Written by  :  Unicorn Lynx (181722)
Written on  :  Aug 19, 2003
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

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Lecherous loser launches ludicrous liaisons!

The Good

Note: this review refers to the content of the original version as well as the changes made in this remake.

Originally released in 1987, Leisure Suit Larry was Al Lowe's first major work as a designer, and the beginning of Sierra's third long-running series (after King's Quest and Space Quest). With this adventure, the company boldly went into the realm of naughty humor. The developers could have just inserted dirty jokes and nudity for a cheap sensation; indeed, they have already done so with the much more primitive prototype on which this game was based - Softporn Adventure (which also received a curious graphical Japan-exclusive remake). But Leisure Suit Larry is miles above those earlier attempts in terms of writing and presentation. They not only kept reasonably good taste in dialogues and descriptions, but invested in the gameplay at least as much as in the then-shocking adult content.

Indeed, today many people my age remember Leisure Suit Larry mostly as a "guilty pleasure" from their teenage years, a silly old game they tried out when their parents weren't watching. What is often overlooked is the fact this was also one of the best adventure games of its generation. It had a fairly simple, yet beautifully flowing gameplay consisting of interwoven tasks elegantly strung together. While King's Quest III was very difficult, and the first two Space Quests fairly straightforward and streamlined, Leisure Suit Larry opted for intuitive, yet non-linear exploration of several locations available almost at any time and packed with important items and encounters. This approach made sure you were neither overwhelmed by complexity and clueless wandering, nor whisked away from familiar locations without any chance of returning.

The puzzles consist almost overwhelmingly of getting objects either required by the game's female characters or needed to obtain them. These simple tasks are arranged in such a way that the player is compelled to explore as much as possible, making frequent trips to different locations and keeping in mind puzzles that can be discovered right in the beginning but remain unsolvable for a long time (such as getting the bottle of pills). In addition, the player has to keep an eye on Larry's finance and engage the services of the casino to win the cash needed for taxi and objects that can be bought.

Leisure Suit Larry contains death scenes and a few dead ends, but they are never as frustrating as in King's Quest games, and some of the situations leading to the demise of the unlikely hero are very amusing and cleverly integrated into gameplay mechanics - for example, you have to think of wearing a condom and then actually removing it after having had sex. There are all sorts of funny details and occurrences such as people laughing at you if you don't use your breath spray often enough, a dog pissing at Larry if you let him stand still for too long, etc. The conversations with the several young women are lively and rather long, with quite a few responses and options available. And of course, the ever-present humor makes everything more entertaining, especially when it comes together with the growing tension as you help Larry "score" with at least one of the ladies, urging you to press forward and find out how things end.

The remake, released only four years later, uses 256-color VGA graphics and a new icon-based interface introduced by King's Quest V. The catchy, excellently arranged MIDI music greatly enhances the game's atmosphere in comparison with the original's few beeps. My main reason for preferring the remake, however - and that despite the understandable nostalgia associated with the older version - are the visuals. While King's Quest V benefited from detailed hand-painted graphics to immerse the player into the serene beauty of its world, Leisure Suit Larry uses a similar style to convey wacky visual comedy. The game is full of energetic, saturated, contrasting colors; locations are decorated with a very fitting bombastic opulence, and characters (with the exception of the women) are comically disproportional. In fact, it was one of the first adventure games I recall that deliberately went for cartoony, over-the-top, flashy design that later became synonymous with a large portion of the entire genre.

The graphics are also more detailed than in the original game, with more objects and some new visual gags (did you notice the moose head in the bar was actually attached to a real moose?..). The good thing is that the game incorporates these objects into the gameplay, eliciting new text feedback if the player pays attention and tries to interact with them.

The Bad

Leisure Suit Larry has a fairly large playing area and there is no strict order imposed on its tasks; but there is only one way towards the completion of the game. Like in all other Sierra adventures, there are optional actions that give you more points, but no multiple solutions to puzzles in the sense of King's Quest games.

The only thing this remake loses compared to the original is a bit of freedom in interaction. Of course, with six different icons and the possibility to interact with almost every object there is enough place for experimenting, but a few tasks were clearly designed with a text parser in mind and feel somewhat strange in the remake. For example, I found it more exciting to actually type the password you had to learn in order to access the pimp's quarters, instead of using this password as an inventory item.

Some people feel the comic style of the graphics is less appropriate than the "serious" visuals of the original version. That is, of course, a matter of taste.

The Bottom Line

It's easy to dismiss Leisure Suit Larry as a vulgar copycat riding the success train of early adventures and attracting large crowds only thanks to its obscene proclivities. Such an evaluation, however, would be absolutely misleading. Leisure Suit Larry is much more than just a bunch of sex jokes: it is a witty, well-designed, entertaining adventure game with great pacing and - especially in the case of the remake - outstanding production values. So slip into your leisure suit and help a forty-year-old man lose his virginity in the city of Lost Wages!