Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Game 19: Leisure Suit Larry 2 - Final Rating

Alright, I'm back on the ground in Australia, had a couple of days to get over my jetlag, and am raring to get back into playing and blogging. It's actually been quite a while since I finished Larry 2, but looking over the near 200 screenshots I took reminded me of all the highlights and frustrations. My gut feeling says that while the game overall was entertaining, and at times hilarious, it's unlikely to do very well on the PISSED scale. There were some significant issues with the story and the technology that will undoubtedly make it fall short of the first game's 57.

Puzzles and Solvability
It’s difficult to talk about the puzzles and solvability of Larry 2 without discussing the very serious parser issues that pop up throughout the game. However, since that’s really a problem with the interface, I’ll try to ignore those for this category. Even if I ignore the difficulty the parser creates, there were plenty of other things that made the game rather challenging, not least of all a large amount of possible dead ends. Out of every game I’ve played so far, Larry 2 must surely have the most dead ends, with all of them being caused by not discovering some well hidden item much earlier on. I got caught out by this a few times, including arriving at the island without the bikini top, but I can see potential for many, many more. In fact, most of your time is spent collecting random items and then applying them to puzzles you come across later on, rather than finding an item and then applying it to a previously discovered challenge. If you don’t have an item to solve something, chances are it’s too late to get it! It doesn’t feel very satisfying.
Rating: 4


Just about every puzzle in Larry 2 is solved by dying first, then trying to avoid it later.

Interface and Inventory
Blah blah interface blah blah. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll already know the general story when it comes to the Sierra interface. That being said, the two main topics of conversation when discussing either the AGI or the SCI engines are movement and the parser. Movement is handled well in Larry 2, with very few occasions where you’re forced to negotiate ridiculous mazes or stairways. The cliff-side walkway is an exception of course, but this is clearly a piss-take of previous Sierra games and a funny one at that. The parser though has inexcusable problems that simply must be punished. There were three cases in the game where I knew exactly what it was I needed to do, but simply couldn’t find the correct commands. When my first attempts failed, I then went on lengthy wild goose chases trying to find something else to do when in fact, I was right in the first place. Filling the bikini top with money, purchasing the snack at the airport, and putting together the Molotov at the top of the volcano are all potentially insanely frustrating due only to the extremely specific commands the game accepts to make them happen. Inventory is the same as King’s Quest IV, which means you can see each item but have no ability to seek further description of them.
Rating: 4


After typing "put soap in bikini", I received "It's not yours to drop" in response. There are lots of these anomalies, which are made worse by the fact that what I was trying to do was right!

Story and Setting
In hindsight Larry 2 is a very strange game. It begins with an intro that shows Dr. Nonookee on his island, surrounded by women in his underground lair, and ends with Larry entering the lair and defeating Nonookee with no interaction from the player whatsoever. Nonookee plays no role at all between these two scenes! If this wasn’t strange enough, Larry has no awareness of Nonookee at all until he very randomly arrives at his island after inexplicably jumping out of an aeroplane, despite the fact KGB agents and Nonookee’s henchman are chasing him because he has an onklunk in his possession that he was given after accidentally saying a secret password at the right place. It may very well be that Al Lowe was attempting to mess with standard story conventions, but the contrived nature of the plot, and the fact Larry (and therefore the player) has absolutely no motives to do pretty much anything he does, just comes across as lazy. If you don’t do the right things at the right times, you die. But there’s no way you could possibly know what the right things to do are, unless you die. Once again, it’s pretty unsatisfying stuff!
Rating: 4


Oh look...a lifeboat! Well I better get in it and leave this cruiser behind. Sounds like a plan!

Sound and Graphics
Being the second game to use the SCI engine, there’s no doubt Larry 2 is a big step up from Larry I when it comes to sound and graphics, yet somehow it doesn’t feel quite as impressive as King’s Quest IV. The resolution may be higher, but the actual illustrations and animations are not on par with the aforementioned game, nor is the quality of the sound. There’s still a significant lack of sound in the game and while King’s Quest IV had stacks of unique and lush sounding pieces of music popping up regularly, Larry 2 doesn’t have quite the same impact. This is probably all due to the fact Al Lowe pretty much single-handedly created the game, which is no mean feat, particularly given the length of it. If there is a positive, it’s that the music is slightly more memorable, even if the quality of the production isn’t quite what it could be. Obviously I can’t keep increasing my scores for this category as technology improves over time, as there’re only a maximum of ten points on offer, but it wouldn’t seem right to give Larry 2 the same score as the first game. I’m going to give it a generous 6, but only because it was released very close to the time of King’s Quest IV. Future games are going to have to offer more.
Rating: 6


Graphically and audibly, Larry 2 sits somewhere between Larry 1 and King's Quest IV.

Environment and Atmosphere
Larry 2 covers numerous varied environments ranging from Los Angeles, a cruise ship, an island resort, an aeroplane, and then finally the island where Dr. Nonookee resides. It’s all produced well enough, with lots of life and colour. It’s fairly noticeable that several locations serve very little purpose to solving any puzzles or even furthering the plot, and instead merely act as humorous devices. The restaurant on the island resort is a case in point, where the player watches a joke unfold for in advance of five minutes, before finally being free to pick up a knife and leave, unable to return. The atmosphere is one of sheer lunacy, with the unexpected occurring with regularity and most conversations spiralling into hilarious madness at a rapid pace. I love the fact that there are identical barber shops in every location, which is a good example of the way Al Lowe uses circular humour without it ever getting stale.
Rating: 6


Who would have thought adventure gaming was a spectator sport!

