Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded Review

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded brings things back with an HD touch-up and a new girl, but it could have benefited from some additional refinement.

It's difficult to imagine any woman genuinely falling for Larry Laffer. His hair is thinning, his breath is bad in a way that defies description, he perpetually looks to be a few hours from giving birth to a basketball, and when he talks, he sounds almost exactly like Maxwell Smart, the bumbling secret agent from the '60s television series. Those personality flaws are part of the joke, though, and that joke was enough to turn the unappealing antihero into a cash cow for prolific adventure game publisher Sierra On-Line during the late '80s and early '90s.

Getting condoms from a convenience store is no simple matter for Larry Laffer!
Getting condoms from a convenience store is no simple matter for Larry Laffer!

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is an apparent attempt to offer a fond look back at that dubious era. Series creator Al Lowe asked the Internet for the money he needed in order to revisit the earliest title in the long-running series, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, and his wish was granted. Larry Laffer is back for a triumphant second run, only now women are rejecting him in high-definition, and his quest for true love requires additional effort. The problem is that even with improvements, Larry is a relic.

Reloaded makes concessions to the modern era, but its roots show quite clearly. Larry appears on mostly static backdrops, and you click onscreen icons to encourage interaction. Each screen contains several points of interest, and each poke and prod is narrated with gusto. The actor clearly relished his role, and he manages to make the rampant sexual innuendo come off every bit as sleazily as possible. There's lots of material to work with, too, which means you hear numerous jokes about sex and the male and female anatomy even though the artists didn't bother to illustrate the bulk of it (which is just as well, in some cases). The dialogue is also fond of breaking the fourth wall, sometimes even for genuine laughs.

Larry finds himself exploring the city of Lost Wages, which is a transparent parody of Las Vegas if that city featured only five proper buildings and a looping road to connect them. Attractions include Lefty's Bar, a mini-mart, a love chapel, a multi-floor casino, and a disco club. Sidewalks line those buildings, and it's possible to interact with a few pedestrians who appear there mostly at random, but the game takes place in a very confined space overall. You need to hail a cab if you want to safely explore the city, because wandering along the sidewalks usually leads to an alley where a thug will beat Larry to death.

Spot the hilarious joke hidden in the license plate!
Spot the hilarious joke hidden in the license plate!

Even with so many restrictions in place, it's easy to run into temporary dead ends as you try to coach Larry to coital bliss. Reloaded plays out as a more perverted version of the more monotonous games of its original era, so that whenever you find a new location, you need to run around licking, groping, examining, and talking to everything, just to make sure you're not missing something. Your alternative is to potentially overlook an important clue, then spend a half hour or more making a circuit of the city, trying to discover what you missed. Sometimes this process becomes ridiculous. For instance, the casino has eight floors. Most of those floors have doors you can tap on to interrupt people who are having sex on the other side, but you can't assume that's always true, because what if you then miss something important? You have no choice but to hear every silly joke at least once, and perhaps many times if you find yourself truly flummoxed.

Moments when you're wandering around because you've missed a clue--perhaps even one that you've been holding in your inventory the whole time--only serve to highlight the game's most regrettable flaw: its interface. The new setup may have been improved compared to the old standard, but it still has a long way to go. If you are wandering a street and interacting with objects outside, that requires the hand icon to be active. Passing through the door to enter some buildings may (or may not) then require you to switch to the foot icon. Once inside, you need to switch back…except when you don't. Riding a taxi from one location to another is also inconvenient, not to mention expensive. You can earn additional money to pay for fare only by playing games of chance, so you're essentially encouraged to save a file after each win and to reload one after you lose, lest you exhaust your funds and find yourself forced to accept charity from a wandering bum.

There are completely new scenes involving a new potential love of Larry's life, a girl named Jasmine. Even finding a way to talk to her can prove difficult, though, and then gaining her affections requires a fetch quest and quite a bit of inventory diving. It's nice that new content has been added to give returning fans something new to experience, but the quality of that new content is hardly exceptional. It also doesn't add much depth to the adventure once you know what is expected of you. If you've lived the Laffer life before, this adventure isn't likely to outlast a half-hour sitcom episode.

I would not put my hand on that toilet if I were you!
I would not put my hand on that toilet if I were you!

One piece of good news, though, is that no setback has to be a big deal. When Larry meets an untimely end, the game presents you with a comical screen that you can click through quickly if you're in a hurry, and then Larry appears a short distance from the source of his previous demise. There's no real penalty, which means that you don't have to feel that you're punished for experimenting as you play the game. Some of the potential deaths are also quite cute, so it's worth seeing them happen at least once just for the sake of comedy. The artists clearly had a lot of fun with some of the animations, and for that matter, all of the game assets are sufficiently sharp and clear to convincingly capture the characters and the seedy environments they occupy.

Ultimately, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is most likely to appeal to those who played and enjoyed his old games, back when they were a big deal. The remake is packed with clever dialogue, and the HD artwork looks very nice, but there's not enough new gameplay to hide the fact that the original Leisure Suit Larry game was every bit as shallow as its sexually frustrated protagonist. Mr. Laffer makes a terrific jester, but he's not good for a whole lot more.

The Good

  • Juvenile but humorous dialogue
  • Appealing, colorful vibe and visuals

The Bad

  • Tiresome interface
  • Unclear puzzles
  • Too short to satisfy

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