According (obviously) to a friend of ours, the average cost of a top-shelf magazine is around the £4 mark. A second-hand copy of the original Sims game will cost you around a tenner. And, arguably, that combination hits the same bases as Playboy: The Mansion, but by our calculations at half the cost.
And yet we find ourselves slightly warming to what UbiSoft has done here. We can’t be the only ones who suspected the worst when it was announced that a game was being produced based on the infamous Playboy mansion, but while there’s little requirement to preen the tuxes for the end of year awards, there’s still quite a lot to enjoy here.
The aim of the game is for you, as Hugh Hefner, to run the Playboy magazine, create the infamous mansion and build an empire in the process. Perhaps wisely, the developers approach this more through tongue-in-cheek humour that attempting to make the in-game characters in any way erotic.
You can tackle the game either in freeform or mission-based mode, and it’s the latter where the challenge lies. The game provides twelve mission-based levels, which as you’d expect gradually get harder (steady).
The idea is that you recruit your staff, furnish your mansion and fill the content of the magazine every month – right down to sorting out articles and photoshoots – and whilst there’s nothing particularly complicated there, it’s reasonably engaging. The most entertaining part of that mix is the photoshoot itself, which you clearly have to take responsibility for yourself. From wardrobe through to control of the camera, it’s entirely your call.
Most of the work in the game, though, is done through the numerous parties you’ll throw, as you need to charm your guests, converse with them and request their contributions to the magazine. It’s the usual drill of ‘click on a character and choose from the assorted options’, making sure you push their buttons to get what you want from them (right down to being aware of which guests do and don’t get on with each other). There’s also the small matter of your, ahem, ‘personal’ needs to attend to, of course.
As you progress, you amass points that allow you to unlock extras, but this can’t hide the fact that the game is ultimately a repetitive affair. It’s all good fun in the short term, and while it’s hardly the most creative process, putting together the magazine itself is suitably entertaining. But the gameplay is ultimately quite limited, and shamed by the scope of Maxis’ Sims series.
So where does that leave Playboy: The Mansion? Nowhere near the top of your wish list, frankly, but perhaps a diverting buy for a day or so if you happen to come into some money. If it’s eroticism you’re after, though, then the software shelf really isn’t the one you should be looking at.