Playing the Lame Vol. 18

Well, that didn’t take long, did it? What was it, a whole two months before I fell off the wagon? I’m SO awesome.

So, I’m lacking in the promised content yet again, mostly because I haven’t had the time to acquire a copy of Evil Dead: Hail to the King, and I refuse to play any other version of the game but the Dreamcast version. However, rather than ditch another column or write up some more unrelated sillyness, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write something in the spirit of compromise. I’ve promised you Evil Dead, but as I presently cannot fulfill that obligation, I will instead write up something I have more immediate access to for your perusal. That way, you won’t be happy because I’m writing up something other than what I promised, and I won’t be happy because I have to play something that is, astonishingly enough, worse than Evil Dead.

Compromise!

Also, two things. First, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS, in case you somehow wanted the game to be a surprise. Second, this column is NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT for kids or anyone with some sort of morals. You have been warned.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

PLAYING THE LAME, VOLUME 18.

Name of the offending title: Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust.
What system was this forced upon: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. We will be discussing the 360 version.
Who was responsible for this crap: So very many people. Team 17 developed it, Sierra/Vivendi commissioned it, Activision-Blizzard cast it off, Codemasters picked up, and it was published under the Funsta label. I suppose we have to, in some small way, credit Al Lowe for its existence as well, but the sins of the child cannot be entirely blamed on the parent, so we won’t be yelling at him.
Date this abomination was foisted upon us: 03/31/09

A BRIEF LAYOUT OF LEISURE SUIT LARRY: BOX OFFICE BUST:

So, before we begin, I reviewed this a while ago. You might want to read that first.

So, let’s get this out of the way up front: I was, at one point, a big fan of the Leisure Suit Larry franchise. In all fairness, I didn’t get into the games until around the time Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love For Sail! came out, because I was a good bit too young to play any of the games until that point, but I picked up Leisure Suit Larry 7 when it first came out, out of equal parts curiosity and interest in it from positive reviews, and I thought it was hilarious. I mean, sure, the games are often crude and crass, but there’s a certain amount of charm to the character of Larry Laffer. He’s the sort of person who wants to sleep with every reasonably attractive woman on the face of the Earth, but the character never came across as openly chauvinistic or in poor taste… he was just incredibly socially inept and, at times, stupid. Larry Laffer was the sort of self-deluded, overly confident, completely inept character that’s hard to hate simply because he isn’t TRYING to offend, and nothing he says is all that offensive… he’s just not all that bright, and I kinda empathized with that, because hey, sometimes I’m not all that bright either. Oddly enough, also when I’m talking to women.

After Leisure Suit Larry 7, Sierra decided, for reasons that elude me and pretty much every one else involved, that the Leisure Suit Larry franchise was no longer financially viable, and they opted to can the man behind the games, one Al Lowe, with the expectation that they wouldn’t be coming back to the franchise any time soon. There were a great many reasons for this, but the biggest reason was that the adventure game genre as it was had pretty much run aground, and for the next several years was pretty much considered a lost cause. Now, I’m not trying to start a debate on the topic of what did or did not kill the adventure genre for nearly a decade, but the point is, no one wanted to develop adventure games anymore if they were expecting to make any money, and companies who had years earlier been associated with some of the greatest adventure games ever were now associated with, in essence, smothering the genre with a pillow and moving on to other things. Some companies, like LucasArts, did perfectly fine without the genre, mostly because they already had other successful franchises to fall back on (*coughStarWarshack*), while other companies, like Cyan, were ultimately bought up by larger publishers and either dissolved or left to develop their core titles and the titles the major publisher had no interest in.

Sierra was put into the latter position. It did not help their name brand.

So, a few years after being acquired by Vivendi, someone somewhere in the company decided that it was time to resurrect the Leisure Suit Larry franchise. Though we don’t have any specific indications as to why this was done or what motivated it, it’s not hard to guess: American Pie came out. Say what you will against American Pie, but it made a pretty decent chunk of change and Sierra already had a character ready to go that could make a run at trying to cash in on that very fanbase. Further, said character already had a fan base built in from the six other games he’d starred in prior, so hey, bonus, right?

And so we got Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude.

Now, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude was something of an embarrassing attempt at trying to recreate the magic of the franchise, for exactly the reasons you’d expect. The gameplay was completely deviated, focusing instead on stupid mini-games over any sort of actual adventure game mechanics, and said mini-games were at best mildly amusing and at worst boring and terrible. The charm of the prior games had been lost somewhere along the way, and though there were glimmers of the old games here and there, most of the experience felt awkward, like someone trying, and failing, to copy the original work and apply a “college” theme to it. Still, though, you could kind of see that the developers had at least a rough idea of what they were trying to make, and they were at least making a cosmetic attempt to make a Leisure Suit Larry title, even if they weren’t really equipped to do so. Modernizing Leisure Suit Larry was not the best idea in the world, and it was by no means successful, but still, one cannot fault them for trying, even if the end result was a failure.

And then Sierra tried again.

