Les Manley so desperately wants to be Leisure Suit Larry. He’s a nerdy loser with a humiliating outfit, a white shirt and a red bow tie. He completely fails with the opposite sex, although his games feature lots of attractive women. He’s an ace computer programmer but life is always kicking him in the groin. His first game, Search for the King, even uses an engine that’s almost functionally identical to Sierra’s SCI0 interpreter. But beyond its obvious inspiration, one which is acknowledged many, many times, Les Manley actually has his own style and sense of humor, which keeps it from becoming too shameless.
So, Les is a low level employee at a failing television network. His boss, ever a moron, decides to run a contest offering a million dollars to whoever can get a real picture of Elvis Presley. It’s impossible, they believe, but it’d a good way to drum up some PR. Les, eager for the respect of the attractive blond secretary, decides he’s up for the task and sets off on a journey that takes him to the local circus, to a resort in Las Vegas, and to “The Kingdom” in Tennessee, a not-so-veiled parody of Graceland. The overall plan is to run around and obtain various bits of Elvis memorabilia, put on a stage show, get killed by stampeding fans, take a picture of The King in the afterlife, and wake up to reality thanks to a Resurrection Ticket that Les obtains from a mysterious fortune teller.
There’s a lot about Search for the King that’s patently absurd. Two of the puzzles revolve around the use of Helmut Bean, the World’s Tiniest Man, who can be used to fish stuff out of drains. Despite the presence of a bus station in his hometown of New York City, Les travels to Las Vegas by standing on one of those “Test Your Strength” circus attractions and getting flung across the country. To convince Helmut to join your cause, you need to steal a “dream” from a sleeping security guard, which is an awfully abstract concept.
Since Search for the King uses a text parser, trying to figure out some of these solutions can be awfully harrowing if you’re not used to text adventures. And despite the obvious similarities to Leisure Suit Larry, most of it isn’t particularly dirty. Sure, there are gratuitous close-ups of the female characters, sometimes salaciously rendered in all of their limited palette glory, but there’s no actual sex, and beyond a few off-color jokes and a completely random set of bare nipples (which you are warned about before hand), it never really goes beyond PG-level. It’s far from original, but it’s entertaining enough on its own. Released on both the Amiga and IBM PC, the Amiga version is actually a bit better. It doubles the color count from 16 in the PC version to 32, resulting in much more colorful and detailed visuals.