There's probably not a heterosexual man alive that hasn't at least once, dreamed of visiting the Playboy Mansion. It's the summit of the American dream - the capitalist's equivalent of Nirvana. Hey, the place if full of hot, naked chicks, what the hell else does a guy want?

Playboy: The Mansion is the closest that the overwhelming majority of us will ever get to the real thing. We still have the magazines when everything else fails. The game is played in Sims fashion. You interact with people, get what you want out of them to further your career or enrich your life with romance and friendships, and continue on. Yes, for the most part the game is dry and flat. It fails to capture the excitement and decadence that one would imagine is prevalent at the Playboy Mansion. But there's more to this game than just shallow, hedonistic pursuits which may interest gamers with a knack for business.

The Playboy Mansion is not just Hugh Hefner's pleasure pad, it's a carefully engineered and orchestrated business tool. It attracts the people that appear in, and subsidize, Playboy magazine. We're not just talking about the models. The magazine also features interviews with the hottest sports stars, musicians, actors and politicians as well as coverage of some of the most important events and discoveries of the time. Some people do actually read Playboy just for the articles.

As Hugh, the eternal bathrobe-wearing casual playboy, you are the master of all you survey. Everything you touch should turn to gold. You have the power, but now you have to use it wisely. The focus of the game is to expand your empire by producing the best publication that you can time after time. After all, it's Playboy Magazine that's paying for these infernal parties and all the trappings of the mansion. You will be put to the test during numerous missions.

With a swimming pool, arcade, movie theater, well-stocked bar, DJ booth, dance floor, comfortable couches and Playboy bunnies, the Mansion is designed to attract celebrities, politicians and business associates such as advertisers. Like the women that Hugh if famous for manipulating, he perhaps manipulates the males in a more ruthless manner although they are seldom aware of it. By making your guests comfortable you will be able to ply information out of them for articles in upcoming issues. Million-dollar advertising contracts can be secured after a few double scotches served by a topless barmaid. Business is the name of the game in the Playboy Mansion and as we all know, sex sells.

Yes, there are naked breasts. You might even see a few butts but that's all. There are sex scenes but the ones that don't take place under the sheets manage to keep their knickers on. Even when a man is being pleasured orally, he's still wearing his briefs. That's fine with me. I don't think I could take a hardcore videogame seriously. The reason that it's included at all is actually very important to the structure of the game. Sex is a great motivator and Hugh beguiles it like a skillful magician, using its omnipotent seductive powers to achieve his goals both personally and professionally.

Hugh commands a staff of bunnies, journalists, photographers and models, any of which he can fire at will if they don't live up to expectations. The type of guests that will be invited to the various theme parties will usually be dictated by the public's opinion of what's hot at the time. You or an assistant can make the invites. Guests have six moods that you will have to monitor including leisure, business, entertainment, friendship, romance and personal growth. If any guest is seen to be declining in any particular category, steps must be taken to ensure their mood improves. Sometimes all it takes is a little conversation from Hugh.

There are some wrinkles in fabric of the game that even Hugh can't get someone to iron out for him. Characters clip through one another. Hugh and his guests often get stuck in corners or behind furniture. Sometimes characters will walk backwards and float in the air. If a partner leaves during a sex scene, the other character may remain humping the bed or furniture. Sometimes Hugh just disappears altogether. Another problem is that virtually all of the guests and the playmates behave similarly within their group. It's as though each group feeds off one central personality. The characters even look the same. You'll often find that the character models are reused to give life to different characters. This is just a little too cheap and helps destroy the grandiose illusion of the mansion and the lifestyle that it successfully projects.

Unlockables include up to 70 playmates from the past to present. Not all of them are totally nude. But if checking out T & A is your prime reason for getting this game I suggest you just purchase a subscription to Playboy instead. Despite its shallow and suggestive premise, the core of the gameplay has a lot more depth than one may expect. This isn't exactly an economic sim but it has more in common with a documentary than it does with The Man Show. It's a brilliant glimpse into the inner-workings of the Playboy empire and the industry that it has become.


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System: PS2
Dev: Cyberlore
Pub: ARUSH / Groove Games
Released: Jan 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole