Review by Dao Jones
The Sims meet Tycoon meet... boobies
I've been a Playboy subscriber since I was 17. So, when I heard that they were bringing the "Playboy experience" to the gaming world, I was pretty excited.
But then, I rented this game. Let's just kick off the review by saying this: if this is a snapshot into Hef's legendary life, it is a monotonous, mechanical thing, punctuated only by his unflappable ability to bang any woman he wants anywhere, anytime, and in any location.
I will admit that I played the game obsessively for the first two days of the rental (with brief pauses for little things like work and sleep). When you first pop it out of the box, you immediately want to see topless Playmates (or doctors, models, feminists, congresswomen - the game doesn't discriminate), and believe me you will be seeing breasts within minutes of starting the game. Truth be told, they're pretty decent breasts, too. I don't think it's possible to try this game out without first off satisfying your debased, unhealthy need to see naked video game characters. So go ahead and get that out of the way. But once you're done with that (however long you need...) what remains is a fairly pointless, plodding game with practically no challenge or reward for succeeding at what few goals the game sets out for you.
In short, your job is to build up Hef's magazine empire. To that end you must hire journalists, photographers and Playmates to gain content for your magazine, and you throw parties to attract celebrities to pose for cover shoots and submit essays and interviews. There is in theory a "strategy" to all of this, in that you get better content when your staff are happy, you get better shoots and interviews when your celebrity and staff have similar interests and camaraderie between them, and you get better articles and essays when the writers talk about what they know. However, this is stupidly easy to accomplish, and the cycle of publishing an issue gets repetitive and dull very, very quickly.
The graphics are pretty good; not Squaresoft good, but certainly good enough for this type of game. Of particular amusement is how well drawn the details of the breasts are - it makes me laugh to think that somewhere not too long ago there was a team of artists and physicists agonizing over the technical details of the female aureole, the heft of a bust, and the bounce-to-size ratio.
Sound gets a high score not because the sound itself is particularly good (sound quality for actions are items is average), but because the soundtrack is really nice; probably one of the best I've heard since GTA: Vice City. You have about ten different styles of music to choose from (hip-hip, rock, jazz, techno, etc), and each style has maybe ten songs associated with it.
This is where things get ugly. The controls themselves are simple enough (laid out in a pretty standard format, and this game isn't exactly challenging on the gamepad), but the game itself is full of bugs and sloppy editing. Characters get "stuck" in place a lot, I've seen two playmates merge into each other back-to-front to create an eight-limbed monstrosity, things disappear (when I finally unlocked the Clubhouse level I went there only to find the entire clubhouse itself did not exist - I was staring at a blank level), and there's just a huge amount of bad glitches that pop up repeatedly. One that drove me particularly nuts was that, all too often, my guests wouldn't do what I was telling them to do. I'd try to get two people to talk, they wouldn't talk. I'd try to initiate a conversation, and after inputing the game command the person would just walk off. Trust me - this isn't a "game feature" - it's a programming glitch. And since so much of the game relies on character interaction, being sporadically unable to do so is... annoying.
This game gets boring quick. Character interaction is repetitive - you can essentially get anyone to do anything you want just by choosing the same conversation topics over and over again, and you quickly learn that there is no challenge to it - no one can resist your Hef-ly charms. You can bed a woman in about six conversation clicks, you can get a feminist to take off her top and pose for you in the same number, you can get a hockey player into your "inner circle", or a fiction writer to sign a contract all within about six conversation selections. You can't really fail, no one really dislikes you, and there's very little randomness to it all. Trust me - it gets dull fast when you have no chance of failure.
Despite what I just said this game has a little replay value to it. No, you won't want to go through "mission-based" challenges again, but this game (like the Sims) has a lot of flexibility that can keep some people (like me), amused for a week or so. Want to build yourself an army of huge breasted identical clone girlfriends (just like Hef)? Do it. Rebuild the mansion into a freaky goth frat house? Easy to do - money is no object in this game. Try to release all-themed issues of Playboy? Go nuts. This will ultimately get boring after a while, but there are a lot of random combinations to try out.
Summary: Notice I had very little to say about how the game itself is played? That's because it doesn't matter. The "plot" of this game is pointless and unimaginative, and the gameplay is repetitive and mechanical. (When you do the "photo shoots", it doesn't even matter how good your actual shots are. As long as the photographer and model have a good relationship, you could shoot the shot with a tree blocking her body, and you'd still get a good rating. How dumb is that?!) Make no mistake: this game is marketed *solely* to people that liked the Sims, but wished you could remove the pixels covering their (infrequent) nudity. Everything else about this game is just window dressing. It's about looking at topless computer game characters. And if that's what you're looking for, then this is the game for you.
Buy or Rent? Rent. It's fun for a few days, but you'll get tired of it really fast. If you want a game with naked women but might also want a story or actual gaming fun, pick up Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude instead. Much better game. Only buy this game if you don't have access to internet porn (and if you're reading this review, then you have access to internet porn).
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
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