a pastime, like curling or needlepoint. Since there is little rush to put out a magazine, your focus shifts to what else you can do in the mansion; and that's nada -- except go through the loop of party, socialize, and publish an issue yet again. For a while, it is rather enjoyable to cruise by and experience the closest thing you'll ever have to being anything like Hef, but you'll quickly long for deeper gameplay or a more real sense of progression. Use that $50 on 3 years' worth of Playboy subscriptions instead.