Since The Sims is one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time, it's not surprising that many companies have tried to cash in on the game's unique formula. The latest company to rip-off The Sims and try to make a buck is Playboy, who has teamed up with Arush Entertainment and Cyberlore Studios to put you into Hugh Hefner's slippers. The game promises you'll be living the decadent lifestyle of the Playboy founder, but unless Hugh does the same things over and over every day, bangs anyone he can find on his couch, and puts out a magazine as an afterthought, then this game fails to deliver.
The game's premise is simple enough; throw parties, pick up chicks, and use your contacts to put together an issue of Playboy. How you go about doing all of this is simple as well. You play the role of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, and you want to put out the very first issue of Playboy magazine. To do this, you must hire staff and ask them to write an article or interview, and then you must hire photographers to take pictures of centerfolds and features. Centerfolds can be recruited off of a menu page – you just pick one, pay them, and they will come over to be photographed. Even though you have a photographer, you must take the pictures in locations in or around the mansion – it's pretty much just a way for you to ogle virtual breasts. As your magazine gains fame and you earn more cash, more exotic women will make themselves available for your magazine.
You'll also need some celebrity interviews for your magazine, and this is where throwing a party comes in. You pick the time of day (which doesn't matter), the dress for the party (lingerie, swimsuit, casual), and then craft a guest list. When you're just getting started and your fame is low, many people will decline your invite, but if you build a Playboy empire, they will come. Put it this way, when Uncle Kracker is listed as a 4 star guest, there's not a whole lot to look forward to when crafting a potential guest list.
Once the guests arrive, it's up to you to schmooze with them by simply pressing the same conversation pieces over and over again. If you want them to be friends, you just talk about causal things, if you want them to be business partners, you just talk business, and if you want to get in their pants, then you flirt. The interface is incredibly boring and so simplified that there's no challenge at all when it comes to getting people to like you. After you get to be chums with someone, you can ask them to do an interview or write an article, and if you really like them, you can invite them to your "inner circle" which means you can get their help in the future.
Last and pretty much least as far as being a relevant type of game play goes, you have to pick up women. This is done by repeatedly flirting with a woman, kissing her, groping her, making out with her, and then simply choosing the "have sex on couch" option. You'll then head over to the couch where you both get naked (tops only) and she gives you what is essentially a lapdance. You can ask these women to be your girlfriends, and the game encourages you to bang as many women as you can so you appear to be "living the Playboy lifestyle." If somehow this sounds interesting, don't get confused, it's nothing short of pathetic.
Finally, you release a magazine, which is done by picking the articles and pictures to go inside, though you can't read the articles or really look at many of the pictures. The better the writers you hire, the better the articles will be and the better the magazine will sell. The same holds true for photographers, as well as their subjects – you want the best and most expensive person you can find. You can tweak the price of the magazine as well as the amount of advertising it contains, but this really isn't necessary. After releasing a mag, you'll find out how much it sold and you'll get some cash. The cash is used to decorate your place, which encourages your staff and makes the mansion more enticing to your guests. You don't have to do much here, but the game is so boring that you'll probably want to decorate just for something to do.
Playboy: The Mansion is not fun. It's not anywhere close to being fun, even when you are getting women. The game is quite buggy, with people unable to negotiate around each other and Hugh often getting stuck in a routine, forcing you to reset to your last saved point. The load times stink, not only because they are long, but because you've got to load every time you go upstairs or outside. The interfaces aren't all that bad, but when you have to negotiate a series of menus to just go upstairs, then there's obviously room for improvement. The biggest problem is that there's nothing to do, and the game never forces you to really do anything outside of a simple routine.
The game's graphics are nothing short of miserable. The character models are bland, poorly textured and have lots of aliasing. You'd think that since the game is all about people, particularly beautiful people, that there would be some attractive models, but they really aren't much to look at. Most of the girls have huge breasts, but that's about the extent of their "beauty." You can dress them up in different outfits, but unless you're taking their photo, you can't see any details, so this, like so much else in the game is pointless.
Playboy's audio isn't bad, but that's a pretty small silver lining in this big grey cloud of a game. There are several different styles of music you can choose to listen to while playing, and you'll probably end up finding something you enjoy. In-game, the characters speak gibberish, but when you're being told how to do something, they speak English, which is handy, unless you are fluent in gibberish. The voice acting is pretty lousy, but it doesn't really matter at this point.
Playboy: The Mansion is a lousy game through and through. Like "The Guy Game" it provides little more than a flimsy premise to hide the fact that all there is to do is see breasts on your Playstation 2. From both a game play and technical standpoint, this game is a mess, and it's not worth a weekend rental to find out how bad it really is.