For a number of years my brother and I had a regular babysitter. Such a demeaning phrase…”babysitter.” But I didn’t mind; the babysitter had two kids roughly our age that were pretty awesome and also gamers, so it was all good. They also had a pimpin’ computer that was running both Monkey Island and Leisure Suit Larry. Guess which one I got to play? That’s right: neither.
However, since I saw one (Monkey Island) and heard the other in passing (Leisure Suit Larry), naturally I sought both out when I got my own pimped out PC, years after I didn’t have a babysitter anymore, learned the ways of emulation, and how to download whatever the fuck I wanted 100% for free…even before I entered college!
In any case, the series I latched onto and beat most of before I entered college was Leisure Suit Larry. This was predominantly because it was a better developed series (you gotta admit that having 7 games is much better than having 3 if you’re considering something to be a series), but also because…I mean, come on…it was all about the sex.
In any case, that’s what I want to reflect on. No, not the weird “I don’t even really know what the fuck this sex stuff is but this is hilarious all the same,” but the Leisure Suit Larry series as…well, a series…and whatever the fuck happened to it.
Leisure Suit Larry – Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987)
In Larry’s debut, not a whole lot is known about Larry. Actually, I’d say I still didn’t know a whole lot about Larry other than he wears a leisure suit at all times, constantly seems to be evaded by vagina, and is purely sex driven. Of course, that’s all you really need to know about Larry and his motivations, so there is that.
This one, while tough, is absolutely beatable without a walkthrough. Sure, there are some puzzles that are a little…out there…but nothing you can’t solve by thinking about it for a bit. And of course, since it’s not a terribly long game, getting stuck CAN happen, but it’s not exactly a major setback. This is one of my favorite titles of the Larry series and to be honest it’s just as fun to play in EGA as it is in VGA.
Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking For Love In Several Wrong Places (1988)
This is right around when Sierra thought it was a fantastic idea to have incredibly long adventure games that you could completely fuck up in the first few minutes and not even know it until way late in the game, at which point you’re screwed and have to start all the fuck over. Yeah. THOSE kinds of adventure games. In fact, I wonder if it’s because of THOSE types of adventure games that the adventure genre died out…but maybe that’s being a bit unfair.
This one is less about sex (it is there, but I’m just sayin’) and more about having an epic adventure full of hilarity. And it’s epic, alright, but the puzzles are goddamn frustrating. There are so many you can mess up strictly because the game allows you to fuck it up even if it’s something you shouldn’t be able to fuck up.
The game is relentlessly hard just for the sake of being so, making this one of my less desired Larry games. In fact, were it not for the more recent Larry titles, this would probably be my most hated one. It’s imperative you play this one with a walkthrough unless you’re simply a glutton for punishment.
Leisure Suit Larry 3 – Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals (1989)
This one also has a number of tough, more obscure puzzles and plenty of pixel hunting alongside lots of puns, specific terminology, etc. that has to be used via text parser, but it’s also one of the best. Even though it’s only EGA, it has some of the best graphics of the series, the dialogue is great, and the story is top notch.
It’s yet another wacky misadventure and the best part is it’s just the right length with less ways to get completely stuck. Sure, it can still happen, but overall the design philosophy was much better with this one and it shows. And hey, you get to play as more than just Larry, which sadly has only been done twice in the series that I know of.
Leisure Suit Larry 5 – Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (1991)
Ah, the first VGA Larry. Now, if you don’t know what happened to 4, well…it’s kind of a running gag. Apparently Al Lowe promised there would never be a Larry 4 after the 3rd one was made, then later decided to continue making them…sooooo yeah. It’s slappy, but it is what it is. This is the first one that you couldn’t die in. At all.
You CAN get stuck, you CAN miss extra points, and you CAN miss out on all kinds of wacky dialogue, but no, you can’t die. I’m pretty sure this was in response to the different Lucasarts adventure games that featured a similar design philosophy, but honestly I think they handled death the best in the next one.
Leisure Suit Larry 6 – Shape Up or Slip Out! (1994)
The one major thing I didn’t like about this one was up to this point there was kind of a continuing story. It made sense why things transitioned the way they did from one Larry game to the next, but with this one it happens fairly suddenly and with no real warning. It’s as if they said alright, we’re done with Patti, let’s just throw Larry into this situation and be done with it.
This is sad because the Larry/Patti thing was going pretty well and it’s a major sidestep from the original story. Now, it’s not necessarily all bad as this game is very well put together, but I’m just sayin’. This one doesn’t have a lot of rooms, but it does have a lot of depth, the puzzles are very well put together, and it’s the only Larry to do “retries.”
