Playboy: The Mansion Updated Impressions - The Basics of Running the Mansion
We take an up-close look at Arush's risqué strategy game for the PC, the Xbox, and the PS2.
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If we were to describe a game that lets you play through a simulated version of another person's life, fulfilling that person's needs, building relationships for that person, and building out a home, would it sound familiar to you? How about when you make that person Hugh Heffner, media mogul and head of Playboy Enterprises, and make the focus of the game the building of Hef's empire, one magazine at a time? Now we're talking...about Playboy: The Mansion from publisher Arush and developer Cyberlore Studios. The game will be a "lifestyle simulator" that resembles another game you may have heard about, except this one has a star-studded cast of real-world celebrities, appearances by more than 90 real-world Playboy playmates, and one or more grottoes. We recently had a chance to see the PC and Xbox versions of the game in action.
The game will offer a "free-form" sandbox-style mode that will let you build out a mansion with no limits, as well as a primary mission-based mode that will take you through various objectives. In mission mode, you'll start out at the bottom of the heap and eventually become the world's most famous swinging bachelor, though in both modes, you'll actually begin the game with high-end equipment, like stereo systems, plush couch sets, and more, and you'll work your way up from there. These furnishings will help replenish the various personal needs of Hef and his guests and will generally raise the quality of the mansion--making it a more-desirable hangout for celebrities, reporters, and models. You'll even have an overall house rating that will assign points based on how good your house layout is, and this rating, like other considerations, may figure into specific objectives in the mission mode.
While the game will include models from as far back as 1955, the game itself will take place in the present, and all models will be presented in their prime, since Arush wishes to convey a sense of timelessness about the mansion and its models. As such, you may find yourself putting out a magazine with models from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s all in the same issue. Compiling a simple issue will be relatively easy. It requires you to combine components like interviews, essays, a cover shot, and a centerfold. Articles can be written by hack reporters who can be paid off, but quality content will come from A-list celebrities who can be talked into contributing to your next issue...provided you can make them feel enough at home.
Cover shots and centerfolds require you to choose individual models and individual photographers (though you yourself will control the camera during the shoot). If you can talk a model into posing for the shoot (depending on Hef's relationship with that model and his current level of fame and fortune), you'll be able to set up the shot anywhere in the mansion. Of course, the more built-out your mansion is, the more interesting your camera shots will be; in the early game, you may be stuck with couch shots, while later on, you may be shooting at one or more grottoes. You'll have control of certain things and no control over other things while on the set. For instance, you'll be able to control your camera lens to rotate, pan, and zoom, and you'll also be able to ask your model to move to a different part of the set, but the model herself will have her own ideas about exactly how to pose. Set up a shoot in the living room and she may climb on the couch. Set up a shot in the den and she may have a seat in an easy chair. Regardless, you won't actually be judged on the quality of your individual photos; instead, your shoots will be judged on how well your photographer interacted with your model. To get the best shoots, it will be a good idea to try to hire a photographer with a personality and interests that match the model's.
Personality matches will also help Hef forge relationships with his guests, and with one lucky lady he can choose to be his girlfriend. However, an even more important aspect of living the life of a playboy is parties, which can be activated by pressing the "throw party" button. Doing this lets you hire on individual staff members to help cater and manage the event, and it also lets you manage your guest list for different celebrities and models to invite. Again, you'll be best served by trying to find characters with matching personalities, and as Cyberlore's Jay Adan explains, you'll most likely wind up throwing parties to try to get friendly with a select few celebrities or models you really want to contribute to your magazine. Once you've got a happy model for a guest, you've got a photo shoot; once you've got a happy celebrity for a guest, you've got a five-star interview lined up. Playboy: The Mansion will feature such star talent as model Carmen Electra, magician David Copperfield, musician Willa Ford, and rocker Andrew W.K., among others.
We were able to see both the PC and Xbox versions in action, and both seemed to run just fine, featuring colorful graphics and a cartoonlike look for the characters. The Xbox control scheme seems to make good use of the controller's many buttons, while the PC game uses the mouse and keyboard as you might expect it to, and it will also let you save and trade your photos with your friends. If Cyberlore and Arush can make good on everything they're attempting to do, then Playboy: The Mansion will be a surprisingly varied and colorful simulator that offers posh pads, parties, and playmates. The game is currently scheduled for release on all platforms later this year.