Pros: Some chuckle-worthy lines; conversational minigames are fun for a while; quality voice performances
Cons: The shtick gets old quick; terrible load times; hardly any real gameplay; poor controls make minigames difficult
Ever catch reruns of Benny Hill when you're trolling for SportsCenter or X-Play late at night? For those unfamiliar with the show, it relentlessly mines the thin vein of humor inherent in a fat old letch that consistently gets laid despite his less-than-admirable qualities. Leisure Suit Larry works on much the same principle, except this guy typically can't get any action without putting in some serious work. We risked a visit to the clinic to explain why players may want to use protection when dealing with a lounge lizard like Larry.
What Sexual Revolution?
Once upon a time, when Sierra's adventure empire was mighty, Leisure Suit Larry was gaming's sexual avatar. Keep in mind that the dirtier corners of the Internet were a decade away, and Cinemax was a young lad's most convenient source of entertainment. In that climate, these risqué romps seemed novel. Twenty years later, players step into the shoes of the old man's nephew, newly arrived at college and ready to score.
Minigames a Go-Go
Much as in life, Larry's romantic impulses are acted upon through a series of minigames. In his undying quest for satisfaction, Larry will play quarters, do a little DDR-style shimmying, and navigate the treacherous waters of pan-gender conversation. With a sperm. Dancing, drinking, and sweet talking are all managed by tapping buttons or the control stick in time to CPU prompts.
It works like this. Find a likely candidate, and engage in a little conversation. A window will open showing a sperm (that's you) trying to find a path through a series of obstacles. Hit the green smiley faces, and Larry will toss off some witty repartee. Knock boots with one of the ugly red markers, and the little guy will reveal his true nature. Hit one of the cloud shapes, and the cad will fart. Hilarious! Of course, a simple button press will allow Larry to pass gas at any time during the game, too.
Drinking to Impress
There are other tests, as well, that stand between our hero and first base, not to mention sliding into home. Quarters is a frequent challenge. Here, a flick of the analog stick is all that stands between you and a sloshed co-ed. Of course, Larry will have to drink occasionally, too, and alcohol will loosen up the controls and make the screen swim a bit. In that case, zip off to the nearest corner or bush to unleash a stream of liquid. Just don't leak upon any females…or do, depending on your sense of humor.
After all, Magna Cum Laude is supposed to be a comedy, and if wetting the shoes of a debutante is low-class, at least some of the lines are actually funny. The better quips occur when Larry boffs a conversation, so it's best to do well when flying the sperm, but not too well. Think of this like a sexually oriented Grand Theft Auto, where smacking down passers-by is often more fun than playing by the rules. Even so, the jokes all fall into the beer bongs and boobs category. If rude sexual come-ons don’t sound funny, steer clear.
More Fun than a Solitary Saturday Night
Even before the laughs run dry, though, the gameplay will be running on fumes. There's only so long that a series of sex-driven minigames can compete against, well, anything. In many ways, the game would be a lot better off using a dance pad, because some of the contests are made more difficult by the oversensitivity of the analog stick. After failing your third trampoline attempts because your button and stick-mashing doesn't register, you'll be ready to move on to your father's Playboy collection.
Now, this isn't brain surgery. Nor, despite the collegiate setting, is it even as difficult as passing a bio-chem exam. And yet the game needs to think for ages between every task, creating load times more obscene than any of the game's content. This is supposed to be a fast, fun event. It would be a lot easier to like Larry if the game didn't offer so many opportunities to reflect on what a lame experience it really is. Maybe that's why there's all that flesh on display during each load screen.
Of Frat Boys and Cons
It doesn't take a genius to realize that Larry has limited appeal. It's not that games can't handle sex well -- just look at The Sims -- but most set their aspirations lower than dropped drawers. Larry's longevity will be directly proportionate to the amount of laughs you derive from bodily functions great and small. But like they say, don't hate the player, hate the game.