Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded – Review
While we were given a copy of Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded in a Beta state, we were able to play the game from beginning to end, with only a few sound effects and voice-acted lines missing. With only a few errant sounds to be added and any remaining bugs to be squashed, we feel the game is complete enough to review.
Throughout my time at GamingLives I’ve made so much of my history with Lucasarts and point and click adventures that if there was a drinking game accompanying my articles you’d already have to have downed a shot. Whether it’s that they come up in conversation less, or they’re held in lower regard than adventures featuring monkeys and pirates, I’ve never gone out of my way to mention that back in the day I used to play the occasional Sierra title, too.
Considered the more hardcore counterparts, Sierra’s efforts consisted of hilarious, but frequently unfair, adventures that took place in regal lands, outer space or the police force, that often had the word “Quest” in them at some point. There’s another series that is oft-mentioned that didn’t concern itself with Kings, aliens or being the law, but instead with one man’s journey to get laid.
Leisure Suit Larry – so called because of his insistence on wearing the outdated seventies attire – put players in control of one Larry Laffer, a forty year old computer programmer who lives in his mother’s basement and is yet to pop his cherry. Taking off to Lost Wages with less than a hundred dollars in his wallet, the titular polyester attire, and only two hours to get laid before he commits suicide, the adventures of Larry have become something of industry legend. It’s also a title I played to death when I was younger, loving it more for the text parser that would make me type in commands like “flush toilet” or “buy lubber” than I did for the explicit puzzles and content that flew straight over my pre-adolescent mind. Even now the sexy stuff is the last thing I remember, instead recalling the often gut-bustlingly hilarious comedy and the myriad ways he could die whenever Larry’s first adventure is bought up. So, when given the opportunity to look at the series’ revival in the form of Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded – kickstarted by fans to the tune of over $650,000 – it was one I took eagerly.
Keeping the action in the eighties but bringing a graphical overhaul, a swinging soundtrack, remixed puzzles and a new woman to romance, Reloaded offers plenty to both veterans and newcomers alike. With text parsing no longer in vogue, the action is instead handled with the now-standard pointing and clicking interface, and with even this simple change a fair amount of the experience feels quite different as a result, with the ability to interact with the environment by clicking instead of having to walk up to objects and typing out a command is the most blatant.
Weirdly, the change I felt the most was the inability to type in the actions I needed, with the process now streamlined with a handful of verbs, allowing Larry to look, touch, talk to, smell, lick or unzip his flies at everything with but a click of the mouse. Verbs can be selected by hovering the cursor at the top of the screen or scrolling with the mouse wheel, with one final action reserved for using the most recently selected item in your inventory. Despite initially feeling like a radical shift, it’s one that’s relatively error free and doesn’t throw up any major difficulties to those who’ve played the original version all those years ago.
If you’re anything like me and thus able to recite the password to get past the door in Lefty’s (Ken Sent Me) quicker than you can your Dad’s birthday (the somethingth of October?), then you may find yourself caught out more than a few times while tackling Reloaded. On top of the additional puzzles that come from the new lady Larry woos, several older puzzles have been remixed slightly or expanded on, so veteran players can’t just waltz the entire thing. One of the most jarring of these is the aforementioned password because, while the solution is in the same room, it involves an object with a hotspot very close to another object, so you might be clicking several times before you select the right thing. For the most part, the expansions roughly end in the same result, but with an extra step or two in-between, and they’re often satisfying additions as they approach the puzzle solving in a manner altogether different from the rest that you’ll come up against, though there are occasional moments when you’ll be temporarily thrown off by their inclusion.
As for the new lady to romance, the set of puzzles that must be solved in order to woo her are a mixed bag; it isn’t always clear what should be done in order to succeed, and one solution relies on random chance to complete. As you travel to each location in Lost Wages, there’s an opportunity to meet one of the quirky locals of the city, and progression relies on the particular denizen you need appearing when you travel there. Worse still, you might not know that you need them when you do and, as such, it can be entirely possible to miss them, find out you need them, then spend ages travelling in the hopes they’ll turn up. While it’s not a deal-breaker, it seems disingenuous for the player to be locked off and delayed because of it, and it comes across as a cynical way to pad the playing time out (it took me over an hour until they turned up, but the developers have said they’re implementing a patch to fix this come release day). Sure, the original also had occasions where you couldn’t progress or even finish the game until these happened, but they showed up so frequently that it was only your own fault if you hadn’t done them, whereas this new one feels barely signposted and poorly hinted at in comparison.
Compounding this issue is the overall lack of hints throughout, which becomes especially weird when you notice that, while clues as to what to do will either come up once or not at all, some speech is needlessly repeated to the detriment of the pace and humour. One moment in particular stands out as those who’ve played the originals will know the solution, but for some reason the action has to be performed repeatedly, with each attempt causing the narrator to spout an overly long line, with a good half of it repeated verbatim every time. Luckily you can skip the speech by clicking, but the fact it happens several times throughout is slightly disappointing, especially when you can hear him say the repeated words in the exact same tone as before.
Worse than the lack of hints is the fact that there’s no way to highlight the various hotspots in each location – a feature that has thankfully become the innovation du jour in the genre – and hovering your mouse over objects and people in the environment won’t cause any text naming them to pop up to indicate you can interact with them. You could say it’s hearkening back to the older days of Sierra titles being harder than the rest, but considering how everything else has been expanded on or altered in some way makes the lack of those features glaringly blatant. As well as this, there’s also the occasional issue where Larry will move in front of an object you need to interact with, and then trying to click on it again will cause Larry to do the action you’ve selected to himself until you move him out of the way so you can try again.
Learning you could make Larry interact with himself soon became a pleasant surprise, and one of my favourite things about Reloaded is just how much you can do in the world. Larry can interact with nearly everything around him, and half of the fun and the humour comes from trying to make Larry touch, smell, lick and expose himself to the myriad of people and items scattered around Lost Wages. There are so many different combinations and custom reactions that I only found the same thing being said over again a few times, and even then the response was funny enough that I didn’t mind too much. The addition of voice acting only helps, with the Narrator’s chiding tone bringing the majority of the humour, and once you’re done with Reloaded you’ll find that it’s even funnier than the original was.
Though Larry himself gets some great lines, it’s far more often that it’s the Narrator who’ll be tickling your funny bones, with the humour at its best when it’s coming at Larry’s expense. Having the focus more on Larry as a character, as well as how he interacts with the world around him, allows the humour to become more well-rounded, and means that you’ll be guffawing far more often than you were before. Even when attempting to seduce the various ladies of Lost Wages, the onus is far less on the threat of titillation than Larry’s internal monologue and his desperation. Larry isn’t a relatable character, and the women he attempts to lay are all caricatures with less depth as a paddling pool, but the joke is always about Larry’s naivety and stupidity in his methods to lay them rather than the ladies themselves. Through and through, Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded is an anarchic comedy that will likely have you frequently splitting your sides, and even if you’ve played the original version to death there are so many new gags to be found that you’d be silly not to delve back in to The Land of the Lounge Lizards.
Even the addition of the Kickstarter backers – though originally feeling a bit shoehorned and included at a cost to this title’s charm – ends up making the next few hours of your life all the funnier. Having Larry make quips about the backers’ Hollywood squares or talking to them at Lefty’s only provides more opportunity for comedy, and though not every addition fits in comfortably, there are enough great new moments that come as a result of it – the singer belting out a love song about Kickstarter being my personal highlight – that you’ll forgive the times when it doesn’t work as well as you’d hope.
The remake doesn’t just extend to the puzzles and jokes, but the graphics have been given a massive overhaul as well. Thankfully, rather than translate everything into 3D or go with a tacky art-style, the action comes with a cartoony look that is far more reminiscent of the eighties and nineties, and compliments it beautifully. As much as I was a fan of the original blocky look, the cartoon graphics are an amazing fit and only help, for the most part, to increase the humour, and while every action isn’t animated – the ESRB would probably be on their case vis a vis the whole “flashing Larry’s weiner at everything” if that was the case – it helps build the slapstick feel that I always felt should have been played up more in the original.
Even the deaths – nearly all of which remain intact, with the sequence involving the conveyor belt of Larrys replaced with something that has slightly less charm – feel far more comical as a result, and it gave me a renewed incentive to witness them all again – especially as death no longer requires you to reload a save file, instead taking you back to shortly before you did whatever it was that got poor Larry killed. The music has also been given an upgrade, with Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory providing a soundtrack that – though lacking in any particularly stand-out moments – will have you involuntarily swaying your head in appreciation. There’s also a bunch of achievements to collect, and while plenty of them are for completing certain sequences and plowing through the story, I managed to miss out on more than a few, picking up most of the non-progression related ones by killing Larry in as many ways as possible.
It’s sometimes considered a relic of the old era of adventure games, but it’s surprising to see how well Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded holds up to modern scrutiny. The majority of the puzzles are still intelligently designed and non-reliant on developer logic – though the new puzzle chain revolving around Jasmine is probably the weakest overall – and the humour still manages to elicit chuckles on a regular basis despite being twenty-five years old. There’s the conspicuous absence of text highlighting interactive objects and the lack of a hotspot reveal button, earning money still comes down to having to repeatedly save and reload your file when gambling on slots and blackjack, and there’s an intangible sense that some of charm has been lost after all this time, but none of those ever end up definitively spoiling the several hours it’ll take you to complete Reloaded. Even after all these years it’s still worthy of its position in the industry, despite some of its more objectionable content, and though it has its flaws and is showing its age a little, it’s well worth your money, even if it’s over quicker than you’d think (a feeling not wholly unfamiliar to you, Larry).Pros
- Even funnier than the original
- Constantly rewarded for experimentation and outlandish ideas
- Builds on old puzzles and provides plenty of new content for veterans
- Insertion of Kickstarter backers is a more natural fit than you'd think
- A puzzle thread that relies on chance and feels like unnecessary padding
- Lack of hotspots can frustrate
- Some jokes and dialogue are overly repeated while hints are often nowhere to be found
- Still have to rely on constant saving and reloading when gambling to earn enough money
While remakes can often feel unnecessary or misguided, Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded consistently hits the mark and gives plenty of incentive for those who are no stranger to the exploits of Mr Laffer. It may appeal to those who played the original more than it will newcomers to the series, as there's plenty of content to appeal to those who've seen it all before, even if they may find issue with some of the changes that have been made. It's still crude, anarchic and a little outdated in its views, but it's often so funny that you forget that it's an update of a title that's over twenty-five years old. It's an imperfect remake of a controversial adventure game, but it's consistently hilarious, full of clever puzzles and proof of how well the genre has stood up over time.
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