Wednesday, December 29, 2004

(Compleated) Leisure Suit Larry Magna Cum Laude

This is the ninth game in the Leisure Suit Larry series and not having played any of the others myself. I was finally getting round to playing with Larry, one of the oldest and longest running franchises in gaming.

As it turns out you play Larry's nephew, who is also named Larry. I can see why they would have done this, because the original Larry character in glorious 3D would have come across as a dirty old man. So sacrificing him as the main character for his younger nephew was probably a good idea. The original Larry is still very much in the game because he walks you through the basic controls, a few mini games and if you ever want to talk to him he is only a phone call away or you can even see him (heaven forbid) going through singles ads in a sleazy bar, in Crappy Streets.

Larry comes across as a disgusting little man with a repugnant personality. A few reviewers have criticised the game for having too many Flat Jokes, but to be honest I found this to only reinforce the character of Larry, being someone who tries to get what he wants, but for some reason, always says the wrong thing. If anybody has ever used a crappy chat-up line on you, most likely it was Larry (or his uncle) that thought of it first.
"Excuse me I am new in town, could you give me directions to your, apartment!"
"Your eyes are as blue as the ocean, then baby, I am lost at sea"

And it just goes on and on.

The gameplay revolves around Larry trying to get pieces of clothing or personal possessions from girls, so he can get onto a dating show called Swingles. Where three girls will have to compete against each other, to win a date with Larry! Which is an ironic prospect, as most of the time girls would do anything to get away from him.

The game's format is third-person-running-round-talking-to-people, but you will never be lost for something to do. Unlike a lot of the third-person-survival-horror games. And although you are guided through the game, so you always know where to go or who to talk to, you are NEVER babysat through the experience. The game lets you know where to go and what to do, but you have to do it all with Larry. One of the more interesting gameplay aspects is that you play more with Larry than as Larry. You choose who he talks to, you play the mini games, you control his movements, but it is his personality and dialogue that guides the story, unlike something like Half Life where you become Gordan Freeman for the duration of the game.

The game is packed full of compulsory mini games. For example you talk to people by playing a little sperm game (plays like Gradius [sic]). Where you have to swim through smiley faces to get Larry to say nice things. Otherwise Larry will make an idiot of himself (nothing new I can assure).
There are two halves of the game, the exploring and the mini games, so there are loads of these and they can become repetitive, but the story context always finds a way of making it interesting again, and that's certainly what kept me playing. I must have done that Sperm game almost thirty times and I always enjoyed it.

I completed the game in one sitting, purl because I was having fun. So I can tell you it took me eleven hours (10 hours 49 minuets) to complete it. Some of the FMV sequences have quiet audio (so you will have to turn up your speakers to hear), there are a lot of load screens (all short loads) and you do have to keep playing the same mini games over and over again, but I enjoyed myself and there are a few moments of play where I found myself laughing my head off (yes even from the teddy bear with a strap-on to the nude streak through the gaybar).

There is a lot of stereotyping throughout the game, but rarely is it derogatory. The game uses stereotypes like country girls, foreign students, preppies, cheerleaders and geeks. The game even enforces gay stereotypes to a degree, but none of this is done in a hateful or pathetic way. If a character degrades anything, then it is only themselves. Especially in Larry's case.

Even though I have completed it, there is still an opportunity for replay because I didn't get round to sleeping with all the girls in the game. Yes there are still girls on campus that haven't experienced the full horror of Larry's charm.

As a sequel to a much loved franchise I am sure may purists will be seeing red, but I really enjoyed myself and Larry's world is alive with memorable characters, like that girl in the school-band who has more than a passing interest in the school's mascot. I must have smiled through the entire game, even pausing once or twice for a full blown laugh.
The game isn't perfect, it isn't even a game I would probably revisit, but it is fun.