Now, before we get into what makes this a bad game itself, it needs to be understood: reviving Leisure Suit Larry in GENERAL was a bad idea for more reasons than “the last game was mediocre”. For one, Al Lowe was essentially the driving force behind the original games, and the fact that he was in no way attached to the two new games was not at all a good idea, as it essentially convinced his fanbase to stay away from the games sight unseen. Further, Leisure Suit Larry is not a franchise that’s going to get by WITHOUT that fanbase, as first, there are not enough people in the gaming public who will see a game they know nothing about, think “OOH BOOBIES,” and buy this, and second, with the core fanbase actively badmouthing it and without a counterbalancing new fanbase to talk up its good points, the game won’t succeed to the same level as something like Rumble Roses or Onechanbara, and it doesn’t have any notably recognizable characters like Dead or Alive Xtreme. But worst of all, the simple fact of the matter is that none of the people responsible for trying to revive the franchise have any idea what the franchise is actually about. It isn’t about nudity (although that’s a part of it), it isn’t about raunchy humor and never was, and it wasn’t about stupid, bottom-feeding humor. It was about lowbrow humor with some fairly intelligent and NOT VULGAR one-liners tossed in. It was about goofy puns and witty putdowns. But most importantly, it was about having a sense of humor about one self, about being self-deprecating enough to make a joke at your own expense without ripping yourself a new asshole, and frankly, no one, most of all not John Melchior, understands that.

WHY THIS GAME SUCKS:

So as the game begins, we find Larry Lovage sleeping in his trailer. He has apparently fallen asleep watching the least interesting porn film ever, and as we pan across the room and see said film, various magazines, and his sheets, which are decorated with a boob motif, you can almost hear the administrative conversation that took place here:

DIRECTOR: We need to establish that Larry’s a pervert as quickly as possible.
IDEA MAN 1: We could have him have some conversations with other characters to establish that aspect of his personality-
DIRECTOR: Yeah, okay, but we need something stronger, something that pops.
IDEA MAN 2: Fill his trailer with porn magazines?
DIRECTOR: Good, good, what else?
IDEA MAN 1: Have a film running on the TV at all times?
DIRECTOR: Not bad… anyone else? I’m looking for that special touch here.
TIMMY THE JANITOR: How about boobies on the carpet?
DIRECTOR: Genius!

Anyway, he gets a call from the usurper that calls itself Larry Laffer, who is having a bit of a problem. It seems that Laffer has a mole in his movie studio (what?) and needs Lovage to root out the mole, as Lovage has apparently displayed the sort of cognitive skills needed to perform such sensitive detective work and HA HA HA just kidding, Laffer’s just cheap and stupid. Since Lovage is apparently not doing anything after his failed stint as an environmentalist, which was more about not wanting to bathe and wanting to get some (no, really) than about any sort of environmental concerns, he agrees to help and heads out to his uncle’s studio. Laffer’s surprised that Lovage was able to arrive so quickly, until Lovage points out that he lives like five minutes away, on account of being a bum, apparently. Laffer then decides to

1.) give Lovage the guided tour,
2.) introduce him to everyone they meet, and
3.) tell everyone in earshot that Lovage is his nephew,

before getting to the meat of the matter: he wants Lovage to go undercover as a new employee to find out who the mole is. I don’t think I need to explain how utterly stupid it is to drive your nephew around the lot, introduce him to everyone, and then tell him to blend in and pretend to NOT be your nephew, so let us instead simply note that our mole is, in fact, stupid enough that this manages to work. This is obviously supposed to be funny, which I suppose it would be if I were five.

Allen Covert at work, ladies and gentlemen! He’s a true genius.

Laffer puts you to work, and from here on out we’ll be calling our protagonist Larry because this is about the entirety of faux Larry Laffer’s involvement in the product. So Larry is essentially given a job being the corporate butt-boy, because it’s HILARIOUS (no it isn’t). After taking on a tutorial that essentially introduces you to the (horrible) jumping mechanics and introduces Kip, the biggest douchebag in the world (voiced to perfection by Jay Mohr, less because he’s a good actor and more because he doesn’t need to act), you’re then sent off to do… something to help out with a street set. We’re never really told what, mind you, as this is really only a ploy to introduce us to Damone, Amy and Hugh. Damone is a moron, Amy is the token love interest, and Hugh is apparently the only director employed by the movie studio, as he’s the only one we ever see. The actual goal here is irrelevant, as you end up spreading the script all over the set and have to play Prince of Persia to get it back for absolutely no reason whatsoever. At this point, the fact that Larry is friggin’ agile like Daredevil pretty much crashes right into how much of an unappealing jerkass he is, and it’s about now that we realize that the ONLY reason women find him unappealing is because the script demands it, as anyone who can perform the sort of actions Larry can perform would have to be in good shape and have some outstanding cardiovascular conditioning in order to, y’know, NOT DIE. Someone that athletic would be attractive to plenty of people, which is in complete contrast with the story itself, so the game has to make him a reprehensible jackass in other ways, which becomes really uncomfortable in a hurry.

So after the stupid free-running mission, we are then tasked to deliver the mail, complete with Larry making snide remarks about how the mail delivery is a timed mission, because nothing is funnier than the main character complaining about the horrible gameplay and general lack of imagination of the developers.

Making the various deliveries accomplishes nothing of note aside from introducing minor characters who do nothing interesting from now until the end of the game. So, after delivering everything, a second visit to the post office reveals that we’ve apparently delivered a package we weren’t supposed to deliver, even though Merv, the post office guy (who, despite appearing in the “real” world a whopping ten minutes, will be a frequent reoccurring character in the “dream” worlds for no adequately explained reason), GAVE us the packages to deliver. So we go off to retrieve the package from Damone, who insists we take photos of Ginger and Jenna, two girls whose roles in the story are as minimal as my interest in said roles. It seems they’re having some sort of illicit tryst on the roof of the reception building, so we have to go capture that on film, because every aspect of the game has to be immature as hell. To get to this section, Larry has to tightrope walk across power lines, because, y’know, people do that every day. To complete this section, you have to play a terrible Active Time mini-game as Larry quips about the pictures being so hot the camera has wood, even though the pictures are incredibly boring, the visuals make both characters involved look atrocious, and you’ve seen more exciting stuff in an ad for Girls Gone Wild. Bringing these to Damone, and subsequently running like crazy to get back to the post office, introduces us to more of Damone’s character, or lack thereof. He’s “pretty”, dumb and initially comes off as being a somewhat manipulative moron. Keep that in mind in about ten minutes.

So, with nothing better to do, we go meet Kip, who instructs to do two things: first, deliver a package to Damone, and second, bring a journalist to meet Damone for… some reason. An interview or something. The point here is that Kip has delivered an inflatable sheep to Damone, the journalist snaps pictures of Damone with the sheep, and now Laffer studios has a giant scandal to deal with. Now, you’re saying “Oh, I get it, Kip just ran a smear campaign against Damone to make him look like a freak”, but no, Damone actually likes having sex with animals.

Yes. Despite the fact that we had to spend the better part of fifteen minutes finding him pictures of half-naked girls making out, despite the first hour of the game playing up the fact that Damone is something of a Don Juan amongst the ladies, despite all of that, we’re suddenly told that DAMONE LIKES HAVING SEX WITH ANIMALS, and this becomes his primary character trait throughout the remainder of the game. All of the plot points that came up about Damone PRIOR to this revelation dissolve into the ether, never to be seen again. Damone has transitioned entirely from “stupid playboy” to “sheep fucker” in the span of ONE SCENE. ONE. SCENE. There wasn’t even a transition or anything! He just started liking animal sex without any real warning.

Allen Covert at work, ladies and gentlemen! He’s a true genius.

At this point we’re tasked to go and deal with Hugh again, as he’s looking for someone who can replace Damone on the set, since he’s incredibly depressed about his… interests coming to light. WE have to go deal with this, of course, because Denise, the default “boss” of the studio (what with Larry Laffer being inept and all) is punishing us for giving Damone a sheep… even though we got it from Kip. So, yes, Kip is the mole, and yes, we have to stop him. You then have to go find Clark, an old actor who looks like life’s beaten him about the head and neck, in the theater getting drunk. He looks like a less drunk Gary Busey, so at least HERE, the gigantic teeth are appropriate. After driving him back to the sound stage, Clark… uh… slurs his lines a bit before Damone comes back and takes over his role again, thus rendering the whole event moot.

Hang up a bit. This, beyond anything else, is one of the biggest issues I take exception with about Box Office Bust: the game goes out of its way to invalidate your actions. We’ll be mentioning this later on every time it happens in the game, but the concept works like this: at various points throughout the game, the developers apparently ran out of ideas and decided that you either needed to complete a useless task or that they needed to make you do ONE MORE THING to progress, so you get quests that are either invalidated five seconds later or quests that are initiated by the cruel hand of editorial mandate. Neither of these are fun, both are frequent, and in both cases it gets annoying in a massive hurry.

Anyway, at this point the game introduces a directing mini-game, which amounts mostly to “pressing the right button when the right camera is displaying action on-screen”. It’s a fun enough game, but there’s no actual point to it because being successful at it wins you jack shit and losing still progresses the story, so it’s entirely pointless to even try to be successful in the first place. I… don’t even know what to say about this. It’s a mediocre game mechanic that’s completely meaningless, accomplishes nothing, and can be ignored entirely, and one ultimately even wonders why it’s even HERE.

That happens a lot with this game, come to think of it.

Also, the entire scene is only here so that the game can cram as many bad filthy sex act puns into one scene as possible. Ha ha, they have a guy named BOO KHAKIS that’s so fucking retarded awesome. Oh, and in case you’re doubting they did that:

Told you.

So, at this point, we’re introduced to the “scoring with girls” mini-game, which is apparently Melchior’s concession to people who remembered that Larry got laid in the other games occasionally. Of course, in the OTHER games, Larry’s entire reason for living was to get laid, and advancing the plot of the game required him to do so, while in this game, getting laid is a throwaway gimmick that you can ignore entirely because this whole “save the movie studio” story is just SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING. The mini-game works as such: Larry sees a girl on the “Employee of the Moment” board in the main office, then goes and finds the girl. She lays the verbal smackdown on him, but implies that if he can do something or get something for her, she’ll be interested.

You then have to go hunt for whatever she’s expressed interest in and either use it on yourself or bring it to her, which then makes her receptive to your advances. Upon returning to the girl, you’re given four things you can say to her; three of them are possibly truthful, but incredibly asinine, while one is a complete lie, but makes her like you more. There’s no penalty for picking the wrong answers, aside from having to hear Larry say something horrible, so you’ll basically just have to eventually pick the right answers until the girl decides she’s ready to go, and Larry then takes her back to his trailer… for no conceivable benefit whatsoever.

You unlock nothing by completing these mini-games, there’s no benefit to completing them save for unlocking Achievements in the 360 version, and the experience is so flat and often cringe-worthy that it’s not even something you’d WANT to do. I have no idea how someone could make the concept of SEX unappealing, but there you have it.

Allen Covert at work, ladies and gentlemen! He’s a true genius.

Oh, and speaking of useless things, I guess I should mention that there are one hundred Laffer Awards or whatever they’re called scattered around the studio. They look DEAD ON like the actual Larry Laffer, unlike the actual CHARACTER in this game, which I guess is some sort of joke on the player, and if you collect all one hundred of them, you get…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

NOTHING! Well, except the knowledge that you’ve spent something like five hours looking for little gold statues and an achievement, if that sort of thing matters to you. Box Office Bust just LOVES to waste your time, in case you hadn’t noticed yet.

We are, at this point, tasked with grabbing a cowboy costume and heading to the Wild West set, which is just an excuse to come up with different locations for us to visit, because the whole game would take place in the studio otherwise, which would just be boring. Not that changing the scenes makes it less boring, but hey, they tried (barely). Upon arriving on the Wild West lot, we get into a fight with a bunch of dudes, who we successfully fight off, despite being in a three-on-one fight with awkward and simplistic controls. After winning the fight, Larry acts like he got his ass beat, everyone laughs at him, and he goes and takes a nap under an advertisement for the Wild West film that’s presumably being shot at this location.

And so, we wake up in the Wild West. No, I don’t get it either. So, we have to ride a horse to catch up with a train and stop some non-descript villains from robbing it. The controls feel like you’re fighting against them at this point, which is awesome. The game then has us fight off a bunch of non-descript robbers and cowboys while jumping from train car to train car, saving the three ladies who are being threatened all the while, and after defeating the ruffians, Larry is rewarded with the girls informing him he’s a loser before heading off to town. You know you have problems when your own subconscious feels the need to tell you how terrible you are, but astonishingly enough, that happens a WHOLE LOT in this game. Anyway, upon visiting the saloon we are informed that the town mortician and the sheriff are attempting to bury someone up on Booty Hill, which is hilarious because it’s Boot Hill with a “y” on the end and thus INNUENDO, only for someone who’s mentally five years old. This is rendered somewhat less impressive by the revelation some five minutes prior that the town is called Poonstone because OH COME ON, REALLY?!?

Sigh.

Allen Covert at work, ladies and gentlemen! He’s a true genius.

They can’t bury this person at Booty Hill, of course, because… he was a vegetarian. I, uh… I don’t even understand that joke. Like, at all. I mean, the eighteen jokes that pop up about the town being “as dry as some random woman’s snatch”, THOSE I understand. They’re not funny, or clever, or well written, but sure, they make sense. The entire purpose of the whole “Dude died because he liked vegetables” joke was to make an ass bandits joke two minutes later, which also was not very funny. Larry agrees to help bring the guy to Booty Hill for no adequately explained reason beyond “I want to get laid”, and then we have our first shooting gallery section. These sections essentially see Larry aiming at whatever seeks to do him in and shooting it, usually after dying about six times because THE CONTROLS SUCK. This one is no different, though it ends with a WONDERFUL platforming section that showcases all of the horrible collision detection and control problems, as you have to climb a cliff, push a boulder off to destroy a blockade, then climb down ON A TIMER. I had to re-do the section about eight times because Larry insisted on jumping off of a cliff every time I tried to wall jump anywhere. It was great.

So after burying the dead vegan at Booty Hill, we return to find out that Amy has apparently been kidnapped by the leader of the ass bandits, and Larry, as the only person in town who cares, needs to blow up the bank to entice the bandit leader to release Amy. We’re told that we have to go visit the prospector to get some dynamite, which involves wandering around town talking to pretty much everyone in it until SOMEONE gives up the goods, which is, I suppose, a concession to the people playing this who were expecting an adventure game. It’s no less boring a mechanic here than it is in any other game it appears in, though in fairness, most of those games are playable and don’t have plots that make me cringe in pain. After finding out the location of the prospector, we have to, seriously, jump, climb and fall down a cliff face for around ten minutes before finding the prospector so we can activate the elevator so that we NEVER have to do that again, thus bringing the useless task count to two. The prospector agrees to give us some dynamite, but only if 1.) we perform a fetch quest and find all of the dynamite he dropped in town, and 2.) we perform another Active Time picture taking event, because one wasn’t enough.

So, aside from the pictures, we have to succeed at a “scoring with girls” mini-game, sans the sex, then go ALL THE WAY to Booty Hill, collect more dynamite, then come ALL THE WAY BACK, and deliver everything to the prospector. Bringing back all the dynamite we collected, along with the nudie pictures, reveals that the prospector had a ton of dynamite in the closet, bringing the useless task count to three. Sigh. At this point we go break into the bank, which is one long stealth mission. Sneak around the bank, avoid the guards, marvel at how the inside of the bank is ten times the size of the outside, wonder if you’ve somehow stepped into the House of Leaves, the usual. At the end, larry blows up the safe… or, I should say, blows up the BANK but leaves the safe intact (and somehow survives the explosion but atomizes all the guards), and then, as he opens the safe… he gets knocked out and the contents are stolen. So, useless task count, four.

Damone finds Larry and informs him he’s under arrest, which never actually happens. Larry needs Damone’s gun, mind you, so eventually a deal is struck. Now, before we begin, I need you to understand: THIS, right here, is the MAGNUM FUCKING OPUS of the entire game. From here, it is all downhill. NOTHING compares to this one moment.

Ready?

Okay. So Damone agrees to give Larry a horse and a gun to go fight the leader of the ass bandits if Larry can round up eight horses and five women for Damone to have sex with. How is Larry to do that, you ask?

WITH A BRAINWASHING GUN SHAPED LIKE A DICK AND BALLS.

Yep. I don’t even have anything to say to that. Nothing I can say can make that more absurd than it already is.

So, that accomplished, we go and save Amy from the ass bandits. This involves hollowing out a cactus to use as a disguise, which introduces us to another stealth segment, which is notable for two things: first, the controls in this segment are broken because the costume makes Larry stagger around like a drunk, and second, we have to dodge farts while maneuvering around like a drunk or we’re exposed and captured, game over. This is one of the worst sections of the entire game, period. Upon rescuing Amy, she screams at the talking cactus, which OF COURSE draws everyone’s attention to us, thus necessitating that we fight, so, y’know, we’re at five on the useless task count meter. This is another shooting segment, complete with a boss fight against, you guessed it, Kip. Completing this unlocks another pointless director mini-game before we’re dumped back into the Western lot. One could consider that entire segment as useless, since it accomplished jack shit, but we’ll be charitable and say that on the plus side, I hate the game more.

So Kip asks us to plant fireworks on the property, and we go off and do this, despite it being a monumentally bad idea. No worries, though, as it never actually accomplishes anything; we’ll go and disarm them later, then Kip will go and plant them again, and we’ll repurpose them. Yep. Kip gives us a horse to make the fireworks deliveries, then asks us to deliver the horse to Damone… who proceeds to dress the horse up pretty, which once again gets him in the tabloids. Uh, okay then. This gets us another meeting with Denise, who essentially bitches us out for giving Damone a horse and tells us we’re an asshole for accusing Kip of setting it up. I bet you can guess why she’s so defensive of accusations against Kip, can’t you? I bet it’s not even a surprise, is it?

So, after that we have to go find Al. This mission is one of the worst in the game; we have around ten minutes to run all over the lot, collecting various items to follow Al’s trail. We find, among other things, some notes, Al’s mom’s panties, a pile of Al’s shit, one of Al’s kidneys, a wedding ring to Larry (?), and of course, Al’s Mini-Me, before we find Al himself, hiding in a shark. Aside from a less than obvious Jaws joke, all we get from this whole ordeal is the knowledge that we have to spy on Kip to bring him down. Joy. This involves planting a bug in his office, which in turn means we have to take out nine beefy, roided-up security guards in groups of three at a time. It’s very tedious and annoying. This is followed by a painfully annoying jumping puzzle to align a satellite so you can spy on Kip’s conversations, before the story derails itself again as Hugh asks you to head over to the Horror set to help him out.

After acquiring the Horror costume, which would be Michael Jackson’s Thriller suit, we then head over to help out Hugh, who wants us to test out a prop shovel to make sure it’s not real AND WE GET ANOTHER TIMER COME ON REALLY NOW?!? Upon finding the shovel, Larry, uh, beats a guy to death with it. This pisses off his friends, so we have to kill them too with a crossbow. Since the purpose of the mission was to make sure the props DON’T kill people, you’d think that was a failure, but apparently not, as Larry reports in to Hugh and… Hugh just kind of accepts it. Huh. Well, it’s time for a nap by the billboard to move the story along.

And lo, we have Horror World. The story starts out simply enough; Amy (dressed like some sort of Victorian lady in waiting) and Larry (dressed like… yeah) are caught in a romantic (or as romantic as this game gets) moment before being accosted by Count Kipula, and Amy is carried off to his castle, leaving Larry to save her. So, y’know, she’s doomed. Anyway, as we begin, Larry is tasked with dealing with Merv, who is this time dressed like Freddy Krueger… and wielding a chainsaw. I… I don’t know. Anyway, at first we needn’t actually deal with Merv at all, but instead must find a way to climb the tower in his yard to get the key to the exit. Merv cackles about the whole thing being some sort of fiendish trap, but Jigsaw he ain’t, and getting to the key is easy enough, if incredibly tedious… until a bat monster steals it and drops it down the chimney of the house, thus marking the sixth time-wasting mission of the game. So now we have to sneak into Merv’s house and retrieve the key, thus marking our third stealth mission of the game, and our first “make a noise and you’re done” mission. In these missions, any time Larry makes a noise, a noise meter fills up, depending on how loud it is, and if it fills, Merv (since he’s the only character we ever see in these missions) wakes up. Since nearly everything makes noise, this means you’ll spend ten minutes moving about five feet, which is… incredibly boring. There’s a part of me that thinks that whoever designed this section was hoping to inspire a feeling of dread or tension, but, uh, I hate Larry and this game, so the feeling that’s coming up is less tension and more boiling, frothy rage.

Sneaking into the cabin proper brings us to a trapdoor, and as Larry grabs for the key, a faceless monstrosity tries to drag Larry into the basement. This would be our one and only Evil Dead reference in the game, which is bad because Evil Dead probably deserves more than a passing reference in any horror-themed game, but good because the less Evil Dead has to do with this piece of shit, the better. Anyway, the whole thing is lame and the end result is that you get through the gate, only for Merv to chase you into a campground full of young women. Larry wastes no time, proceeding to offend all of the women within about five seconds, and all of the women are pretty much smarter than him, which is hilarious considering, again, THIS IS HIS DREAM. The end result is that it’s discovered that Merv is afraid of light, so Larry has to lead all of the girls to the cabins by setting his hair on fire so they can follow him to safety.