See, both Space Quest 6 and Larry 6 had it where if you died, that wasn’t the end. Instead you could simply restart just moments before death to try again. Add in the fact that they absolutely did not allow you to get stuck and the design philosophy for this one rings in as one of the best put together Larry titles to date.
Leisure Suit Larry – Love for Sail! (1996)
…alright, look. I have a love/hate relationship with this one. I love the artwork, voiceovers, dialogue, and even some of the puzzles. What I hate is virtually everything else. At least it has a continuing story from Larry 6, but the game overall is not very well put together. You can definitely solve it without a walkthrough, but the jokes often fall short and the story makes it almost not worth it.
It’s built very similarly to Larry 6 in that there aren’t many rooms as it’s just the one main area and they do manage to pack in some nice artwork, but that’s about it. Honestly, the game just doesn’t feel well thought out. The worst part is this was Al Lowe’s last Larry game as Sierra closed their adventure gaming studio shortly after this and handed over the rights to Vivendi, a decision that was SURELY well thought out and has saved them countless dollars (NOT).
Leisure Suit Larry – Magna Cum Laude (2004)
This game is terrible. Okay look, the angle is great: a plucky, young college student goes around trying to score with all kinds of chicks for an upcoming game show. Fine, sure, whatever. There are no puzzles. Yeah, I’m just going to throw that out there. There are NO puzzles. There’s stuff to buy, there are minigames, there are collectibles. And there are no puzzles.
This game is a Larry game in name only. It lacks the wit, charm, PUZZLES, and other basic adventuring elements that made Larry fun. Sure, it’s pervy and funny at times, but it’s so…blah. If you never play this game in your entire life, you are missing absolutely nothing. It really is that bad. Save one or two chuckle-inducing moments, this game is an atrocious abomination that has no right to be in the Larry franchise.
Leisure Suit Larry – Box Office Bust (2009)
…and somehow this is worse. Just trust me on this.
So what happened?
We happened. Alright, maybe that’s not the whole story, but let’s really think about this. Of you reading the article right now, how many would likely play a new Larry game? Probably all of you, right? But what percentage are you of the gamer population? How much money do you invest in companies that are ACTUALLY making these games?
Don’t get me wrong; if you often buy up games like Ben There Dan That, various Telltale titles, and whatever, then you’re probably already doing what you can anyway. The real question is would you be willing to spend $60 on a brand new adventure game, packed to the gills with adventuring and ONLY adventuring…knowing it will probably be done in less than a few hours?
And there’s the rub. See, back in the old PC days, it was usually $40 and it was the norm, so nobody complained. With games getting bigger and having bigger budgets, why would we ever spend that much on a game that barely takes us any time to beat? “Okay, well how about $20?” Yeah about that…look at almost every Telltale title.
What’s wrong with them? Well, they can’t seem to do just a standard length adventure game with good production values. No, what typically happens is they might throw in something here and there that’s impressive, but they keep reusing stuff, having you go back over the same areas, encounter the same characters, interact with the same things…you get the idea.
Now, this was changed up a bit with titles like The Walking Dead and Back to the Future, but I still can’t help but feel that the production values are way worse than what we would normally expect from a modern adventure game. “Okay, well what about titles like Deponia or Dark Eye?” Let’s not get started on a Daedalic rant. Really, let’s just not.
Again, I’m not saying it’s impossible or that we don’t care, it’s simply that it’s not financially feasible for large studios to produce these games…or so they tell us. See, that’s the other side to this. They claim it would be irresponsible to make something like that because “nobody wants it” and “they couldn’t possibly make money off of it.”
Then again, they may have something there…
Something sounds off about that. How is Telltale still around, then? Why is Daedalic still turning a buck? Is this just a fad? Honestly, I don’t think so. Most adventure games were started in the 80s and I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface at what they’re capable of. As far as where Larry went, well…after the Al Lowe/Sierra breakup, there really isn’t a whole lot Al can do.
He’s doing what he can with Replay now to redesign Larry titles, but nothing reported yet as far as new games. What’s especially sad here is both Sierra AND Lucasarts are out of the picture. In fact, I’m pretty sure ALL the classic adventure gaming studios are just plain gone. Every so often you’ll hear something about Roberta and Ken, Al Lowe, Ron Gilbert, and so on, but nowadays it’s more about the indie scene.
The only good news I can report besides the upcoming remakes is the fact that as we invest more and more into adventure games, eventually the larger studios are going to have to take notice. This is a potential market for them and they’re going to turn their nose up at it? I mean, especially since the indie scene has exploded on it…I just don’t get why they’d do that.
So yeah, as usual, buy indie! Maybe nothing will ever happen and we have to prepare for that, but in the interim I honestly don’t care WHO’S making them; if there are solid adventure games to be had, I’ll be there.