Title: Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking For Love
Developer: Sierra On-Line
“Leisure Suit Larry” is commonly thought of as a pornographic game, but in reality it is an adventure game that has sexual themes. Following the story of an awkward nerd in his late thirties who currently is having a mid-life crisis, our hero vows to lose his virginity in a seedy town modeled after Las Vegas. Nowadays, comparisons could be drawn to movies like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin“, but in 1987 this was unheard of, especially in the largely kid-friendly gaming industry. While no sexual acts were shown in the games, it still stirred up quite a bit of controversy and was subsequently banned from sale at several major retailers and some publications refused to run ads for it. Word of mouth spread quickly, and the game became a commercial success several months later and was widely pirated.
Fast forward to October of 1988, a sequel was released called “Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking For Love (In Several Wrong Places)” also known as “Leisure Suit Larry 2“. We pick up where we left off from the last game: Larry lost his virginity with a girl at a penthouse suite party, and moves in with her at her Los Angeles home. Shortly he finds out that he was just a one-night stand to her and he is kicked out, with her barely remembering who he is while he is mowing her lawn. With nothing left, Larry trots around the city and ends up winning the lottery as well as a ticket for an ocean cruise. While this happens, he unknowingly comes into possession of a microfiche with highly classified data from the American government that is being sought after by the Russian KGB and various terrorist groups, hence making him a constant target for kidnapping and assassination that he barely avoids without any clue of what is going on.
Sound pretty zany and a bit ham-fisted? It is. But the information is masterfully paced and only feels slightly overwhelming for the sake of hilarity. Larry is a naive character who is drawn to misfortune despite how cautious he may approach things, so despite sounding like a forced storyline on paper, it fits wonderfully in the world of the game.
“Leisure Suit Larry 2” is one of the first games to use a new graphic engine called Sierra’s Creative Interpreter (SCI). Although still in the early stages in 1988, SCI is a vast improvement compared to the Adventure Game Interpreter engine used for the previous game. The backdrops are very colorful, vibrant, and actually well done for the time. This fits the game since it takes place in locations such as coastal Los Angeles, a cruise ship, and a tropical resort. I find most of the animation well done and easy on the eyes, even by today’s standards.
Game areas tend to be small with little no ability to backtrack. For example, the starting location of Los Angeles consists of a barber shop, convenience store, TV station, music shop, a small seedy part, and a marina. You can walk from one screen, see the Hollywood sign in the distance, and then immediately on the next screen be in spitting distance of Disneyland.
This kind of cloistered, almost too simple to be true, location organization is charming to me. I totally see the appeal of big exploration and having many different locations in a certain chapter to work with, but there’s something more intimate about being given a small location, and taking great detail to explore every nook and cranny, which usually you get plenty of time to do so at your own pace. There are only one or two timed locations in the game, which is perfect if you’re wanting to play a game to unwind. Surprisingly, “Leisure Suit Larry 2” comes in at 75 unique locations, nearly doubling that of the previous game. This was huge for the time. Games were not known for being very long, and it was quite common in game design to make clones of locations to save floppy disk space. However, this does not give “Leisure Suit Larry 2“ an open world feel in the slightest. The game is very well paced, giving you just enough space to allow you the feel of exploration without being claustrophobic.
As with all Sierra On-Line games, the possibility of dying is often, and at the risk of very minor things. I really can’t overstate that enough. To put it in perspective, a YouTube compilation of ways to die in the game came in at roughly 40 minutes long. This can be annoying, but it’s a known rite of passage with Sierra adventure games. What is humorous about this in particular with “Leisure Suit Larry 2“ is that if you try to get Larry laid like he so desperately is trying to do, you will die every single time as all the girls you pursue are either undercover agents that want your microfiche, secretly want you dead for some wacky reason, or will inevitably lead you to some sort of fatal hijinx, further perpetuating the stereotype of Larry being a loser whom nothing goes right for.
The sound effects in the game are sparse. There is an opening theme, one or two intermission themes, and a happy tune that plays when you pick up an item or solve a puzzle, as well as the occasional sound effect such as falling from the sky, but there is rarely music or many sound effects overall. On paper, this is definitely a missed opportunity for more player immersion and overall experience, however this couldn’t be done due to technological limitations and memory restrictions at the time. Oddly enough, I appreciate it about these games. It’s rare to play a game in mostly silence, and the sound effects and short music clips are certainly timed very well. The quality of what music there is comes as no surprise due to Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe also being an accomplished jazz musician for most of his life.
True to most Sierra adventure games, beating the game without a guide is a feat, and there are several ways to make the game unwinnable. However unlike punishingly difficult adventure games like “Codename: ICEMAN“, “Deadline“, or even “Zork“, there is arguably one red herring of an item in the game that comes to mind, and most of the conditions to render the game unable to be beaten come from forgetting to get certain items available to you previously. If you do forget the item in question it’s usually fairly obvious to you what you did wrong, either by the nature of your death or some smart-ass comment the game makes to you about it. Examples of this are forgetting to buy sunscreen when you end up stranded in a lifeboat, or failing to grab a bikini top on a boat when you need to disguise yourself as a woman to get off an island in a future chapter.
“Leisure Suit Larry 2” was well received, but often criticized by fans for being a little too tame in sexual humor. Future installments of the game were far more filthy, especially as games with this kind of humor became more acceptable in the gaming world. It’s no secret that this game is the most innocent of the bunch (and that’s saying something!), however it is a great blend of light-hearted atmosphere and humor that pushes the envelope just a little. It might not be the most important game in the franchise to die-hard fans, but standing on its own as a true product of the adventure game genre, “Leisure Suit Larry 2” is a gem.
Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking For Love (In Several Wrong Places), MS-DOS, Walkthrough: