You’d have to search high and low to find a raunchy game as beloved as the original Leisure Suit Larry. The decidedly randy adventure introduced a pre-internet generation of young PC gamers to a world of double-entendres, gambling, and the ceaseless pursuit of sexual conquest. More than 25 years after its 1987 release, a Kickstarter-funded group (including the game’s creator Al Lowe) has put together an HD remake of Larry’s first foray into the world. The results are a uneven; while Reloaded remains faithful to the source material and is clearly aimed directly at its legacy fanbase, its gameplay doesn’t translate nearly as well to the modern gaming era.
If you’re unfamiliar with Larry Laffer’s exploits in the original “In the Land of the Lounge Lizards”--Reloaded’s foundation--it’s a simple premise. Larry, he of the leisure suit, questionable intelligence, dim wit, and perpetually bad breath, has arrived in the gambling town of Lost Wages to find true love. He immediately begins his pursuit by talking to locals, poking around seedy locales, and acquiring all sorts of items, including booze, pornography, and condoms. It’s up to you to figure out who to talk to, and just how, when, and where interactions will lead you closer to your goal.
Reloaded isn’t quite a by-the-numbers remake of the original. You navigate Larry through Lost Wages by pointing and clicking instead of typing commands, and various icons let Larry touch, speak, smell, and otherwise interact with everything in town. While much of the content remains as-is, there are some additional characters to flesh out the storyline, plus a few twists to solving puzzles that will force returning fans to think on their feet. Lost Wages is made up of a handful of locales--bar, club, convenience store, wedding chapel, and casino--and they’ve all been lovingly recreated with spiffy visuals that exude the original’s purposefully minimalist tackiness. The women that Larry comes across are wildly over-the-top caricatures, from disgruntled ladies of the evening to gorgeous clubbing girls. Through it all, an entertainingly droll narrator provides helpful hints to go along with unceasing digs at Larry.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for frustration to set in. Some objectives are fairly obvious, but many of the puzzles you’re tasked with solving are beyond obtuse; Al Lowe even begs patience and caution in the game’s brief tutorial. Time and again you’ll find yourself wandering around the same places having the same conversations with people, trying desperately to figure out just what you’re supposed to do next. Getting around Lost Wages isn’t cheap, either, as you’ll get to become close personal friends with the only taxi driver in town--but he doesn’t start offering discounts, so you’ll need to get familiar (and lucky) at the slots and blackjack machines in order to bankroll your time in the city.
Reloaded’s general cheekiness also loses a bit of its appeal through the prism of 25 years and your (likely) poor attitude upon your 20th fruitless taxi ride of the evening. While some of the jokes may cause a chuckle or two--such as what happens to poor Larry if he makes an ill-advised decision to not, um, protect himself before a liaison with a woman of questionable repute--more of them will be wince-inducing. What was cutting edge bawdiness back in the day barely registers today.
With its creaky, ancient-feeling game mechanics and ultimate lack of replayability, Reloaded feels like it would be much more at home on mobile platforms at a much smaller cost than its $20 release price tag (iOS and Andriod versions are coming in the future). Therein lies the real issue with Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded. It only really works as a pure nostalgia play, and luckily the successful Kickstarter funding clearly illustrated that there’s a multitude of loyal fans that will enjoy it. Today’s generation, however, will likely wonder just what the fuss is all about.