When pianists become undercover agents...
"Larry 5" is one of the most impressively-looking games known to me. It is one of Sierra's wonderful VGA titles of the early nineties, games with truly miraculous graphics, rich MIDI music, and updated interface. The technical gap that separates this game from "Larry 3" is so huge, that sometimes it seems there really must have been a "Larry 4" between them. It is hard to believe only two years have passed since Larry and Patti met for the first time in Pulsating Pectorals
The greatness of the game's graphics is not only in their superb technical quality, but also in the style. "Larry 5" is decidedly the most stylish game of the series, not only because of its unusual plot, but also because of its appearance. The first three Larrys had serious graphics with proportional characters and backgrounds. "Larry 5" was not only the first Larry, but one of the first games in general, that had that cartoony look that later became one of the trademarks of the genre. Everything in the game matches its wacky humor: the rooms are viewed from strange angles and have strange shapes, planes wave with their wings while taking off, and people look so disproportional and funny that you start laughing just from looking at them. Remember this hilarious maitre d' in Hard Disc Cafe?
But "Larry 5" shines not only graphically. It has a very interesting story, quite unusual for the series (involving corruption and FBI undercover business), and is the only Larry game to match "Larry 2" plot-wise. While the Larry part is not so original, the detective/espionage parody in Patty parts is really cool. The plot could have used more depth and development, but it is more than solid for a game that was just supposed to be a silly comedy.
The humor in "Larry 5" is great, better than in any Larry game before or after (perhaps with the exception of "Larry 7"). It is still the same light, unpretentious Al Lowe-style humor, that cannot be compared to the sublime irony of LucasArts' games, but still does its job well. While the usual sexual innuendo was of standard quality, the humorous remarks of other kinds were really good. In every airport and in many other locations you can read some funny messages, which have nothing to do with the story or the heroes, but are fun nevertheless. In particularly liked the hilarious list of offices in Reverse Records. There is also a different kind of humor in "Larry 5", not very typical for the series - satire. It is relatively harmless most of the time, but some politically incorrect remarks were quite refreshing.
And anyway, a game that reflects so faithfully the tragic destiny of pianists all over the world can't be bad!
I don't know how it could happen. Perhaps a rather strange leap of logic told Sierra's developers that a "death-less" adventure game should also be totally devoid of challenge, but such thinking damaged severely what could have possibly been the best Larry game ever. With awesome production values and an intriguing plot, all this game needed was a good puzzle system, but unfortunately it didn't get it. I've completed "Larry 5" three times, and each time I had a feeling I was playing a demo. The problem is not really the game's length, but rather its astounding easiness. The excitement we all have when we finally figure out how to conquer a girl is always the most precious moment in such games, and the initial idea was to provide us males with a feeling of victory and triumph that is incomparable to any other we know. Even though Larry rarely succeeds, the whole process of seducing a girl is the central aspect of the series for many players. In "Larry 5", the girls can be seduced by simply talking
to them, with an occasional usage of the "hand" icon! You gain more points if you actually give them what they need, but you don't have
to do it, and that destroys the feeling of accomplishment and reward. What a strange decision!
The Bottom Line
Great presentation, great style, excellent humor, and above-average story could have easily made this game the indisputable leader of the series. The only thing that prevents it from receiving this title is the gameplay. "Larry 5" could have been much more; but even with its shallow gameplay, it is an enjoyable, entertaining game that certainly should not be missed.