Game Review: Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded
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Leisure Suit Larry is back. The lovable loser - who first appeared in a 1987 adventure quest to lose his virginity - has returned, the result of a Kickstarter campaign by Replay Games and Larry creator Al Lowe (raise your hand if you played the original text based game on an Apple IIe). The reboot returns the polyester-attired Larry to the City of Lost Wages, which bears an obvious resemblance to Las Vegas. I downloaded a copy, and played it to completion (ew?).
Why It's Vegasy - During the game, the player guides Larry around Lost Wages. This slightly fictionalized and considerably smaller version of Las Vegas contains one casino (Caesar's Phallus), a dive bar, a wedding chapel, a convenience store, and a nightclub. Not unlike the real Vegas, each of these locations contains playable slot machines, and they are all as tight as a drum. Caesar's Phallus also contains playable video blackjack machines, as well as a buffet, a lounge featuring a standup comedian and a lounge singer, and a top floor Penthouse Suite. Cab rides are essential in the game, and, true to life, they are expensive, costing as much as $24 per ride. Game characters include hookers, bums, drunks, and bottle rats. Overall, the game does a good job of capturing the vibe of the real Sin City, with a tongue-in-cheek focus on its seamier side.
Why It's Maddening - In a word, gameplay. Unlike the original game, which relied on text prompts to advance the game, this updated version is point and click. The player pulls up a menu containing a number of icons, selects the appropriate one, and then points on an object in the game to interact with it. For instance, if you want to talk to another character in the game, you must first select the "speech balloon" icon, and then click it on the character you'd like to talk to. If you want to walk somewhere, you must first select the "legs" icon, and then click on the point where you'd like to advance. If you want to play a slot machine, you must first select the legs icon and walk over to it, and then call up the icon menu to select the hand icon, and then click the hand icon on the machine. It gets even more cumbersome when you want Larry to use one of the many objects he finds during the game, as you must call up the inventory menu, select an object (there's a sub menu for determining if you're just looking at an object, using it, or combining it with another object), and then return to the original action menu and select the icon for the selected object, and then click on the object you'd like to interact with. Got all that? It gets worse.
The game is known for its lowbrow humor, and in several instances, it is quite amusing. However, there are many jokes and one-liners in the game that are positively groan inducing. Some of those jokes repeat, over and over and over. For instance, a recurring gag in the game is that Larry has bad breath. Often, when he walks into an area of the game containing another character, that character makes a wisecrack about his halitosis. He needn't even interact with the character for it to blurt out hilarious zingers like, "What, have you been smoking a Slim Jim?" Because Larry needs to be in that room of the game on multiple occasions during the course of the game, you get to hear that joke about 2000 times. Now, you can stop the character after he begins speaking by clicking the mouse button, which you will want to do to save your sanity. But the gameplay result is, as Larry walks into a room, you know another character is going to make the Slim Jim crack, and so you start furiously clicking the mouse in an attempt to save yourself from going insane. It is possible to turn off the voices in the game and replace them with onscreen text, but you'd still have to frantically click the mouse to get rid of the dialogue boxes. Why couldn't the characters make the jokes, which are nonessential to the advancement of the game, one time and one time only? The constant repetition is a near fatal flaw. It limited my enjoyment of the game tremendously, and caused my gaming sessions to be shorter than they might otherwise have been.
Finally - and I suppose I could have included this above in the "Why It's Vegasy" section - there's the gambling. Larry begins the game with $100, but this is not enough to complete the adventure. During the course of the game, characters will assign Larry tasks that require large sums of money to complete. The only way to increase Larry's bankroll is to gamble on the slot machines or the video blackjack machines. And in doing so, he will lose. He will lose it all, again and again and again. That's amusing at first. "Just like Vegas!" you might think. But when you can't advance the game because you need $200 to complete a task, it's not funny so much as frustrating. There is a way, a rather time consuming way, for Larry to get $10 after he goes broke. But then you have to go back to a slot machine or blackjack machine and try to run $10 up to $200 to get any further along in the game. This can take hours. It frankly makes you want to stop playing and never pick it up again.
Somehow, I managed to stick with this game, more out of determined anger than any real enjoyment. The storyline is pretty amusing. Some of the puzzles are clever, and fun to solve. The animation-style graphics are bright and appealing. As a person with a sophomoric sense of humor, I appreciate the tone of the game. But the overall execution was lacking. It nearly wore out my mouse. Pick it up if you're positively bored some evening, and/or you're really missing Las Vegas. But no one would fault you if you played it for a bit and then never gave it another thought. I give Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded 2 out of 5 stars.
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