Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Game review: Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude

When I was a kid there were two game companies worth mention. There was Atari and there was Sierra. Sierra rocked. They had the King's Quest series, Space Quest series, Police Quest series, the Leisure Suit Larry series, and a few others I'm sure I'm missing. They had a formula that was great and sold well. Most any geek my age knows who Roberta Williams (game writer at Sierra) was. A friend of mine called the help number often enough that they knew each other by first name.

In these games you were a pixelated, 16 color character. You roamed around the world picking up items and trying to figure out how to use them to get other things. Get the feather, the cat fur, the oatmeal, and the wand, get into the basement while the wizard was away, make the cookie that turns the wizard into a cat so you can get kidnapped by pirates who take you to...
They were problem solving games. It required a certain kind of reasoning that appealed to people who later became programmers.

Leisure Suit Larry had the added appeal of having you drive a wanna-be womanizer and the promise of pixelated, 16 color, scantly clad women. There were three Larry games before Sierra dropped it. The demand never died.

As game systems evolved newer "King's Quest" games came out, but they were lacking somehow. Typing in commands was part of the appeal. Clicking wasn't the same. But they made an honest attempt to stick to the old format.

A couple years back they released another "Leisure Suit Larry" game. The reviews were universally bad. But with the PS3 out the price of PS2 games is dropping. I got it for a few bucks. Naturally the graphics are much improved. The game play, however, was not.

Before you had to explore and solve puzzles to get things to impress the women.
Now you go talk to the woman and play one of 4 mini-games.
There's a side scroller where you navigate a sperm to hit green markers and avoid red ones.
There's a button masher where you have to press a button as an icon passes over a dot. Kind of a "Dance Dance Revolution" idea.
There's a button masher where you have to press a button as it flashes on the screen.
And there's quarters, where you pull the joystick back so far and then forward so far to toss a coin.

It's those 4 games over and over and over again.

There's a couple of other games. There's a pong type game for extra confidence points and there's a game where you pass out flyers to four rows of advancing people for extra money. But they, too, get old fast.

The loading sequences take forever, but during those scenes they show either the digital women you're supposed to seduce in provocative poses or else real models based on the women in the game.

In short, don't bother. Sierra should try again but stick closer to the original games. That's what made them big and that's what we want.

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