Are you looking for a game where you can fondle pretty women, build your dream mansion and throw wild parties? Then youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in luck. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s called the Sims and was released five years ago.
However, if you are looking for stripped-down Sims gameplay plus boobies, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re also in luck. Playboy: The Mansion has arrived to an Xbox and PlayStation2 near you. But if you showed up to the welcoming ceremony expecting to relive all the thrills and spills of the sexual revolution you may find yourself sorely disappointed.
Playboy: The Mansion slips you into the pyjamas of a young Hugh Hefner setting out to take over the world. But just like Rome, Playboy wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t built in a day. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got to start from the bottom to get to the top, and to do that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to have to hire staff, renovate your mansion, produce magazines and rub shoulders (among other things) with the stars.
To start you will need to pick which mode youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to play in: Freeform or Mission. Freeform, as the name suggests, is all about doing it for yourself, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in charge of building the Playboy label and how you do it is up to you. Mission mode on the other hand will roughly chart PlayboyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ups and downs from rags to riches; youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re still in control, but youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re also playing errand boy to the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s whims. But whichever mode you choose, your experience will fall always fall back on the same fundamentals.
Producing magazines and forming relationships are cornerstones of Mansion life, and like the Sims, you will do both on an isolated plot of land youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll call home. Magazines require content. To complete an issue you will have to put your newly hired journalists and photographers to work, writing articles and shooting hotties. But donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect these young actresses and sportswoman to pose for just anyone. Throw a party, introduce yourself and lay on the charm. Just like in real life, you will have to work if you want girls to take their tops off for you.
PlayboyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s take on sexuality has always been about as subtle as a nipple slip at a Superbowl and naturally the game follows this philosophy Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ sort of. Yes, there is topless nudity. Although any boobs close to photorealism are saved for the unlockable centrefold archives. The art style here is bright and almost cartoony. Environments are wrapped in plain textures and the Sim-like characters have just enough animation to set them apart from the coat rack in the corner.
The graphics are where early chinks begin to appear in PlayboyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s two-piece armour. For every naked boob in the Mansion you can bet there is a glitch to match it. From girls sitting on top of each other, to party guests being trapped behind a hedge as they leave; prepare to be aroused, disturbed and irritated. The only upside is that glitches rarely disrupt gameplay severely. Less excusable though is the visible framerate chug that follows Hef through the mansion, especially while pressing the speed-up button. The biggest issue however is the frequent load times, something that no amount of speed-up button use will help you with. Be it as trivial as a stroll to the pool to a walk up the stairs, a load time is not far behind.
WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the good news? PlayboyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s greatest strength lies in the financial side of things. Magazines are your income earners, and the hotter the content the better the sales. This is where you are king. Want a sports themed issue? No problem. Tell your journos to start writing sports articles, steal an interview with baseball legend Jose Canseco and persuade that soup-of-the-day tennis player to pose for the cover. As you hit the right demographics and sell more issues you will be able to hire better staff and draw bigger stars Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all about improving the quality of next monthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mag. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of the most gratifying parts of gameplay and fortunately not the last thing Cyberlore did right.
If digital boobies arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t doing much for you then youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be pleased to know Cyberlore implemented some of the sexiest extras youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll see in a videogame this year. Cyberlore did what few men could; they picked the lock to the Playboy Archives. Awaiting dedicated players are everything from centrefold shots, playboy covers, and (if thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your style) a few special photos of Hef in the military. Although, if you were content with the digital kind, Cyberlore took the time to include a little somethinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ on its cheat list called Ã¢â‚¬ËœimplantsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
Other than the chests though, the characters feel flat. Whereas the Sims defined individual personalities, the differences between the NPCs in The Mansion donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go past their hair colour and bra size. The relationships you build feel mechanical and repetitive. It doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter what type of relationship you choose to build with a particular character; casual, business or romantic, you will always do it through the same method of tedious conversation Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ pick a topic, wait for the character to respond positively or negatively, repeat. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s boring. And because your in-game success is so dependent on this interaction it hurts otherwise ambitious aspects of gameplay, such as making girlfriends and throwing parties.
If you came to the party expecting the Playboy experience then you should pack up and get out while you still can. There is some fun to be had here, but no back-of-the-box claims make Playboy: The Mansion any truer to Hugh HefnerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lifestyle than a walk to the magazine store. This is Sims based gameplay, that the Sims has done better. Cyberlore show the potential to make a great licensed game, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re woefully bogged down with glitchy gameplay and lifeless characters.
The truth is, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re still looking for the playboy experience you may be better off picking up the latest playboy mag and a copy of The Sims 2, the breasts may still be fake but the experience is bound to be more exciting.