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SummaryHeh, heh. Cum.
The Good+ Excellent characters, designs and voice acting + Some clever humor and writing + A fairly decent atmosphere + Some of the minigames are fun...sometimes
The Bad- Trite, dull and repetitious gameplay - Average graphics - Humor is not very Leisure Suit Larry like - Larry Loveage is the worst video game character in existance
The Bottom LineEveryone knows Leisure Suit Larry. Well, almost everyone. Before the current days of games having the idea of "do you want some sex to go with that violence", in the 80s it was like "ewwwww, sex!" Softporn Adventure came and went as some seldom-heard text adventure with edgy, controversial humor and erotic content. Years pass (after the great Custer's Revenge incident) and out comes Leisure Suit Larry, the brainchild of game designer Al Lowe. Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (try saying that three times) was intended as a graphical remake of Softporn Adventure, but soon, the character morphed into Sierra's own version of Guybrush Threepwood (sans the pirates and monkeys) and was a instant hit, spawning sequel after sequel before being retired entirely when Sierra shut down their adventure games division, causing creator Al Lowe to leave as a result.
It's a sad story, but a few more years pass, and oh - what's this? Leisure Suit Larry is getting a reboot for a more modern generation? And it's the series' first outing on consoles?! Well, sign the fans up, that oughta pique their interest! Well, when Magna Cum Laude came out, it recieved a mixed reception. Some fans were pissed off and thought it was an insult, some thought it was a welcome entry in the series...and this is where I come in. Believe it or not, this was my first Leisure Suit Larry game...like, ever (I mean, it could've been worse *coughBoxOfficeBustcough*). So what do I think of the game after all of these years? Well...
Unlike the previous games, we focus on a new Larry entirely, Larry Loveage - the nephew of Larry Laffer. He's a dweeb attending community college (that somehow has it's own dorms and sports team apparently...Casper College much?) and wants to live it up like his infamous uncle. One day, a dating TV show called "Swingles" comes to campus, and he wants to get on the show, but has to prove it with a bunch of college girls. The plot is basic, yes, but eh. It gets the job done. Gameplay wise, it's an adventure game...or at least, some form of an adventure game. It's not point and click, but free roaming. You explore the college campus and surrounding areas, including the city and a rotten neighborhood nearby (that has another Lefty's bar, whodathunkit?!) and interact with all the college girls you can find (and find money and secret tokens for costumes or items to buy, and take pictures for more money). Many of the girls play on stereotypes in some form (dumb cheerleaders, naive country girls, vulgar Italian-Americans, drunken co-eds), but they're sometimes amusing in their own ways. You also have a fraternity house who seems to like Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbath a little too much, the exasperated dean tired of Loveage's antics, and Larry Laffer himself to interact with. You can also drink lots of alcohol and piss on stuff too (Postal II did that better to be honest).
Now the real meat of the gameplay is this repetitious, sometimes boring conversation minigame. You guide this little cartoon sperm and you have to keep it on track at all costs, avoiding objects derimential to the conversation or something of the matter. Now, I say repetitious because the minigame takes up, what - 60% of the game? Well, okay, that seems hyperbolic but it's true. While the minigame does have it's moments, if you want to progress you have to get through it. It sucks. There are also other minigames, such as dancing and trampoline minigames (a poor man's DDR), chasing and item retrival minigames (a poor man's Pac Man), as well as admittedly, a few original ones - spray water on girls to show off their boobs, play the classic drinking game of quarters and uh...slapping hands? When it comes to gameplay, Magna Cum Laude is very weak and seems to be there for the sake of progression...while I'm not expecting depth, I am expecting some form of substance. It's an adventure game after all.
Now, for the technicalities. Graphic wise, it looks alright. Nothing boundary pushing, but cartoony enough to make it work, and there is some detail put into the models (albeit cut for the console and M-rated PC release - no genitals here, but nipples-a-plenty). The girls are definetely cartoonish and sexy, and have some detail put into them with exaggerated jiggle physics (go figure). Larry and most of the male characters are given very cartoonish looks, with Larry having a giant ass head (which I'm certain it's meant to be amusing), and all of the characters are mo-capped, though the lip synching can look very off at times. You do have loading screens where models represent the characters in the game, and the 3D modeled characters you can unlock as an added bonus, which is neat. Now, as for the audio, it's surprisingly stellar! The voice acting is excellent, giving a lot of personality into these characters. The writing can be hit or miss, depending on what happens, but I'll get to that later. Should note that there's hardly any original music in the game, utilizing liscensed tracks consisting of hair metal and rap songs focused on sex and girls - the most prominent being Mötley Crüe's "Girls, Girls, Girls", the obscure choices of Britny Fox's "Girlschool" and Mark Slaughter's "Up All Night", and the 2 Live Crew's "Pop that Coochie" and "Me So Horny". Apparently Eddie Holman's "Hey There Lonely Girl" is in the soundtrack as well.
Now, for the content of the game. Unlike most Leisure Suit Larry games, Magna Cum Laude is more explicit and crude to the point where it garnered an AO rating before being cut to shreds to get a more mainstream M rating. It goes beyond what a Leisure Suit Larry game can do with it's humor, peppering the game's dialogue with frequent profanities, graphic sex jokes and pop culture references with sight and running gags involving toilet humor, beer and marijuana, gay and ethnic stereotypes and god knows what else, with more frequent nudity and sex as a reward for playing a lot (especially for the Uncut and Uncensored version, which shows off full frontal nudity and sex scenes). Now, I'm not an easily offended person and I can get behind such humor (mind you, the previous Leisure Suit Larry games have these, especially Love for Sail), and there are some moments in the game that did make me giggle or laugh out loud entirely. This might be the only game that I know of where it makes jokes at the expense of Willie Nelson, Lutherans and Morgan Freeman - not at the same time, though. In contrast to the Laffer games, where the jokes were more based around the pratfalls, gullibility, idioicy and constant unluckiness of Larry Laffer, combined with subtle sexual humor and a dosage of slapstick and the occassional satire, Magna Cum Laude is more like American Pie than the previous games, which can really turn some diehard fans off entirely. But there are some clever jokes in here - not in the same way as you'd expect but still present nonetheless. As for the character of Loveage, he's got the gumption of Laffer yet lacks charm, or let alone any originality. In a side by side comparison, there's no denying the two are bumbling idiots who want to get into a woman's pants, and that's fine (like uncle...like nephew, I guess?), as there is humor to be found in that, but there's a difference. Laffer (for the time) was quite original in a way. Loveage seems like a carbon copy, and any form of uniqueness is thrown out the window. Wheras Laffer treats everyone with dopey kindness, Loveage is just a selfish and vain little bastard. The only thing I can say is that Loveage just happens to be Laffer, only spewing out more profanities and guzzling as much alcohol as possible while cracking some one liners (and having a big goddamn head to back it up). His characterization isn't as bad here than it is in Box Office Bust, believe me.
In the end, Magna Cum Laude is...well, it's one of those games in a franchise where they go all out, try to make themselves stand out from the rest of the crowd but can be really hit or miss no matter how you look at it, and as a result you really want to form your own opinion about it, diehard fan or not. Personally, I didn't like it. I thought it was boring, repetitious and dull, yet had some funny moments all around, and Loveage is a pretty shitty game character over all.
To it's credit, Magna Cum Laude was almost original in it's tone, content and images. I don't think we'll ever see a game of it's caliber for a long while, let alone be published by a major AAA company without courting serious controversy. Ah well, one can only hope...