Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded review: Not too tired for another round

Andy Chalk

The internet was decidedly not for porn in 1987, leaving mainstream PC users to content themselves with fare like Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. It was an "adult" adventure game from Sierra On-Line that was more silly than sexy and functioned on about a sixth-grade level of sophistication. But it was daring for its day and brought some genuinely amusing moments to the table, and it ultimately made enough of a splash to become one of the most famous games of all time – or infamous, if you're marketing a sequel – and it made a games industry star out of its creator, Al Lowe.

26 years later, developer Replay Games has added some new content and changed up a few puzzles for Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, but the plot, characters, setting, schoolyard sophistication and even the ridiculous pre-game quiz to prove you're old enough to handle this sort of digital bacchanalia remain wholly intact.

Gallery: Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded | 15 Photos

The upgrades are definitely impressive. The city of Lost Wages has never looked so good, the objects of Larry's affections are stunningly rendered and Grammy-nominated composer Austin Wintory of Journey fame has done a fabulous job of bringing Larry's vaguely greasy soundtrack into the 21st century in raucous show tune style. Most welcome of all, however, is a simple but desperately needed change to the game's death mechanic. Instead of kicking you to the title screen with nothing more than hope that you've recently saved, Reloaded cycles you through an amusing revival screen and then drops you back at the moment before your demise, none the worse for wear and often with an achievement to remind you of your fatal fumbling.

Underneath all that sparkle and shine, though, the game itself is pure, undiluted 80s and practically reeks of Replay's willful refusal to do anything to make Leisure Suit Larry more palatable for modern gamers. Death will strike arbitrarily and often for things as simple as walking onto the wrong screen or mixing up the mechanics of sex with a hooker. Furthermore, because there's no way to highlight hotspots or usable items – and the cursor doesn't change to suit the context of whatever you're pointing at – the only way to find the things you need is to select the "look" option and use it on practically everything.

The more surprising, and potentially riskier, aspect of Reloaded's dedication to that long-ago era is seen in the behavior of our hero and the world in which he lives. That includes a sadly unplayable arcade machine called "Angry Broads," which features a familiar game mechanic but a slightly different cast of characters. It's almost as if Lowe and co. are tweaking the noses of modern gamers and daring them to react. Yet the game is so obviously the product of a different time, and Larry himself so clearly hapless and even innocent, despite the carnality of his cause, that it gets away with it.

But getting away with it doesn't make it funny, and Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded really isn't. Acknowledging the inherent subjectivity of humor, I can say that I laughed once midway through the game and then smiled at the very end, when Larry finally got what he came for, but on the whole it left me cold. There are plenty of puns, double entendres and toilet humor, and narrator Brad Venable does a fantastic job veering between boredom with and contempt for Larry's antics, but it all feels very dated. Much of the innuendo in the new material - "Bush Beer Gives You Great Head, Swallow After Swallow" being a prime example - is just crude rather than clever.

Complaining about crudity in a Leisure Suit Larry game might seem a little ridiculous but it is what it is, and there should be no mistaking the fact that at its core, this is not an enhanced or upgraded Larry; if anything, his brow has slipped a little lower. There's obviously an audience for it, as demonstrated by the runaway success of the Reloaded Kickstarter, which not only financed the thing but also inspired one of the game's smartest moments (a really good cabaret song about equity crowdfunding), but it's not something that contemporary audiences are likely to get a real zing out of.

The adventure itself is lightweight stuff, neither terribly difficult nor overly long, and while the number of clickable objects puts modern games to shame - seriously, just about every visible item boasts its own pithy description – it can be easily finished in just a couple of afternoons. The gambling mini-game is a chore, just like the original, but can be meta-gamed fairly easily with regular and frequent saves – also just like the original.

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is the video game equivalent of your grand-dad's Buick, pimped out with the hottest rims, rubber and chrome that money can buy: It looks great, it's rock-solid reliable and you have to crank the windows down by hand. It's not a bad way to pass some time but it's really more of a curiosity than a must-play game, a relic from a time when the thought of a video game character dropping an f-bomb was simply beyond consideration. Great effort has been put into its restoration and Kickstarter backers will love it, as will anyone nostalgically yearning for those early days of at-home electronic entertainment. I suspect that players under the age of 30 looking for their first taste of Larry Laffer will very quickly find themselves wondering what all the fuss was about.

This review is based on a Steam download of Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded, provided by Replay Games.

Andy Chalk is a freelance writer who believes fervently in the superiority of the PC and never tires of talking about it on The Escapist, Gamezebo and anywhere else that will have him. Follow if you dare @AndyChalk.

Joystiq's review scores are based on a scale of whether the game in question is worth your time -- a five-star being a definitive "yes," and a one-star being a definitive "no." Read here for more information on our ratings guidelines.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr