Playboy’s ‘The Mansion’ revels in bare essentials

Anton Galang

If you’re playing a game based on Playboy Magazine and expecting an engrossing and rich business simulation or finely-rendered naked women, you’re likely to be disappointed.

But aim for an absurdly simplified version of each and you might find yourself entertained.

In Playboy: The Mansion (available for Xbox, PS2 and PC), you play as company founder and overall pimp Hugh Hefner – in his trim young days, of course – building an empire from nothing but determination and the American male dream.

Money and women aren’t free, though. You have to “work” to put out a hot issue every month, and when you make enough cash, you can hire Bunnies and Playmates. You also employ journalists and photographers to take care of the grunt work while you focus on throwing lavish parties in your mansion in the hopes of asking a surprisingly attractive Supreme Court justice to pose for your next cover.

The gameplay itself is a watered-down version of The Sims, minus all the hassle of eating meals and using the bathroom. Yes, each guest and staff member in your mansion does have “entertainment,” “professional development” and “leisure” levels to monitor, but it takes little effort to keep them full.

The characters even speak in a Sims-esque language, and make similar exaggerated body movements in their conversations. Dialogue options mostly fall into one of three general relationship tracks: casual, professional and romantic, with the latter generating a “Have sex on-” option at higher levels.

The graphics are nothing noteworthy; all the characters start to look the same after a while. The occasional glitch doesn’t really help out, either.

Although Mansion has more depth than you’d expect from a game centered on softcore porn, it never quite rises above semi-mindless fun. It channels a few interesting elements and dumbs them down until they’re almost laughably simple. Apparently, when you’re Hugh Hefner, life is just that much easier.