Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded
Developer: Replay Games
Publisher: Replay Games
Release Date: 6/27/13
Seventeen years ago, for all intents and purposes, the Leisure Suit Larry series died a quiet, unassuming death when then-publisher Sierra cancelled the planned seventh game in the series, Leisure Suit Larry 8 (it’s a long story), and basically parted ways with creator Al Lowe for God knows what reason. Not that other games haven’t come out with the brand name attached, but aside from the surprisingly solid mobile phone game Love for Sail (no relation to the PC game), they’ve been uninspired at best. It also doesn’t help that what Wikipedia describes as the “Lovage games” basically buried the franchise in a shallow grave; while Magna Cum Laude was mediocre, well, if you don’t know how much we hate Box Office Bust, hello and welcome to Diehard GameFAN! After the franchise bottomed out completely, indy developer Replay Games picked up the license and, in a move no one thought was ever going to happen, brought Al Lowe of semi-retirement to work on a remake of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, and there was much rejoicing. While the road to get the game out has been fraught with potholes, including a complete rejection by publishers of the game, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded has finally seen the light of day. Thanks to a large amount of Kickstarter backers, a whole lot of love, and the talents of everyone involved, LSL: Reloaded is an excellent remake, featuring updated visuals and audio, improved mechanics, and new puzzles to keep even diehard fans guessing. For as high quality as the game is, however, it’s a difficult game to recommend, both for obvious reasons and some less obvious, if no less problematic, ones.
If you’re unfamiliar with where it all began, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded introduces us to Larry Laffer, a forty-something software developer who is “untouched by human hands” (unless you count his own) who lives in his mom’s basement. Tired of his current life, he decides to blow what money he’s saved on a trip to Lost Wages, a fairly obvious Las Vegas knockoff, to find “true love” or the closest approximation he can comprehend. Along the way he makes a lot of incredibly bad decisions, says a lot of incredibly stupid things, and generally makes a fool of himself, as only Larry Laffer can. The good news is that the plot essentially holds up VERY well; the core concept is simple, and the updated writing manages to avoid making pop culture jokes or, when they are made, keeps them attached to concepts that will likely be hilarious forever. Many of the classic “poking fun at Sierra” jokes are still here, while other jokes are updated for a more modern gamer coming into the series brand new, and you’ll easily laugh a lot during your time with the game. That said, aside from the Jasmine subquest, you’ll recognize the basic plot from the original game almost note for note here, and while that’s not a bad thing if you haven’t played the game in two decades or more (or at all), there’s a certain sense of déjà vu to the experience. Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on the player; some will appreciate it, others may wonder when we’re going to get to a new game in the series, so, to each their own.
From a visual standpoint, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded looks pretty and maintains the aesthetic of the prior games, though from a sheer technical standpoint it doesn’t compare to Love for Sail. The character models are clean and very high-res in the game environments, and the illustrated character faces that come up when you’re interacting with one of the four ladies Larry can meet are very nicely drawn and animated when speaking. The environments are also a lot more lively than in the prior two releases, for obvious reasons, and there are plenty of interesting setpieces and animations to see throughout the game. Characters tend to look like they’re skating when they walk across the environment, however, and while the game looks far better than it did in the original releases, well, again, Love for Sail was a superior piece of work all in all. Aurally, on the other hand, Reloaded absolutely sings, both literally and figuratively. Larry is voiced by the returning Jan Rabson, and the Narrator is either voiced by the same actor from the prior games or Replay found the perfect sound-alike, so fans will instantly feel at home with Larry’s nasally whine and the Narrator’s sarcastic drone. The remainder of the voice cast are excellent in their various roles, including a surprising appearance by Melora Hardin as a lounge singer, who completely knocks it out of the park, and most everyone involved does a bang-up job here. The music is also excellent, as always, and Larry’s classic theme is here in all its glory alongside some excellent tunes that are fitting and well worth listening to at basically any point throughout the game.
For those who have somehow never played an adventure game in their lives, Reloaded includes a tutorial to explain the basics, but the basic mechanics are simple enough to work with. In this case, you do everything with the mouse; you simply change the cursor, either through the top screen menu, by holding the left mouse button and selecting the option you want, or right clicking to cycle your options, to the option you want, left click on the thing you want to interact with, and Larry does it. It’s really that simple. For those who have played the prior games, this is somewhat stripped down compared to prior releases in the franchise (though fans of the 1991 remake will feel right at home here): there’s no text parser, death is temporary at best, and it’s basically impossible to get stuck in the game. As with many adventure games, you’ll basically spend your time talking to the natives, finding objects, and (to paraphrase Yahtzee Croshaw) rubbing things on other things to get results. There are no “salty bear with stick” moments here, as most of the basic puzzles and solutions are somewhat understandable if you interact with everything and guess a bit, though some puzzles are certainly easier to understand than others.
The game does a few things to break up the monotony, as it’s not all about rubbing objects together and hoping for the best. There are electronic slot machines and blackjack machines around the Lost Wages strip that allow you to bet some of Larry’s money, which you’ll need to do to be able to afford some things like cab fare and condoms. You’ll also have to travel around the strip by cab, as most of the locations aren’t connected to one another, and walking is a quick way to end up nice and dead (just don’t take any alcohol with you). You can also take in a show at the Cabaret that more or less goes on for a while, if you’re into some of the corniest jokes in history or want to hear a song about equity crowdfunding as sung by someone from The Office. The game also puts an extensive amount of effort into making sure that you can interact with basically everything, complete with hilarious commentary from Larry and the Narrator, and there are a couple random Mad Libs style sequences that legit caused a couple people I showed the game to to almost hyperventilate. You’ll certainly spend a lot of time solving puzzles, to be sure, but the game offers so much more if you’re interested in tracking it down, and that’s what counts.
The game itself is around three to four hours long, though going through without a guide could double that time if you have no idea what you’re getting into. For those who have played the prior games, there are some differences between this and the prior release of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, so it’s not the exact same game. A couple of the puzzles revolving around Lefty’s have changed, and there’s a brand new lady, Jasmine, to woo towards the end of the game that adds on about an hour of play for newcomers and fans alike. There’s also a massive amount of content stuffed into the game to interact with that, while it doesn’t expand on the game world any, is hilarious and should keep you busy for hours if you want to hear each and every ridiculous line Al Lowe and company have come up with. I’ve literally played through the game three times and keep finding new things I didn’t think to interact with that leave me laughing, so from that perspective alone the game makes a strong argument to pick it up. Also, it’s only twenty bucks, so if nothing else, that’s a pretty strong sale argument right there, especially if you’ve never played it before.
That said, the game suffers from the obvious problem faced by the genre, IE, once you’re done, you’re basically done, as the puzzles don’t change and there’s nothing to unlock on a second go-round. Even without that, however, as someone who’s played both prior releases of the original game, it’s hard to call this a “must own” game if you’ve played those already. The jokes are hilarious, sure, but aside from the Jasmine sequence, maybe three puzzles have been changed over the 1991 release, so you can basically power through most of the game from memory. Further, the gambling aspect could’ve been excised entirely; it’s an exercise in saving and loading repeatedly to earn enough cash to progress, when anything else would have been a good idea, and I’m kind of surprised that Al thought that was fine to keep in, but the pimp puzzle needed extra steps. Oh, and the Jasmine sequence is… not very good, to be honest. While the puzzles are interesting and amusing in their own right, the whale sequence was a bit much and the cat sequence was basically awful, and the fact that this thing almost completely soured several people I showed the game to on the experience speaks volumes. Yes, I know, it’s a fake cat in a fake game world, but it was weird, man, and Al, if you’re reading this, I seriously am glad that you’re back in control of the franchise, but no more of that, okay? Also, ideally, I’d like to see Leisure Suit Larry 8 before we have to go through the next five remakes, but that might be because I still own the rest of the games.
Also, there’s a whole lot of tributes to the Kickstarter donators in the game, including the aforementioned cabaret song about equity crowdfunding, and while it’s fine enough and mostly not offensive, it’s kind of weird. There are stars all over the place with names of people who donated, the crowd at Lefty’s is mostly contributors (and what I think is meant to be Ken Williams), the random dog that pees on Larry is a contributor’s dog… it’s just odd. As more games do this sort of thing it’ll likely be less of an issue, and later games in this series are more spread out environmentally, so it’ll likely be less obvious this is happening. Still, though, it’s kind of jarring at first, especially if you’ve seen the original games, so it’s something to be aware of.
Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is absolutely a great adventure game, and while it doesn’t try to do anything amazing to reinvent the genre, it’s a hilarious experience and a great sign of things to come, albeit one with some hiccups here and there. The plot still works as well as ever and the updated dialogue is hilarious, the visuals are mostly a great improvement for the franchise overall, and the audio is absolutely top-notch and needs no improvement. The gameplay is simple to understand and work with and there’s enough variety to break up the adventure game staples, whether you’re gambling, travelling around, or just clicking on things to see what they do. The price point isn’t bad, and the game offers a hilarious, if more adult-themed, experience for newcomers as well as a slightly different trip down memory lane for long-standing fans of the series to appreciate. That said, it’s still a one-and-done affair if you just came for the puzzles, and if you’ve played the original you already know how most of the game plays out. Further, the puzzles that were fixed and the elements that weren’t are confusing, the majority of the Jasmine sequence isn’t terribly good, the Kickstarter love being showed in the game is kind of weird at times, and it’s still, in the end, a remake of a game that’s been released twice already. If you’re a big fan of the franchise or you’ve never experienced it before and don’t mind sexual innuendo and some minor animal abuse, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is easily worth its asking price and then some. It’s not at all perfect, to be fair, but the negatives are far outweighed by the positives, and really, Replay and Al Lowe have given us a game that at least somewhat reassures fans that the franchise is back in good hands.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Whether you’re a long-time fan who’s thrilled to see the franchise back in good hands or a newcomer wondering what the series is all about, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is a return to form for the franchise, albeit one that has some kinks to iron out. The plot still works as well as ever, the game mostly looks excellent and the audio is top notch from beginning to end. The game is easy enough to play and anyone should be able to figure it out in minutes, tutorial or no, but there’s a bit of variety to the game to break up the puzzle solving, whether it’s gambling, travelling or just clicking on everything for a bit of funny commentary. The game is inexpensive and packed with enough content to justify the price, whether you’re coming into the game brand new or you’re a diehard fan wanting to see Lost Wages all over again, so it’s not terribly hard to recommend if you can handle humor that’s more on the adult side. However, the game is still basically done with once you’ve completed it if you’re here for the puzzles, and the game isn’t terribly different from its prior release so fans will know how to get through most of it by memory. Also, the changes made (and the changes not made) can be confusing at times, the Jasmine sequence is largely “okay” at best and bad at worst, the Kickstarter cameos and shout-outs can be odd at first, and honestly, it’s still a remake of a remake of a game that’s been done already. If you’re okay with dirty jokes and some mild animal abuse, you’ll find Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded to be worth its asking price, whether you’re a fan or a newcomer, and while it’s not without its issues, it’s a great sign of things to come, and a very reassuring one that the franchise is back in good hands once again.