Y’know, I could make a comment about the horrendous AI here, where the girls will literally be IN THEIR CABINS but will still refuse to be saved because they didn’t make it to the trigger point and your hair went out. I could point out the inanity of the fact that Larry will have to, several times, leave the girls in the dark as he runs off to set his hair alight because it went out halfway to the destination, yet Merv won’t actually chase after ANY of them, instead choosing to go after Larry. I could gripe about the fact that the mission is, once again, TIMED, and that it’s entirely possible to fail because the AI is atrocious. I could even point out that the whole challenge is lame, pointless, and meant to do nothing but waste time because if you constantly run to where you need to be at any time, you’ll never fail the mission, but it’s still about ten minutes of pure agony. But I think, in this case, I will instead point out that the whole crux of the joke revolves around the player knowing that Michael Jackson’s hair was set on fire while making a Pepsi commercial back in the 80’s, which at the time the game came out was merely stupid and borderline obscure, but has since become exceptionally tasteless.

Allen Covert at work, ladies and gentlemen! He’s a true genius.

So, after running the girls to their cabins, Merv takes off across the river, and Larry has to follow him, which incites him to complain about the fact that, this being his dream, he has no idea why he didn’t make any sort of convenient transportation for himself. Considering everyone in his dreams hates him and wants to see him dead, I’d think he has bigger problems than a lack of proper footpaths, but it’s not my subconscious, so what do I know? Of course, this section amounts to a jumping puzzle where, thanks to the floaty controls and the design of the location, timing the jumps properly is horrendous, and falling in the water twice sends you back to the beginning of the campfire sequence, because Team 17 hates you. Completing the jumping sequence, on the other hand, forces you into what passes for a boss battle against Merv. You’re not actually doing anything TO Merv, of course; instead, you have to run across the island you’re on, which sets magical fires across the island, with the end goal being to set fire to the giant wicker woman in the center. You set the fires, of course, by setting your head on fire. Again.

As an aside, I am STILL incredibly baffled that someone, somewhere looked at the entire genre of horror movies, as a whole, and decided that a reference to The Wicker Man was going to make sense to over half of the people playing.

Anyway, more boring platforming follows, along with about fifteen minutes of walking around doing nothing, which is a fabulous use of the player’s time, lemme tell ya. We meet a talking skull who tells us we can go to Kipula’s mansion if we get a ticket from the graveyard. This involves a long, boring Thriller joke, complete with someone trying to do the whole Vincent Price rhyming gimmick, and lots of zombies. The rhyming gimmick is boring and lame, but the zombie-killing mini-game could have actually been fun if, y’know, the controls were in any way not hideous. Our rhyming host then informs us that we can play the mini-game again if we want, to which Larry FINALLY says something astute: “Why the fuck would I do that?” Why, indeed? This brings us to another shooting mini-game, which is long, frustrating and not very good, before we FINALLY get to Kipula’s abode… and another shitty jumping puzzle, followed by another shitty stealth mission, this time IN A MAZE. Upon making it to the castle, we find that Clark is now Igor for no reason, and we have to fight him to get Amy back. YAY BOSS FIGHT. This is another shooting section, which isn’t especially fun, and our reward for winning is the revelation that Clark wears women’s underwear.

What?

Seriously, this joke literally just comes out of nowhere. We’ve been given NO indication prior to now that Clark was a cross-dresser in the five minutes he’s been in the game. There’s no build-up to the joke. It’s just “BAM, Clark wears women’s clothes” and we’re supposed to be okay with this?

Allen Covert at work, ladies and gentlemen! He’s a true genius.

This is followed by, seriously, an exceptionally long and tedious statue-moving puzzle, during which Larry says “Talk about sanitary pads” one hundred goddamn times, WHICH DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE, followed a jump that’s nearly impossible to complete in one try because of the hideous camera angle, and another director mini-game that’s completely pointless and ends up with Amy being the Bride of Frankenstein or something.

And that’s it for Horror World.

So off we go to confront Kip. Aside from Kip spending about a good minute explaining that he is having buttsex with Denise, the meeting goes as you’d expect: Kip spills the beans on his entire plan, we go off to stop it. So, yeah. Timed mission involving going back and disarming all those fireworks we set like two hours ago. I guess they though if they spaced it out, it wouldn’t be tedious, but HA HA, the whole game is tedious, so I guess the joke’s on them. Anyway, you have to fight more guards, though in smaller groups, so it’s less annoying, but not enjoyable or anything. At the end, Al sticks the rockets in the water tower, which you would think would end up with the water tower being blown up, but sadly, no. We also find out that Kip has ordered security to find and kill us, but… yeah that never goes anywhere. So, evidence in hand, we confront Denise and show her that Kip essentially is screwing her because he needs to, complete with him talking trash behind her back, because Kip’s the mole in the studio.

I don’t even need to tell you what happens next, do I? You know, right?

So, yeah. Denise destroyed the evidence. We need to go photograph Kip setting up the fireworks, AGAIN, because of this. More Active-Time photography bullshit, more fighting roided-up guards, more timed missions, it’s like a cavalcade of crappy game mechanics at my very fingertips! What could be better? Ooh, ooh, I know, what if, right after this, Hugh called me to start up the third act, meaning I have to do yet ANOTHER lame dream sequence?

On the plus side, Denise is effectively written out of the story from here on in, so she isn’t able to destroy the new evidence, at least.

And so, off we go to the Bytanic Set. The name is somewhat misleading here; there’s no actual bisexual activity to speak of in the film, and “Tit-tanic” or something similar would have worked better for reasons that will become obvious later, I promise. There still would have been a shitty joke in the title, but THIS shitty joke would have at least made the player go “Oooooh, I see what you did there” instead of leave them confused. Anyway, before we actually do all the horrific wonderful stuff in Bytanic, we have to use a crane to save some filming equipment from being ruined. Now, this is, BAR NONE, the worst non-stealth mini-game in the entire game; the crane controls like shit, the shadows you would use to judge the location of the crane are poorly rendered, and unless you realize that the game isn’t playing by the rules and you can move the crane during the cutscenes that pop up every time you save a box, you’ll never save all of the boxes in the time limit. That done, it’s nap time again, and now we’re in Bytanic.

Yep. I’d like to take this opportunity to make three observations before we go any further forward: first, Shannon Elizabeth, in case you couldn’t have guessed, is one of the worst voice actresses ever, and should stick to actual cinema, because her only talent is looking pretty; second, the running gag for this film is “seagulls shitting in Larry’s hair”, and third, aside from assembling the ending, I’m only putting two more pictures in this thing, because everything else from here on out is more boring than Grandma’s Boy.

So, the act starts off with Amy trying to kill herself. Larry saves her, sort of, and after commenting on how bad he smells, Amy decides to date him to drive her mother nuts… provided he can find a suit on short notice. To do this we have to convince Clark (yes, again) to part with his suit. To get to Clark, we have to use the deck crane to put various boxes in place, then push them around until we can use them to climb onto the deck Clark is on, because we’re poor and can’t walk to the deck on our own. To elevate the cranes, we have to tightrope walk over the deck to grab a flag that blew away, then elevate the flag to its proper place. Upon talking to Clark, we discover we have to find some booze to coax him out of his attire, which means it’s time once again to talk to EVERYONE ON THE SHIP until we get a clue that the booze is stored below deck. This means it’s time for another poorly controlling stealth mini-game, as we hide under a pipe and sneak our way to the fire water, then bring it back to Clark. Our reward for this? First, we get Clark’s suit. Second…

Yeah.

So, after jumping across ice floes, we make it to the rich people deck, where our objective is to find a hat… even though like half of the people here don’t have hats and we’re only going to wear it for like two minutes. Anyway, from here to the endgame, the remainder of the experience is exceptionally boring, so we’re just going to hit the high points, such as they are.

– We now have to go through another stealth mission involving Merv (seriously, what IS it with this guy and stealth missions?), with the mission in question being one of the “hiding under something awkward to make the controls WORSE” stealth missions. After Merv wakes up, we then have to deal with a wonderful section where we run from Merv while in the costume, and the devs commit the cardinal sin of making the player run TOWARDS the camera to make the segment challenging. Of course, in a good game, this would be a jarring lack of common sense, but in THIS game, it’s merely stubbing your toe in comparison to the “breaking both of your knees with a railroad tie” experience that is everything leading up to it.

– Next, we need a First-Class ticket, so WHOO SHUFFLEBOARD. Seagulls crap on the deck in different places every turn to make the game more challenging, but it’s SHUFFLEBOARD. Given enough trial and error it’s easy enough to win eventually, if not in any way fun or amusing. More sexual innuendo follows.

– And now, fully equipped for our date, the game gives us our seventh time-wasting mission by having a seagull steal Larry’s sketchbook, so we have to get it back. That’s it. That’s the whole mission.

Okay, so, y’ever see a fantastic, truly moving piece of artwork? That’s the physical manifestation of “imagination”. It stands to reason, then, that this mission, which serves no purpose, is incredibly by-the-numbers, and just feels like it’s tacked on effectively is the physical manifestation of “no imagination”. So, way to go guys! Someone needs to balance all that good shit in the world out! Way to do it with gusto!

– And so, after a really long and boring series of cinemas that badmouth Larry and the size of his pecker, we get to the point of the whole endeavor:

Yep. Bet my title makes sense now, don’t it?

– So we get to jump all the way to the “top” of the ship to save Amy, who is doing nothing but complaining the whole time, which only helps to reinforce why Shannon Elizabeth should pretty much never talk again. Woof. The jumping puzzle itself is atrocious, entirely due to the horrid controls and collision detection issues; I had to retry the mission something like fifteen times, either because Larry missed grabbing onto ledges, because the camera moved around and I couldn’t see where I was jumping to, or because the game didn’t make it in any way obvious where I was supposed to jump to next. Aside from sheer stupidity, I couldn’t even tell you why I bothered to complete it.

– More filming scenes, more wasted time.

