The softporn adventure returns
Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded - Land of the Lounge Lizards -- my, that's a big title -- threw some nostalgia my way immediately. Just as in the original '87 version of the game and its '91 VGA remake, Reloaded begins with a series of questions designed to prove the player's age. It's a throwback from an era when most assumed that all games were for kids, and even a nine-year-old could walk out of a shop with a softporn adventure. Al Lowe designed the questions believing that no child would know the answers.
He was right, because back in the '90s I needed a cheat sheet. The now out of date questions have been updated with more appropriately modern ones, emphasizing the fact that we've entered remake territory. Likewise, the original MIDI soundtrack kicks in before being transformed into a modern interpretation of the theme.
Reloaded is still very much an LSL game, complete with the lewd humor and the awful, but somehow still lovable protagonist, Larry Laffer -- but it's chock-full of changes and additions.
Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (Android, iOS, PC [Previewed], Mac)
Redesigned by series creator Al Lowe and adventure game veteran Josh Mandel, Reloaded still feels very much like a product of its time, or the original's time, I should say. It's all puns, knowing winks, and leisure suits, but it also has its fair share of alterations and modern design elements, bringing Mr. Laffer stumbling into the 21st Century.
For those uninitiated in the world of Leisure Suit Larry, the entire series follows the exploits and misadventures of the sleazy, desperate, player-in-training, Larry Laffer, as he tries to very hard to sleep with women who are significantly brighter than he is. It's a softporn adventure series, with lots of laughs and no sex; adult in comedy but not exactly explicit.
The core of the original remains pretty much intact, with Larry exploring the city of Lost Wages, chatting up disinterested women and solving puzzles. The locations and the women are all the same, apart from one new lassie chosen during the Kickstarter, and the puzzles remain the same in spirit, if not in execution.
The most notable difference between the original and this remake is how damn pretty the game now looks. Lavish 16:9 hand drawn backgrounds bring Lost Wages to life, while the animated cast -- both old and new -- are full of character and dialogue both witty and cheeky.
Jan Rabson reprises his role as the down-on-his-luck protagonist, while Brad Venable takes on the role of the ever-present narrator, detailing every pathetic action the hopeless lothario makes. The fourth-wall-breaking exchanged between Larry and the sarcastic narrator were the highlights of the game, frequently bringing me to uncontrolled bouts of tear-inducing laughter.
Frankly, it was the comedy and not the puzzles that made the original great, and Reloaded doesn't miss a beat. Not a minute goes by without slapstick physical sequences, visual gags, or eye-rolling puns and innuendo. With all the extra dialogue and excellent comedic timing of the voice actors, this may very well be the funniest the series has ever been.
Almost every interaction has a unique, ridiculous response. Larry can attempt to look at, talk to, and pick up everything -- and when he does, the narrator is there to make fun of him. Being a Leisure Suit Larry game, he can also sniff and lick any object, as well as pull down his zipper. The attention to detail is simply astounding, with interaction responses changing if you've already attempted a different interaction on the same object. I challenge anyone not to make poor Larry lick everything in sight.
With archaic parsing being swapped for far simpler controls (there are default actions mapped to the mouse keys and an action bar at the top of the screen), there's no reason not to explore the whole game like an inquisitive pervert. As an added bonus, the infamous death scenes from the original have returned sans their unfortunate, progress-halting outcomes. Killing off the protagonist over and over again was a nasty trick employed by many an adventure game creator back in the '80s and '90s, artificially lengthening their games with unfair, impossible to predict obstacles.
These deaths have now been turned into gags and Easter eggs, with Larry being immediately resurrected and plonked right back to where he was before his untimely demise. This time around I actually sought these scenes out, rather than worrying that a fatal, game-ending death was just around the corner.
While many of the puzzles have changed, making them less obtuse and infuriating, some of the flaws of the original -- bog standard flaws for the genre back then -- are still very much present. There's absolutely no guidance, with Larry merely being told to find a place to crash and a woman to sleep with before the whole city of Lost Wages is opened up, and there's a huge amount of pixel hunting to do across these many, varied environments.
Money is again a necessity, with Larry being required to make several purchases to solve puzzles. Thus, the luckless sexventurer must embark on many games of chance, which might not sit well with those who are more familiar with adventure games that have a foundation of logic and reason. Being at the mercy of lady luck sort of stings. Have no doubts, you'll be doing a lot of scumsaving in Reloaded.
For all its flaws, Reloaded seems to be exactly what Replay Games promised and what the Kickstarter backers wanted. It is both a faithful remake and an improvement on an already greatly loved adventure game. After the Al Lowe-less, embarrassingly terrible Box Office Bust and Magna Cum Laude, I think we deserve this.