domstercool's Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (PC) review

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Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded will feel like a relic creeping into the modern age.

The original release of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (that’s a mouth full) was dated way back in 1987. Man, thinking about that year, I was on my way to turning three years old. As you can imagine, back then, I did not play the original Leisure Suit Larry until later in my life – that would be wrong for such a young guy to be playing video games that feature a topic about a dude trying to get laid. The late 80s were a completely different time to 2013. Back then, we had Rick Astley in the spotlight (although we still do, but he’s turned into an internet troll video), Debbie Gibson was doing music instead of horrible films and Liverpool was actually winning the football league. Larry Laffer has been gone for some time, but now he’s back in a remake, but just like Larry’s quest for girls – I can’t see many people but hardcore fans of the series finding this game an attractive sale.

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded was one of the successful Kickstarter projects from last year. The developers were asking for $500,000 to succeed in funding a complete remake, but they eventually gathered up $655,182, granting fans additional features to the game, such as a new girl that Larry can interact with. The basic story remains intact – Larry is a 40 year-old virgin who is looking to find some company with a lucky woman after growing lonely all these years. To sort this problem out, Larry goes to Lost Wages (Las Vegas in the real world) for a new experience, and of course to pick up the woman of his dreams and help solve his sexual desire.

Larry: Reloaded is very much a point-and-click game of old. Well maybe not as old as the original Leisure Suit Larry, as the controls for this remake have been given a reworking so they are more streamlined, but still aren’t context sensitive. The original game required players to move Larry with the directional keys and type text into the game’s command line, such as “pay driver” or “knock on door.” Another problem with the 1987 game was its support of instant death situations, which thankfully are no longer here. Instead, Larry just gets a cutscene, for example, where he gets beat up for straying into a back alley, and is then reset to the screen before going into that scenario. This is a more user friendly way of handling death in the genre and a welcomed addition to Larry: Reloaded.

The game’s controls now require the player to switch the mouse cursor between different states. It takes a small time to adjust to this. At first, I would be using the wrong cursor to access the doors or activate items. The icons for the various commands are self-explanatory – feet for walking, speech bubble for talking – and you have multiple ways to access them, by either holding down left click and picking from a ring, right clicking, which moves the cursor onto the next state in line, or you can move to the top of the game window and pick from the list there. After playing a few modern adventure games that use both mouse buttons to move, examiner and pick-up, this remake seems to fall short on having the best interface. Why do I need to select a move icon to walk to a place in the environment? Ideas like that are what makes this update feel more elaborate than it needs to be, but at least this is better than the original game’s control system.

Two of the most improved aspects of this remake are the audio and visuals. Granted, this should be an obvious detail, due to the huge time gap between the games’ releases. Back in 1987, the game didn’t have any voice acting and everything was done with pixels. While that style was charming, detail was sorely lacking from everything. This remake’s art manages a cartoon aesthetic wonderfully, and the studio has done a good job at capturing the essence of the series and updating it for a modern look. Its art isn’t without problems, as corners are cut with animations, such as simply having the narrator explain what is going on rather than having it animated. The backgrounds are also static – not much goes on in the background of Lost Wages, which sounds like a contradiction to the real life Las Vegas. Voice acting is well done, especially the narrator, who loves to comment on everything, so even if your find yourself stuck, you can always rely on the humour of Brad Venable to relieve some of the frustration.

I’ve been praising most of the additional features, but the important aspect is the gameplay, and it’s where the praise stops and the complaints begin. While the visuals and audio are updated, along with the better control system, the gameplay is still locked into its birth year. I understand the developers wanted the game to stay close to the roots, but, like how the developers of Rise of the Triad recently showed, there are ways to make it modern without losing the soul of the game. There is a lot of trial and error in Larry: Reloaded that requires players to spend time spamming the interact cursor on every item in the room to see if you can collect it or not. There’s no sign that an item can be interacted with, so it’s safe to assume that everything you see on screen is a potential item to pick up, until you click it and find out it isn’t. I give it props though – it’s nice to see a game that will comment on just about every item visible to the player.

Finding items isn’t the only issue. Another part of Larry: Reloaded I had a bad relationship with was how it still has the artificial way of extending the game’s length with the blackjack machines in the casino. Larry needs money to do activities, such as getting cab lifts to access buildings in Lost Wages, buying drinks and purchasing condoms. The only way to earn money is to repeat dull grinding in the casino. I got frustrated with this that I just began to save every time I won, then if I lost; I would just reload and try again. No game should force someone to do that for 20 minutes. It’s a horrible experience just to extend a game’s length.

And then you have the game’s theme, a topic that was probably funnier back in the 80s than it is now. Sure, it’s all just juvenile fun, and I love me some of that from time to time, but I rarely found Larry: Reloaded funny. In fact, most of the time I found it a chore, boring and at times frustrating. They could have done so much to improve the remake, but they didn’t, even the new female character added results in the same fetch questing techniques and unobvious item spamming. I complained about illogical puzzles in The Night of the Rabbit, but at least it had other mechanics to help you overcome that. In Larry: Reloaded, you are all on your own.

There is obviously an audience out there for Larry: Reloaded – 14,081 did back it after all, and I have nothing against people who enjoy the game. I’d hate for someone to take away the potential of having the games I liked remade in the future, just because someone else didn’t like it as much as me, so all the power to them for helping get their remake green lit. I personally wish more was done to Larry: Reloaded - upgrading Larry in more ways than just his looks to give a better experience.

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is no doubt one for the people who love Larry and his sexual-themed adventures. For a person who missed the era when the game was in its prime, Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded will feel like a relic creeping into the modern age and demonstrating to everyone how archaic the old times used to be. Larry may not be Captain America, but he’s surely having a hard time encapsulating all the improvements video games have gained up to the present, leaving Larry to stay with his loyal fans, while people who have never heard of or shown interest in a Leisure Suit Larry game will remain just as oblivious.

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