– As an aside here, to me as a player, it seems as though the dream sequences, based on their endings, should have occurred in reverse order in the game. The first sequence, Poonstone, ends with Larry having defeated the bad guy, Kip, and having impressed the ladies in town with his awesome daring-do, while the last sequence ends with Larry, dejected and insulted, drowning in the ocean, and Kip, Larry’s primary antagonist throughout the story, having been mostly ignored. Logic says that the sequences would have made more sense in reverse for two reasons; first, because Kip wasn’t that big of an antagonist in the beginning of the game and thus shouldn’t rate as the “big bad” of Larry’s dreams, but would rate as such later on when Larry KNOWS he’s the mole and is trying to ruin everything, and second, because it stands to reason that Larry would feel inadequate when dealing with Amy at first (and would thus end up failing when dealing with her), but as he accomplished more and his confidence grew, he’d eventually feel as though he stood a chance with her, and his fantasies would reflect that. But, hey, what do I know? I’M not the big money-making writer here. That would be one Alan Covert, who as we have already established, is a talentless hack TRUE genius, and it seems incredibly unfair to question his decisions, since he’s earned his position through being friends with Adam Sandler his own hard work and dedication.

– So Larry FINALLY presents the evidence (which, miraculously, Denise hasn’t destroyed) to his uncle, and Laffer decides that the best course of action would be to call the police and have Kip sent to HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no, really, he decides you need to go redirect the explosives Kip set, then beat him up. He doesn’t, like, offer you any HELP or anything, because that might actually useful; it’s really more of a “YOU CAN DO IT!” speech just before a suicide mission.

– The final mission amounts to going to the explosives, beating up Kip and his goons, rotating the explosives into proper position, and repeating until done, all within the required time limit, so, y’know, if you ever wondered what hell is like, pretty much this. It’s also amusing that the trained security guards are less capable in combat than the pencil-necked douchebag agent, who is in turn less capable in combat than the shit-talking loser with the tiny dork who never bathes.

– After you beat Kip, Larry sets off the fireworks, which all go sailing right into Big Anus (hur hur) Studios, and Kip escapes. In the real world, this whole scenario would result in someone serving jail time, but in the game, A WINNER IS YOU. Your uncle is so impressed he hands the keys to the penthouse suite over to you, and finally, Larry can get some rest.

And so, this is the ending:

Ah, no, sorry, JOKE’S ON YOU, Larry was just having a nightmare.

Now, I’ve given one Alan Covert a lot of shit up to this point, but I want you to understand that the reason for this all comes down to this one moment. In every other Leisure Suit Larry game up to this point, the resolution was essentially the same: Larry Laffer, having successfully done whatever it was that needed doing, FINALLY impressed the main girl of the story enough that he could get laid, and at this point the game faded out as Larry finally got the reward coming to him. It’s not hard to understand: the goal was to get Larry laid, and the end of the game saw him accomplish that. Larry Lovage, on the other hand, was tasked to reveal the mole in the studio and save said studio from destruction, and so he did that. He met several girls who were at least mildly relevant for, oh, about ten or twenty whole minutes, and he pined after Amy, the most vapid woman of the lot, for the majority of the game, so SURELY he gets his just rewards, right?

So, Larry wakes up screaming to find Amy:

Ginger:

and Jenna:

in bed with him. Well, you think, congrats Alan, you managed to end the game on a high note, and-

Ah. And THAT would be Larry’s strap-on. Because he has a tiny… y’know what? Forget it. The joke’s dead. Let it go.

Allen Covert at work, ladies and gentlemen! Fuck him.

CLOSING COMMENTS:

Y’know, I think I pretty much summed up everything that’s wrong with the game in the above, but I want to share just one more thing with you all today. Shortly after the review for Box Office Bust was completed, we received correspondence from the publisher, who more or less informed us that they expected a crap review of the game. At the time, I was still pretty bitter about the whole experience, so in response I wrote this:

“Fuck this game.

Fuck everyone who thought it would be a good idea to make a joke about obviously unpopular game mechanics (timed missions, active time events) and how obviously unpopular they are without actually DOING SOMETHING ELSE. Fuck everyone involved with the script. Fuck everyone who thought the bestiality jokes were funny. Fuck everyone who thought staring through a camera at the hideous women in the game making out/masturbating in the bath/whatever was a good enough gameplay mechanic to repeat FOUR TIMES. Fuck everyone who claimed they playtested this, especially the people who playtested “Bitanic”. For that matter, fuck whoever came up with “Bitanic” since there’s absolutely no bisexuality on display in the entire scenario, thus making the title completely stupid ON TOP of the fact that it’s lame and immature. Fuck whoever decided Larry Laffer needed to look like a cross between George Costanza’s dad and Neuman. Fuck whoever decided that Larry Lovage needed to say the most reprehensible things imaginable, CONSTANTLY, because “it’s (not) funny!” Fuck the jokes about the drunken old guy in women’s underwear. Fuck whoever hired Jay Mohr to do a voice, and fuck Jay Mohr for agreeing to do it. Fuck John Melchior, fuck Alan Covert, fuck Team 17, and double-fuck Sierra for spitting on the legacy of a man who gave them nearly two decades of his life.

Everyone involved in making this game should be forced to perform every sexual act listed in the game on Roseanne Barr. I hate them, one and all.”

I think that about sums it up.

In conclusion, while this might not be the worst game ever (if only because there are a whole lot of games in the world that I’ve never played), I can safely say that it’s pretty much at the top of the list as we know it, and every single person responsible should be jailed for committing a hate crime against anyone who might have played this. THIS (well, this and Alf) is the one to beat, folks, and if you think you can find a game anywhere that fits into the rules and is somehow WORSE than this, I challenge you to do it.

See you next time.

Tags:

No Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *