Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards

Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards / Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded - IBM PC / Amiga / Atari ST / Apple II / Macintosh / Windows / iOS / Android (1987)

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Leisuire Suit Larry

The first Leisure Suit Larry begins in the city of Lost Wages, outside of a shifty bar, with only one goal in mind – to help Larry lose his virginity before the night is over. There’s a clock in the game that runs in real time – if you take too long, Larry blows his brains out. Kind of dark, that!

Before you can even get started, though, you need to answer five questions to prove that you’re over 18. Of course, this mostly revolves around American trivia from the ’70s, so a lot of it is pretty outdated. But it’s easy enough to find the answers in FAQs, or just skip the sequence totally with Alt-X.

Your adventures in Lost Wages revolve around five key areas: Lefty’s Bar, the chapel next door, the hotel casino, a discotheque, and a convenience store. The only way to travel from place to place is by hailing a taxi; otherwise you’ll get squashed by traffic or beaten to death by vagrants. Traveling costs money, of course, which can only be obtained by gambling at the casino. (You need vast quantities of cash for other activities, too.) One supposes that simple blackjack and slots simulators were viewed as being “value added bonuses” to the core game but it really just slows down the pace of the adventure. Thankfully, it’s easy to beat these segments by saving, betting the maximum amount, and then reloading until you win.

There is technically a hooker right at the beginning, but (A) if you choose to proceed with her, Larry comes to the conclusion that it doesn’t really count if you pay them, and (B) if you neglected to go to the convenience store and buy a “lubber” (condom), you’ll almost immediately perish from an STD. In the original EGA version, your crotch starts to glow and then you fall over; in the VGA remake, your balls simply explode. In both versions, if you forget to take off the condom and wander outside, you’ll get arrested for public indecency – by someone who looks like Sonny Bonds from Police Quest, no less.

Otherwise, the only visibly available girl to woo is a pretty young blonde named Fawn at the disco, but winning her heart (i.e. convincing her to sleep with you) requires a whole bunch of gifts, the cash for a quickie wedding, and the wine to get her in the mood. Things don’t quite work out when she ties Larry to their marital bed before consummating their relationship, steals his money, and takes off.

This is one of the only big sticking spots. Since most of the game world can be accessed at any time, there are only a few other unwinnable situations you can find yourself in – most importantly, running out cash and getting stranded. The most awkward is forgetting to grab the ribbon that you get tied up with after hooking up with Fawn – you need it for later, and the hotel room becomes inaccessible after you leave it.

The narrative is also a bit meandering. The game never tells you this, but your ultimate goal is to somehow make it into the penthouse at the top of the hotel. To do this, you need to distract the woman guarding the entrance by giving her a bottle of Spanish fly. (Don’t use it on yourself, or you’ll get arrested for bestiality (!!), which is thankfully not shown on screen.) This bottle is clearly visible at the beginning of the game, but can only be obtained by using the rope you (hopefully) grabbed after your encounter with Fawn. Of course, the game also never tells you what this bottle is or why you need to get it – it just falls into the “pick up everything that isn’t nailed down” philosophy that tends to permeate so many adventure games. Anyway, once you get through all of this, and have a brief, illicit tryst with a blow-up doll, you end up meeting Eve, an attractive woman in a Jacuzzi. The only way to woo her is, of course, by giving her the apple you bought from the strange naked man in the barrel outside the casino. (The game tells you that this is actually Steve Jobs. Hating on Apple was even cool back in the ’80s!) At this point, Larry succeeds in his goal, and the quest is over. It’s not a terribly long game, although this was common of very early Sierra graphics adventures.

Larry’s journey is filled with other fairly humorous moments, some cruel, some not. There aren’t quite as many random deaths as other Sierra games, as long as you don’t flush the toilet in the bar anyway, which will flood the whole room. In the beginning stages, if you manage to perish, a compartment will open up beneath Larry’s body and take him to Sierra’s laboratory, where Sierra heroes are repaired and reassembled. (These are the invisible scenes that occur when you hit the “restart” button, the game tells you.) In the EGA version, you can find King Graham from King’s Quest undergoing treatment, as well as a robot from Space Quest. In the VGA version, Larry is tossed into a blender, where his remains are carried through a tube and reformed into his body. These fourth wall gags became increasingly common throughout the series, as well as other Sierra games.

Also noteworthy is a call to a sex line, where you’re asked for the name of a potential mate, as well as several related questions, which are used to populate a kinky Mad Libs-style scenario. When you try to buy some prophylactics from the convenience store, you’re assaulted with an increasingly inane series of options (flavor: Spearmint or peppermint?) before the clerk loudly announces your order, and everyone in the store – previously hidden behind the shelves – peers out and call you a pervert. (Amusingly, when you’re asked your size, in the VGA version you can only pick “Big”, “Huge” and “Large”. Regardless of your choice, the clerk will always announce “Small” size when he recites your order.)

In spite of the theme and language, there isn’t much real nudity. Any sex acts are blocked with a big “censored” bar, and other than small bits – a reclining nude on the bar wall, some nipple outlines on some of the girls – are vaguely defined. It’s clear that the game is more about making you laugh than getting you aroused, elevating itself out of porn territory.

There are three versions: The original EGA version released in 1987, based on the AGI engine; the VGA version, released in 1990, which uses the SCI1 icon-based engine; and the HD “Reloaded” version, released in 2013. The lack of the text parser in the VGA version does kind of hurt it. The original EGA version was thoroughly play tested, allowing the developers to see what kind of crazy things that players would try to type in, then use this data to formulate appropriate responses. Earlier Sierra games were pretty bad about this. In the first King’s Quest, if you typed in “fuck”, it would innocently say “I don’t understand ‘fuck'”. In Leisure Suit Larry, not only is that a valid command, but it will actually elicit some responses, however limited. Many are just generic “Tsk, tsk.” And “Yeah, you probably would, too!” remarks, but you can get some funny responses. Try “masturbate” (“Larry, the whole idea was to stop doing that!”) or “look at pussy” (“Obviously, restraint is no problem for you, Larry.”) It’s far from encyclopedic – “suck cock” will respond with “Once you tasted it, you wouldn’t want it!” while “suck penis” results in “What’s a penis?”

Ultimately, though, fooling around with the text parser grows old after a few minutes, and the icon-based interface is much easier to work with. Plus, the cartoonish, revamped graphics possess a lot of character that wasn’t there in the first place. The pimp in the EGA game is simply an overweight dude in a wifebeater, but in the VGA game, he’s clad in traditional pimp garb, and his eyes bug out Looney Tunes-style when you click on the porn channel. This attention to detail is even applied to all NPCs, and even the slightly off skew nature of the backgrounds. It’s a huge change in atmosphere, and one that’s definitely for the better. The only possible issue is that none of the dialogue features close-up portraits like other Sierra VGA games, other than the women, and even those have changed from their original designs. The hooker in the EGA version looks much skankier – the acne and drooping boobs definitely seals the deal – than her VGA counterpart, who by herself is pretty darn sleazy. There are other changes too – you can no longer puke in the toilet, for example, and the hooker won’t give you a blowjob. (In the VGA version, she simply refuses; in the EGA version, she bites your member off, causing you to die. This is all done out of sight, at least.

A clever addition to the original EGA version is the “boss key” function. Back in the mid-80s, not many people had home computers, and it was largely assumed that a lot of game-playing went on during office hours, when people should have been doing work. The “boss key” makes the game look like a boring, business-like graph… until you look closer and realize that it’s measuring different types of condoms. Also, you need to reload or restart the game when you do this, because apparently the game panics and “forgets” every time you do this. Oops. The boss key has found its way into other Sierra games as well, in addition to later Larry entries. The EGA version also features useless “calculator” and “puzzle” functions as a joke.

In 2013, Al Lowe teamed up with Replay Games to launch a Kickstarter to revive Leisure Suit Larry, with a remake of the first. It succeeded in obtaining over $655,000 worth of donations, and was completed and published just over a year later. It features high resolution visuals, completely repainted backgrounds and characters in the style of Love for Sail, full voice acting, and a vastly expanded script. This version was also ported to mobile platforms.

Jan Rabson, the voice of Larry from LSL6 and 7, returns to his role, though the narrator is different. The music was composed by Austin Wintory, the same guy behind Journey for the PlayStation 3, and features many live arrangements of the Leisure Suit Larry song. The credits theme is also a lounge singer ode to the art of crowdfunding. The core of the game hasn’t really changed all that much and is roughly comparable to the VGA remake, but there are still a substantial number of improvements. A Space Quest-style “lick” command has been added to the parser. There are many, many more item descriptions and jokes, so there’s a ton of incentive to play around with the environment, even if you’re already familiar with the original game. Most of the new material was written by both Al Lowe and longtime collaborator Josh Mandel.

Some of the puzzles have been changed slightly – you still need to enter the bathroom to find the password to meet the pimp, but the method to finding it is different. Other puzzles, like the final one with the doll, also are slightly more involved (and make a little more sense). There’s also a new girl, a whale trainer named Jasmine, with a whole chain of other puzzles to try to impress her with some homemade perfume. With this, the casino area is slightly expanded with a few new areas, including the pool area and a buffet.

A few tweaks have been made to make the game a little more user friendly. You can still die but are immediately resurrected, and there are no longer any dead end situations. However, the biggest issue with the game – the need for money and the repetitive gambling required to get it – has not been addressed. To be fair, you can never truly run out of money, because every area now has a slot machine, but the need for cash should’ve been removed altogether.

The new art is generally excellent, though the animation is a little sparse. Even though the game ostensibly still takes place in the 80s, it feels more modernized, especially with things like the “Angry Broads” parody arcade cabinet. This makes it feel strange when there’s still a puzzle where you need to travel halfway across the city to use a payphone.

A number of Kickstarter backers also appear in the game, as a thanks for their high pledges. Many of them appear at the bar at the beginning, though there’s also a Hollywood Walk of Fame-style sidewalk with assorted names as well. It’s sorta awkward and fourth-wall breaking, but it’s not as if the series hasn’t tinkered with such things in the past.

Altogether, outside of the gambling issue, is a decent remake, but it’s still a nearly 30 year old game at this point, and only a complete ground-up redesign would’ve completely fixed its short length and dated design. Incidentally, it was also released during a period of backlash against sexist depiction of females in video games, leading it to receive some harsh criticism regarding its sense of humor.

Despite some of the hang-ups, Leisure Suit Larry still deserves applause for its unique approach to adventure gaming, not only due to its slightly more realistic setting, but also its cavalier attitude. You’re not trying to become king, or save the world/galaxy, or solve crimes – you’re just trying to get laid. Fair enough.


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