Updated: February 5, 2011
Writing about a game that debuted 23 years ago sounds crazy, but not when the game at hand is Leisure Suit Larry, a timeless classic. Larry is more than just half a megabyte of data with average graphics and basic sounds. It's more than just several hours of an exciting quest and superb humor. It's a time bubble of greatness, with just the right dose of everything to make it what it has become.
There's a loser trying to make it big. There are women, a plenty of them. Raunchy sex, gambling, disco music, everything a simple hard-working human needs in his life to be happy. Larry has it all. I've mentioned Larry before, in my third old games compilation. It was a hint of good things to come. And with the generous help of DOSBox, or maybe even D-Fend Reloaded, you can now enjoy your childhood favorites with ease. Now, let's do a full tribute to this fantastic legend.
The plot, in a nutshell
Larry is a 40 year old virgin. He wants to score. That's about it. Now, the more astute of you may notice that there's been a great movie called The 40 year old virgin. Damn it, Sherlock.
But never mind that.
|Larry, living la vida loca!|
Larry - or rather you - have two hours to complete the game. If you don't, Larry will commit suicide. You will be able to reset the time counter if you have sex with a prostitute, but you may also get herpes if you don't happen to buy a condom. Yes, the year was 1987 and AIDS was more than just a chronic disease back then. In the game, if you happen to have sex without rubber, you shall promptly die. If you do use a goatskin sock, you will have scored, but then there's the moral question of losing virginity to a woman of questionable virtue.
Once you reset the timer, you'll have a plenty of time to work your magic. There are four women waiting for you to break their hearts, starting with a prostitute that will give you the cooties and Eve, a bathing beauty whose love will win you the game. Well, not love per se, but then, you get the idea.
And from there, the plot thickens ...
|You should have used the taxi.|
|The underground workshop is humming with activity. Larry is going to be resurrected soon, so he can continue the holy mission of losing his virginity at the tender age of 40|
Larry is a quest. A great little quest, with arrow keys to move your character around and text commands to interact with the environment. It's progress one step away from the Hitchhiker's Guide, which was text only. Larry adds the color dimension into the picture [sic], with the blazing EGA depravity.
To make it big, you will need money. To this end, the game forces you to gamble. Once you earn some dough, you will be able to buy gifts for your lady friends, in an almost futile attempt to unravel the female psyche.
Not all is rosy, though. If you try to cross the street or walk by foot, you may get hit by a car or mugged, ending your miserable existence prematurely. Not to worry, the Sierra team will assemble you back in their secret laboratory. This is a trait that will continue in many Sierra quests. But yes, to complete the game, you will need to use a taxi to travel the city. This means, spending money; in turn, more gambling, more hard work.
Larry Laffer is an unsuccessful middle-aged salesman. He's the prototype and the stereotype of a loser living in his mom's basement, squandering his life and wallowing in self-pity, until one day he decides to make a change, i.e. have sex.
However, today, I view him differently from what I used to think in my youth. Larry reminds me more of Woody Allen, a neurotic, self-obsessed guy that manages to insinuate his charm despite the impossible odds against him.
|Larry charming his way. Words funky, boogie and a few others still had a sweet resonance of a decade not long gone|
Larry Laffer, Woody Allen, a guy you must love, no matter what. Almost like a one-eared puppy. If you ask women whether they like the game - or liked it, and whether they like Woody Allen, the answer is the same. No woman can stand the image of the ultimate loser with a handful of young women prancing after him. Larry is what Woody would become, eventually, so it's almost like a time machine.
Leisure Suit Larry is a great work of art and humor. It is easy to dismiss the simple graphics and the 16-color quality of the work, but if you look deeper, you'll realize that Larry is a jewel.
It starts with the game's opening sequence, which forces the player to answer a short questionnaire that determines his/her age. Now, as you may expect, some of the answers are not as straightforward as you may expect, including an almost prophetic reference to O. J. Simpson. Who would have thought? Back then, you could have hit a certain key sequence to skip the questions. Today, you can use the Internets to find the right answers.
|Do girls really have cooties?|
|And the answer is ... oops!|
Try answering the questionnaire today, it's still rather hilarious. And if you're one of this new Y generation or whatever, you sure will find some of the questions rather hard. After all, they were relevant for people your age twenty years back. Don't be afraid to look the right answers up before playing. It's a lesson in history and geek culture.
The entire game is one big sophisticated joke, and it's absolutely adorable. Sure, soft-hearted among you might get a little offended, but if you compare what this game offered to some of the contemporary entertainment forms, like reality TV, then you may start to appreciate Larry's cliche and rather innocent plot.
Leisure Suit Larry started the revolution of quest games, which Sierra led with a holy banner for almost two decades afterwards. The idea of an interactive control of your character using explicit, human commands is revolutionary; now, although LSL did not pioneer this, it sure did make the concept vastly popular. Many of the 90s quests had the keyboard puzzle-like element included.
Imagine it back then, writing commands as you would see them fit: stand, open door, turn lights on, order beer, all kinds of things you can possibly imagine. It was awesome. It still is.
The game is also extremely sophisticated despite its small size and a relatively simple premise. You had to do quite a lot to get to your goal. When you think about it, Leisure Suit Larry is almost like a dating academy, teaching you the virtues of intercourse, all of its grueling, frustrating stages.
Larry's legacy is huge. The motif of a loser trying to make it big echoes in modern quests. First, there's GTA. And then, there's also a full-blown modern Larry sex quest called Bonetown. Speaking of how the world has changed in twenty years.
|You interact with your environment just like in real life. We're talking 1987, long before useless people had Facebook or MySpace|
Leisure Suit Larry means very little to people born long after it's been released, sold and shelved, with sequels taking over. But if you were a part of the world's population consensus then and they let you hammer at the sturdy IBM keyboards, then this game is more than just another piece of software you loved and enjoyed. It's an icon. It's unto computer gaming what Miami Vice is unto New Wave. It's the defining cornerstone of what the 80s were all about.
But even if you forget the melodramatic soaping of an old git, Larry is a timeless game, which could entertain you today as well as it did twenty years ago, and maybe even more. Because now, you have the modern perspective from which to judge and appreciate the game. No one knew back then if Larry were going to survive the trial of market and time. No one could foresee how popular the game would become, spawning six or seven sequels. It's either the implicit sexuality that drew in the crowds, or almost the uniform sympathy for one man's lost cause that we all men share to one degree or another.
My recommendation would be that you head down to Abandonia, my favorite old games resort and look for Larry. It's available for download - you decide whether it's okay or not. Should you choose to download the 518KB package and play the game, then I promise you hours of great fun. Larry gets a perfect 10 for its plot. The graphics is not that good, but this game is definitely not about fancy graphics. It's about raw humor and great fun. Most recommended.
Thus endeth this nostalgia review.