The life of Hugh M. Hefner, the man whose lifestyle Playboy almost seems named after, is the stuff of dreams. Or, as it might seem in Cyberlore's Playboy: The Mansion, the stuff of good PR. You'll take control of a virtual Hef to try to build the Playboy empire while rubbing elbows with celebrities, frolicking with Playboy Bunnies and Playmates alike, and throwing a seemingly endless string of parties along the way. Oh, and you'll publish a magazine or two. Yet despite the bacchanalian context, this Sims-style strategy game comes off as cold and mechanical, capturing none of the devil-may-care attitude you'd expect and casting Hef's idyllic lifestyle as a hollow grind established purely for the sake of selling more magazines.
Now you've got a friend in the magazine business.
The idea is that as a young, vital Hugh Hefner, you take the magazine from the first issue and build it up from there. However, in the game's mission mode, you'll get a good head start by having already acquired the famous Playboy Mansion. The game breaks down into three easy pieces. Of course, your primary concern is publishing your magazine, which demands that you acquire a set number of pieces of content: one cover shot, one centerfold, one article, one interview, one essay, and one pictorial. You'll need to hire a small staff of journalists and photographers to produce most of the content, as well as a new Playmate each month, but for the cover shots, essays, and interviews, you'll need celebrities.
To get connected to celebrities, you'll need to throw some parties...a lot of parties, actually. By inviting prominent figures from the worlds of politics, sports, and just about every arm of the entertainment industry to your get-togethers, you'll be able to strike up conversations with them. And after you've gotten to know them, you can ask them to contribute to the magazine. Social networking plays a big role in Playboy: The Mansion, though its execution is extremely shallow, making it easy to go from perfect strangers to best friends, to business partners, to intimate partners with a few clicks of the dialogue menu.
Successful parties will increase your overall fame, which helps sell magazines. To throw a successful party, you'll need to make sure you've invited a group of compatible people, in addition to hiring Playboy Bunny hostesses to keep the rooms alive and providing plenty of other activities to keep your guests happy. To keep the Mansion as fabulous as possible, you'll have to take some of your magazine money and reinvest it in the grounds. There's an extensive amount of customization available, letting you determine the floor plan of the mansion as well as the furniture and various decorative pieces that are housed inside.
It seems like there's a lot to juggle in the Mansion, but in reality it only requires as much tending as you feel compelled to invest. Time seems kind of nebulous, and you have no hard deadlines for when you need to have each month's issue finalized, allowing you to collect the content you'll need at your own leisure. Similarly, if you don't want to obsess over the interior design of the Mansion, you can simply do the bare minimum to keep guests happy and be done with it, since Hef's own personal satisfaction isn't a factor at all. In fact, rather than being harrowing, which might even be preferable, Playboy: The Mansion is just dull. Your goals and your means to them are laid out pretty plainly, and the obstacles between you and success are numbered.