Penthouse Interactive. (simulated photo shoot of Penthouse Magazine models) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
Like the VCR before it, the CD-ROM drive got an initial sales boost through the availability of a wide variety of adult-oriented titles. Also like the VCR, most of these titles consist of poor-quality, inexpensively produced material shoveled onto the new format. In the case of CD-ROM, that generally means megabytes of GIF pictures copied wholesale onto a disc or adult films digitized into tiny AVI files. Even so-called interactive titles have often been little more than movie clips that let you choose which part of the film to view next.
This isn't all the fault of the CD-ROM producers - the linear nature of digital video and slow CD-ROM access limit the amount of traditional interactivity. While other titles give in to these limitations or awkwardly try to work around them, Penthouse Interactive: Virtual Photo Shoot simply takes advantage of the nature of CD-ROM movies and creates a new type of interaction.
You take on the role of a photographer for Penthouse, the well-known men's magazine from COMPUTE's parent company, General Media. Your assignment is to photograph three beautiful Penthouse models for Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione. After you've shot and edited your photo portfolio, Guccione himself appears onscreen and rates your photographic prowess.
You first decide which Penthouse Pet to photograph. This first disc includes digital video of three Pets: amber-haired Dominique St. Croix, brunette 1993 Pet of the Year Julie Strain, and blond January 1993 Pet of the Month Natalie Lennox. Clicking on a Pet's name brings up a short video introduction. Once you select a model, you're ready to begin the photo shoot.
The well-designed interface sports a quarter-screen "video display" window in the center, with a VCR-style control panel below and a series of thumbnail images on each side. These thumbnails are used to direct the model - you choose actions such as Tilt Head, Lick Lips, or Head Poses, as well as more adult actions such as Gyrate, Show Behind, and others I probably shouldn't go into here. (The poses and angles are definitely of an adult nature but, like the magazine, lean much more toward the sensual than the anatomical.) There are more than 110 video clips - more than 90 minutes in all.
Clicking on a thumbnail starts a video sequence. As the model goes through her poses, you click on the camera icon in the center of the control panel to take your photos. Each photo is transferred to a filmstrip for later editing. Many of the video sequences offer two camera angles which you can jump between by clicking on the A and B buttons.
At any point you can click on the filmstrip icon to view and edit your photographs. You can view them in sequence as a slide show or pull up thumbnail filmstrips to select individual photos. Save photos as bitmap images, delete them, or tweak them by pulling up the original video and moving through it frame by frame until you get exactly the pose you're looking for.
After you view the final pose session for a model or click on the Quit button, Bob Guccione appears in the video display window and rates your work. If you have a good selection of poses, you'll get a comment like "Hmm. You obviously know what makes a good Penthouse layout. I'm looking forward to seeing more from you." But if you've only taken a few pictures or if you concentrated too much on a single type of pose, you're more likely to hear "Nice try, but I wouldn't quit your day job if I were you."
There's even a little humor thrown in: If you wait too long without doing anything, a Pet will pop up and make a comment such as "What do I look like, a screen saver?" Or Guccione might appear and say, "It's a good thing we're not paying you by the hour."
The quality of the video clips in Penthouse interactive is equal to the best I've seen in an MPC title. The QuickTime videos look good on 256-color SVGA screens and fantastic on 15-bit, 32,768-color screens. Video playback from a double-speed CD-ROM is a smooth 15 fps, even in HiColor mode (although the title will work on a single-speed drive, a double-speed one is recommended). The models were filmed against black backdrops, so the screen doesn't jump when the camera pans. Each video clip has a rocking background soundtrack.
Of course, the images of Dominique settling onto a brass bed, Julie lying seductively across a chair, or the perfectly toned, beautifully muscular Natalie working out on gym equipment are likely to distract you from such mundane matters as frame rates and audio quality anyway.