Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded Review (PC)

There aren’t many 26-year-old games that people would get excited about seeing with updated graphics and new voice acting. Just to put into context, The Secret of Monkey Island is only a not-able-to-rent-a-car-in-America 23-years-old. What game older than that could possibly both be worthy of a modern remake and still worth getting excited about? Why, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards of course. After a successful Kickstarter campaign we finally get to see Larry Laffer in action once again. Just ignore those suspicious stains on his trousers.

The story is simple: Larry Laffer is nearly a 40-year-old virgin and wants to change that fast. He plans to spend the night in the dirty city of Lost Wages (a thinly-veiled parody of Las Vegas) and won’t leave until he’s found someone to love him for what he is (a short balding guy with bad breath in a ‘70s Leisure Suit) and where he won’t have to pay for it. He’ll reach that point several times and fail due to either bad luck or his own stupidity, but he’ll find love or die trying. Probably several times. This is a game where 90-100% of the dialogue contains smutty innuendos, and it’s so relentless and shameless you can’t help but be amused, yet is rarely crass since it’s always suggestive rather than direct. There is not any actual sex or nudity in the game, and that’s what makes it funny even 26 years later.

Larry, strutting his stuff on the dancefloor. Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984

Being one of the earliest adventure games it’s astonishing how well Leisure Suit Larry still holds up in terms of design, so I can quite understand why folks would like to see it updated to become completely modern again. While a lot of the puzzles and dialogue have remained the same a lot of effort has been put into bringing Reloaded up to present day standards for the adventure game. And it’s pretty cool how close developer N-Fusion have got. Barring a few mechanics that are essential to the Leisure Suit Larry experience this could be a brand new game, and the developer should be commended for that. Trouble is it’s those mechanics that drag things down.

There is one particular group that will be overjoyed with Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded: the backers of the game. In other words, the gamers who just want to play a Special Edition of Leisure Suit Larry 1. This is by no means a bad thing, they paid money to get exactly that and that is what they’re getting. A publisher would compromise that vision, and no one behind Reloaded (whether backer or developer) wanted that. I mean, Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition was awesome, so it should work for another classic adventure too right? Trouble is, now whisper this… Secret of Monkey Island is a much better game.

There are just so many things that get in the way of the adventuring it quickly stops being amusing, and while N-Fusion and Replay Games have done their best to soften a lot of them from the incredibly harsh original most of the problems remain. Chronologically first is the infamous Age Checker exam that comes at the beginning of the game. You choose your age and the game tests you with questions that supposedly only someone of your age would know. The trouble is, despite all the questions being updated the two main irritants are still in: all the questions will go out of date very quickly, and if you’re not American you’ll probably fail. No one outside the US has seen Saturday Night Live, I have no knowledge of American cookery shows (or English ones for that matter), and I don’t know what celebrities are Scientologists. I realise it’s supposed to be a bit of fun, but I don’t appreciate being kicked to the main menu five times before I even get to see Larry Laffer.

Then there’s money. LucasArts attempted this in one adventure too, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, and consequently it’s the one adventure of theirs that everyone forgets. Money appears in plenty of games, but if you run out of gold in Skyrim you don’t have to reload an old game or play gambling machines (with a lot of saving) to get more. Ignoring stuff you have to buy in Larry, the only way of getting between locations is by taxi. If you run out of money a nice hobo gives you ten dollars, but taxi fares are usually around $20 so you have go to the nearest slot machine and just keep saving and reloading until you win enough to comfortably keep going. It is extremely tedious, and the buying stuff part just adds salt to the wound since the game quite clearly says Larry is carrying credit cards. If there was some special way of getting loads of cash it would be fine, but you can’t and it remains a tedious exercise throughout Reloaded.

Okay, so there is some nudity

Both of which were massive parts of the original game that really couldn’t be removed without completely changing Leisure Suit Larry, and while I appreciate the developer’s dilemma here I unfortunately have to judge the game as it is right now, which is a shame, since a lot of the other problems of the original have been subtly softened. Death for example was regular, permanent, and frequently unfair, with such acts as not having money for a cab, flushing a toilet, using a condom or just walking off the side of the screen ending in a restart. Now there’s an amusing (and, most importantly, skippable) cutscene of Larry being reanimated by a Dr Frankenstein-like scientist followed by Larry being returned to where you were before his death. Hooray.

Puzzles have also been tweaked and extended, so people who know the original inside-out (or are relying on a decades-old walkthrough) still will have a challenge when playing Reloaded. There are some that still get annoying, most notably having to use the remote on the TV about ten times (with the same bit of narration each time) until the pimp guarding the staircase gets distracted enough to let Larry by. By and large though the puzzles last a little longer and are much more satisfying [careful there], which is good since without death the game would be quite short. There’s even a whole new section at the Caesar’s Phallus (yep) casino revolving around new girl Jasmine, who swims with the hotel’s resident whale. While actually getting in to see her can be a little tricky, new characters in this remake are definitely a good thing, and the best thing about it is that the conversations with Jasmine are clearly written to be spoken, not read. Her falling out scene with Larry is consequently one of the more hilarious bits in the game, and is mostly and notably narration-free.

Ah yes, the narrator. The narration accompanies and describes every movement Larry makes, and was clearly meant to make up for the lack of graphics in the 1987 game. In 2013, with the graphics now looking very lovely indeed, the narrator is extremely outdated – not to mention much funnier and better in text. Having it described to you slowly that Larry is knocking on a door or changing a TV channel (while the well-animated Larry clearly knocks on a door or presses a button on the remote while the TV changes what’s on screen) is utterly unnecessary. Yes, it can be funny, but I definitely preferred to read it rather than hear it. The smug, sleazy voice of the narrator is highly punchable too.

Then there’s the interface. One of the things I loved about The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition was how they cut out all the superfluous verbs like ‘Turn On’ or ‘Open’, melding both into straight ‘Use’. Reloaded doesn’t do that, and can’t really or you’d lose a sixth of the jokes in the game. Consequently though that leaves us with six icons to cycle between by hammering the Right Mouse Button every time we want to do anything when all we really want to do is Look, Use, Walk and occasionally Talk – why is “Lick” and “Unzip” of equal importance to those?! Joke value is excellent, but practical puzzle-solving or just generally doing anything value? Minus several billion. Funny now and again, but extremely annoying any other time. In a final moan, one thing that N-Fusion could have added but didn’t is some sort of hint system. I’m sure they could’ve thought up an amusing and Larry-specific way of giving players hints, instead if they get stuck they’re forced to Alt-Tab out and look up a walkthrough online, which is abominable in this day and age.

Presenting the only screenshot in a Strategy Informer review you’ll actually click to see full-screen. You dirty fecker

Well, I’m done knocking all the things that made Leisure Suit Larry so well loved and which have been faithfully updated, so let’s get on to other things that I actually liked. The graphics, as mentioned previously, are lovely. The game looks like a sleazy Adult Swim cartoon, or The Simpsons for Over-18s. Backgrounds are packed with detail (personal favourite: how the mounted heads on one side of Lefty’s bar turn out to be the full thing on the other side of the wall), and even better almost all the little details have a description or several layers of interaction. There aren’t many specific characters that stand out but the host of weird NPCs scattered over every location can all be talked to, and they’re all fun to do so since both dialogue and voice acting are pretty good (incidentally regular Larry Laffer actor Jan Rabson returns to play the character here, and still sounds like a perverted Inspector Gadget). If you’re the type of adventure game fan who likes to look at everything you could spend hours in this game, and you’ll have a lot of fun doing so. I may knock the narration but most of the lines at least produced a smile from me. This is most definitely a funny game.

And that’s the reason the first Leisure Suit Larry is beloved enough to get a crowd-funded remake – it’s still very funny to play. Yes some of the mechanics are painful, irritating, or just obtrusive (even by 1987 standards, yet alone 2013), but lose them and you lose the experience. Plus in terms of updating N-Fusion and Replay Games have done a fantastic job: it looks superb, the level of detail in every area is great, puzzles have been tweaked, extras have been added, and a lot of the pain-in-the-ass moments have been softened wherever possible to allow players to actually enjoy the game. Reloaded may be a bit of a relic, but it still works well and has been buffed to a fine shine. It may get on your nerves if you’ve never played Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards before, but if you’re one of the 14,081 people who have and wanted it updated to modern standards I think you’ll be very happy.

Top Game Moment: It may be brand new, but when Larry is honest for the first time ever to new girl Jasmine... and wishes he’d hadn’t been.

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By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Jun 27, 2013
I just want to confirm that the score I gave for Reloaded in no way reflects the effort the N-Fusion put into updating the game. They clearly put loads of work in and it's amazing how good it all looks - if you just want a version of Leisure Suit Larry 1 updated to look modern then you'll be very happy. Trouble is there are just so many problems with the original that they HAD to keep in that I couldn't give it a higher score. It's still a funny game, just not a brilliant one.
By Mindrax (SI Core) on Aug 01, 2013
So how is the new game comparing to the old ones?
Especially the old ones from the Amiga era :)