Despite the cutesy pink packaging, Playboy: The Mansion -- like the iconic magazine title -- is aimed primarily at a male audience. Borrowing heavily from a certain other life simulator game with a huge following (of both male and female fans), we slip into Hefner's trademark robe as we enter a world filled with money, models (and bunnies, and playmates...), and making love.
The 3D environment showcases the mansion itself, where you as Hefner will produce your magazine, throw extravagant parties filled with beautiful women and high-profile celebrities, and get all the action you've ever dreamed of. Sounds great, doesn't it? We thought so. However, this (virtual) reality isn't quite as exciting as it could be.
The game begins with two play options -- Mission Play -- which challenges you to complete a series of goals to advance through the stages of the game -- or Freeform Play where you can strut around as you please, decorating your home and revelling in the company of scantily clad females, and reach the goals at your leisure.
However enticing the latter may sound, conversations quickly become repetitive, and both your companions as well as items with which to decorate your abode start to look all too similar. Limited stimulation will see you switching to the Mission mode rather soon. Mission Play sets up goals to guide you through the game. Money makes the world go round, and your main income comes from publishing Playboy magazine. This means you need cover girls, centrefolds, and yes, even content for those who buy it for the articles.
Of course you aren't expected to do this all alone -- who would attend to your bevy of beauties? Hire some staff and it will be all the easier. But where do you find loyal employees and willing models to adorn the magazine? Why, by throwing a party of course! Parties are where you can schmooze potential clients as well as girlfriends, but don't reach too high too soon -- your fame is relative and you must work to improve your status before the industry elite come knocking on your door. Once you have formed relationships you can offer invites to those close to you. An Open invitation allows the recipient to drop by at their discretion, while Casual invites will save your money for the expensive formal invites you send out to those you are still trying to impress.
Controlling the different aspects of the game is fairly simple as you navigate through straightforward menus to control your movements (as Hef) and interact with people and objects around you. It would have been interesting to have the option of controlling other characters in the game, but maybe I'm the only one who wants to be a bunny as opposed to the head of the Playboy empire.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Playboy: The Mansion is putting together the magazine. While hardly comparable to the reality of publishing, choosing content and photographing models provides you with a purpose, and daresay, a little substance in an otherwise shallow arena.
Hugh holds all creative control from dressing up (or down) the girls, to photographing them and adding that other pesky requirement -- actual stories for people to read. There are stats available which tell you how well you are managing the magazine, and if you are interested in keeping up the lifestyle you're accustomed to, it's important to work at bringing in the revenue. Business shouldn't get in the way of your partying though, after all, in this game -- partying is your business! As long as you spend a little time on "professional" as well as "romantic" relationships you should be able to keep things going smoothly.
But let's cut to the chase -- it's doubtful anyone will be playing this stimulation, I mean simulation, to prepare themselves for a foray into the publishing world. It's all about the nookie, which is unfortunately disappointing. It's easy enough to have the ladies falling at your feet (you're Hugh Hefner remember!) but you won't see much more than half-clothed companions in a limited range of suggestive positions.