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Submitted by Derek dela Fuente on March 10 2005 - 22:10

Derek dons the smoking jacket and discovers what it's like to be Heff for a day...

There has been a very long, concerted and tasteful build up to the release of this game, which puts you in the comfy slippers and smoking jacket of Hugh Hefner. Itâ??s hard to get your head around the concept of managing a magazine, mingling with a collection of beauty queens and merging gameplay ideas of management, simulation and tycoon all together but playing the game is the only way to get a real fix on things.

Many will feel this is a good vehicle for loads of innuendo and some smutty ideas and with a mansion load of girls this has mass appeal to the ladsâ?? brigade! Fact is we have bucket loads of game that are management/sim with a boring theme and slant so here we have one with, dare with say it, a cool and titillating theme so in effect it could have mass appeal and did you know that nearly 20% of the Playboy readership is female?

Needless to say this is aimed at the 18+ group and the initial visual impression you get when the game loads in and from the zillions of screenshots that have come our way is it looks like a cross between Leisure Suit Larry meets the Sims, which canâ??t be bad.

There are two different paths to explore for the player. You can either go for Mission Play where you progress through a series of missions that follow the road Hef took to build the real Playboy Empire or you can progress along the route of Freeform Play which allows you to build the Playboy Mansion with no real holds barred. This is like the description says, there are no time restraints and you can reach your goals when you choose.

The first initial impression you get once playing is that Cyberlore, the developer, has gone for, not intentionally, a somewhat dated look for presentation which some might say mirrors the 60s, 70s and 80s which the game is set within but that would be too clever a mission statement because graphically the game is not of the highest standard that youâ??d expect; that aside you are soon immersed into the swinging 60s and 70s as your first task begins.

Control of Hef is as simple as point and click; it all feels very adventure game oriented, which in a way it is â?“ one big adventure into the word of Hef! Your first task is to hire a photographer and journalist, which you do from a default list and the objective is to launch Playboy magazine. Getting some nice guests to a party is a good idea and if you are the lazy kind then you can leave it to your own personal PA to make up a party list with a number of dolly birds and celebrities.

Exploring the Mansion puts you in a kind of voyeuristic position and we are told the layout is pretty much based on fact!

Once the party is underway you can mingle with the guests, chat with them and introduce them to each other and bonus points are awarded for being the centre of attention and ensuring everyone has a nice time. The gameâ??s interface is surprisingly intuitive, has some nice touches and there is an assortment of menus, help and data screens to ascertain how well you are doing and also assist in the process of empire building. Some gamers may feel slightly flustered at the start trying to understand not only the sequence of gameplay but what you need to do and what is cosmetic and what is not, the focus being on advancing. Do you chat to everyone or do you merely try to see how far you can get by moving around and exploring? You can click on all number of boxes and sub menus and you are given information verbally of what they are, how to use them and all kinds of sub objectives you must undertake.

You certainly get a clue to the kind of activities Hef gets up to after only a short period of play and itâ??s more than having a bevy of girls at his disposal and one wonders if all the tasks set were really activated and orchestrated by Hef. Getting your first front cover for the publication of Playboy sees Hef taking the shots â?“ although a cameraman is hired. The lush lady poses for you and via a set number keys presses you can change the angle, zoom in and take 24 shots â?“ all done in the best possible taste! With limited resources to start off with you have to be sparing with your dosh and decorating the Mansion isnâ??t really one task you should undertake early on but most definitely later in the game when you are hopefully starting to become loaded and can afford some really posh designer furniture that will impress the clientele you want to butter up!

It isnâ??t all about passive or boring interaction - no, Hef can snog some of the birds also and viewing the relationship menus is a fun aspect of the game. Schmoozing with guests and generally being â??such a nice personâ?? is the order of Hefâ??s life but then again those around Hef have been picked to respond in an affirmative to any of his requests and possibly desires and are all sycophantic but have great bods â?“ the female cast that is!

Everything you see, speak to and interact with has no ulterior motive and are what you see. Playboy isnâ??t a subtle game nor is it as shallow as we thought it might be and keeping the monthly finances of Playboy in the black whilst building your contact base is but a part of the goals on hand. You could say Playboy offers two interrelated game sections â?“ Hefâ??s business acumen and those of his personal standing and requests. Hey anyone with 3 girlfriends on the go must have more than his personal fortune as delectable bait or thinking about itâ?¦.. not!

As interaction is very much part of the game flow there is a lot of talking with the collection of interesting hangers on and business clients and although at first you read everything and take in every word with interest, looking for hidden meaning, after a while a lot of dialogue is repeated and you tend to focus more on bigger activities although ensuring you have a set number of detailed conversations will improve you business and romantic position. The conversation trees are cleverly designed where you click on icons for a number of differing aspects â?“ flirt, personal, casual, advice, with even a basic command where you can ask a guest to follow you as you walk to another part of the Mansion. All very clever and effective!

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  • Graphics: 72%
     
  • Sound: 76%
     
  • Gameplay: 78%
     
  • Originality: 85%
     
  • Longevity: 76%
     
Overall Score: 7/10
Deciding on how good Playboy the game is is a real poser and even whilst you are playing you are comparing aspects of the game with others but all through you are struck by the originality of the theme! It certainly has a number of clever management ideas and the game flows and ebbs throughout. The subject matter could be viewed as distinctly politically incorrect but Cyberlore has not taken the easy route with loads of naked flesh and some shock tactics but have tried to offer a game that encompasses all the events that come under the Playboy banner and this should be commended.

Graphically the game is a real disappointment and so are some aspects of the cohesive way in which the player moves from task to task. Although you are guided through the game if you choose Mission Play option but Freeform mode is very open – a better option would have been to merge the two into one! Saying that there are enough fresh ideas and visual candy to ensure any gamer who purchases this will want to complete the whole experience for as we know there are many surprises in store further into the experience!

Playboy is a valiant effort that should hopefully be worked on for a sequel and is exceedingly playable to a niche audience, one that wants to be entertained and gamers who want something different! Playboy has a feel good factor that should not be overlooked!

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