So you've seen the playfield layout, time to take a look at the rules.
As usual, these are worked out from playing the game and observing others playing.

The main aim is to collect all 12 of the Playmates shown below so that you can start Mansion Mania.

You collect a Playmate by collecting bunnies (no really). Each major shot scores a bunny and when you collect enough (25 I think) you spot one Playmate. The left ramp collects them.

For every 4 you collect, you qualify Pyjama Party which is collected from the left ramp. It starts with a hurry-up which is collected from the centre lane. When that is collected you start Pyjama Party Multiball when you keep hitting the centre drop target to score the awards.

If you do collect all 12 you qualify Mansion Mania at the lock. This is an "everything is lit" type mode where all 4 balls are put into play and you just keep making shots to rack up the score.

There are 4 Mansion Manias to complete and each one is indicated at the bottom of the playfield.

When you complete the fourth Mania you start Super Mansion Mania which lights Extra Ball and Special as well as scoring 5 million points.

Multiball is fairly mundane to start but much more exciting to play.

To start it you just keep hammering the centre ramp shot. For each lock (there are 3 required) you need to first knock down the centre drop target and then shoot the centre ramp. Do this 3 times and Multiball is qualified at the centre ramp again. Shoot it and two more balls are launched and the locked ball released.

The `story' behind multiball is a bit contrived and really very silly indeed. When you lock ball one the display shows some music flowing from a car radio and a woman applying some lipstick. Lock two brings us a collision between the woman and a man driving the opposite way. The man is not pleased. Lock three and the woman reveals herself(!) as a Centerfold model and all is well again. I mean, honestly.

But when multiball starts things get serious again.

The centre ramp and left ramp are lit for jackpot, shoot and lock both of these and the centre ramp is lit again. Use it to lock the third ball - and score the third jackpot - and the triple jackpot is lit at the right ramp for a fixed time.

Score this and then do it all again.

If you lose one of the balls the rules change so that you can score double jackpots instead, this time on the centre ramp.

The jackpot animations are well executed. You see a pot of coins blow out like a cannon, 2 pots for double and 3 for triple. It's quick and easy to see which jackpot you've scored without having to wait for the full animation or the (possibly inaudible) sound cues.

As usual, multiball ends when you're down to one ball or less.

I found that it was much easier to rack up the points using just two balls and shooting successive double jackpots. You can usually get 4 of these in a row and the centre ramp is easier to shoot than the right ramp (you've just shot it 7 times to start multiball after all).

There's a curious bug in this version of the software where the reported total score for multiball (and other modes too) is about a factor of 10 too much. You only see it briefly - if at all - but if it says you've racked up 50M when your total score is only 8M then something's wrong.

These two modes - Mansion Mania and Multiball - are the big point scorers in Playboy. Other modes such as Jackpot Hurry-Up can often be safely ignored if you want.

After several games it seems that a reasonable score is about 50M and a good score double that. Replay on these games was set at 50M.

There is another bug in the Mansion Mania mode which can lead to infinite multiball. The game keeps relaunching any lost balls until you die of malnourishment or - more likely - the establishment closes and kicks you out. It's great for getting stupidly high scores but grows old quickly. This bug has been reported on several different games in different countries.

It's hard to get any fully representative opinions about Playboy from just a few games on 3 different machines but some observations are immediately apparent.

The flippers on these games were good and strong - perhaps too strong. There were many examples of airballs and balls bouncing out of their intended destination. That's easily adjustable though in the set-up menus and it's always better to have flippers you need to turn down than flippers that are too weak. That's been a criticism of Stern flippers in the past but they were better in Monopoly and they're good here.

Another perennial complaint is about the sound quality delivered by the ageing WhiteStar system. In Playboy the sounds samples are really nice and clear. All the speech is by one woman and the backing track sounds synthesised rather than sampled so perhaps there was a way to increase the sample rate but it certainly seemed clear than the Monopoly game next door.

The backing music wasn't so great though. At the start of the ball it's really quite annoying which perhaps gets people to play their ball more quickly but annoys everyone else. The rest sounds very electronic - like the difference between playing a sampled song and using a MIDI file.

Gary Stern revealed that the company is developing a replacement for the WhiteStar system so we will hopefully get a big hike in the sound quality in the not-too-distant future.

Perhaps we will also get more memory for display animations although those in Playboy are really top quality. The `extra ball' sequence is especially worthy of a mention.

It would certainly be nice to get a lot more animation in a game but then we don't always get what we wish for.

Although some seem to get more than others!


But to get back to serious matters for a moment. The big issue with this game was always going to be the license and how it is handled. The basic premise of the game is to make shots in order to reveal pictures of semi-naked women. Perhaps it's a cultural thing but that's not an ideology that's going to win the game many friends amongst the site owners.

Perhaps in bar locations it might work and some more liberal sites but Gary Stern told me he wanted to get pinball back into the bowling alleys of the world. Bowling alleys - family locations. This license can't be the way to achieve that can it?

Which is a shame as this is a really good solid game with a nice deep ruleset and the rewards suitably paced. Inevitably some of the toys and gadgets are going to break (they weren't too reliable at the show) but none of them are vital to the gameplay and that shows the underlying strength of the game. If the bank vault breaks on Monopoly that quite a major issue. If the pictures don't reveal properly on Playboy it's no biggie.

There are a number of small issues which should help Playboy to succeed. For a start it has been approved by the UK Gaming Board for profit sharing operation. This has hitherto been illegal and games have had to be paid for by a weekly rental paid by the site so that they can keep the earnings. If the earnings fall below the rental the site loses money and the game is taken out. Also, Stern say that there will be a tournament system in place for Playboy before too long. There are no more details but it will be interesting to see how they overcome the problems that confounded previous attempts.

These and the alternate picture sets are attempts to improve the saleablilty of the game. Ultimately though, the viability of Playboy as a purchase is both enhanced and diminished by the Playboy tie-in. On balance I'd say it is the poorer for it.


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