Dialogue and Acting
This is undoubtedly where Larry 2 shines. It’s by far the funniest game I’ve played so far and often the player interaction takes a backseat to the comedy. Drawn out “cut scenes” such as the matchmaking TV show and the pre-marriage manhood test are testament to the creator’s brilliant sense of comedy. Other highlights are the dream sequence in the barber shop and the inappropriate comments of the flight attendant, but I’m not even scratching the surface of the game’s delightful dialogue. Unfortunately, the player doesn’t really have much to do with any of this, and there are still no signs of real verbal interaction with characters. I thought for a moment this barrier was about to be broken during the game show when I was required to answer contestant questions, but it turned out that it didn’t make any difference what I answered. This is as close to a 7 as I’ve got so far, but Larry 2 didn’t take any evolutionary steps, so I have to stick to a 6.
Rating: 6


One thing's for sure. Al Lowe had a lot of fun writing this game!



So that's 50 for the Leisure Suit Larry sequel, which is a bit disappointing considering the high hopes I had for it going in. While it perhaps feels a little harsh given how much I enjoyed it, I simply couldn't ignore the game's flaws when handing out the points. Speaking of points...

Companion Assist Points for Larry 2
It’s time to dish out (and perhaps deduct) some points for those that predicted things and assisted me along the way.

Alfred placed a bet: “I bet you ten points you will get killed repeatedly by the mama in your cabin at the beginning of the ship section and will need assistance to get past her.” I actually didn’t have any trouble with the mama at all. I intentionally let myself be killed by her once and then figured out that I needed to get off the boat quickly before she killed me again, but since I needed no assistance, this prediction was incorrect. Deducting 10 points from Alfred!

10 points to Chumazik and Ilmari for letting me know about Trite Phrase and Filth Level options.

16k placed a bet: “I bet you 10 points that you will be stuck when trying to put the bag in the bottle at the volcano and lighting the bag. My friend and I were stuck on this for over a week. It's a parser problem you need to use 'the' before bag and bottle.” I did indeed get stuck here and needed assistance, so that’s 10 points to 16k! I know you didn’t actually have any points to bet 16k, but I’ve decided to be lenient in this instance as it was our first attempt at the betting.

5 points to Bleaghhh for commenting about the indie adventure pack at Bundle in a Box.

Ilmari placed a bet: “I predict that you will not get past the KGB agents at the beach without assistance (the puzzle where you need cross-dressing).” This was a very good prediction as I did indeed get very stuck here. But…since I made it through without assistance, I have to deduct 10 points from Ilmari for an incorrect prediction. Fenrus made a counter prediction, but wasn’t willing to put any points up. I might have paid it out if he had. Will have to think about that for future.

Nikolaj was once again the reader to correctly predict my score! I’ve decided to give him 20 points for getting it right twice in a row and will increase the score by 10 each time if he can keep the roll going!

Eugene responded to a Request For Assistance. He gave me a hint, but it wasn’t in the ideal format, so I’m going to give him 5 points for it.

Lars-Erik responded to a Request For Assistance. His was in the ideal format, so it’s 10 points!

Lars-Erik answered my question regarding how to ideally get the passport. 5 points!

Lars-Erik gets another 10 points for suggesting The Porterhouse Pub and Waxy O’Connors in London. Both were excellent, particularly Waxy which was totally brilliant!

rmdesign gets 5 points for explaining how to “have your way” with the maid on the resort.

Lars-Erik gets yet another 5 points for letting me know the correct command to “stuff the bikini with soap”

butsuri gets 5 points for explaining who the “natives” were at the airport

The Mad Gamer, Chumazik and Canageek responded to a Request for Assistance, but since they weren’t in the ideal format, I’m giving them 5 points each.

Ilmari gave an awesome explanation as to why the parser was so bad for some puzzles in the game, so he gets 5 points for that too.

10 points to Canageek for announcing the latest GOG sales…twice.

So, unless I’m mistaken, the following points will now be handed out:

30 Points – Lars-Erik
20 Points – Nikolaj
15 Points – Canageek and Chumazik
10 Points – 16k
5 Points – Bleaghhh, butsuri, Eugene, Ilmari, rmdesign and The Mad Gamer
-10 Points – Alfred n the Fettuc

31 comments:

  1. It's interesting to see that LSL2 get exactly the same score as Gold Rush! from the same year. Do you feel they are equal, or do you prefer one over the other? If you had to play just one over again, which would it be? (Can I bet you 10 points it would be Gold Rush! ?)

    They do have some rather interesting similarities, such as the need to kill you for no reason at all and illogical puzzles, but at the same time they're completely different in setting and feel.

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    1. To be honest, I think I'd prefer Larry 2 to Gold Rush! The setting of Gold Rush didn't really capture my imagination and the humour in Larry 2 at least made the experience entertaining despite the many flaws.

      It feels right that both of these games got the same rating though. Decent games with significant flaws.

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  2. Wow, even lower than I thought. Looking forward to seeing you get through more games.

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  3. Yay, Trickster's in da house! Interesting to see LSL2 performing slightly lower than my own prediction. The game is flawed, but it could have been so much more without all those dead ends and parser shenanigans.

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  4. Happy days! Sam and Max Seasons 1 and 2 + Tales of Monkey Island are now on GOG! Instabuy at 60% off!

    Anyone played any of these episodic adventures? Can they really live up to the classic originals?

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    1. I think the general consensus is that they're pretty good, but I didn't really enjoy them (played all of Sam & Max season 1 and the first of TOMI). I didn't really feel like they lived up to the originals, and I really didn't like the interface or graphics.

      I expect I'm in the minority though!

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    2. Drat, you got them already. So much for posting them as soon as I get to work.

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    3. My take is they're good, but they don't live up to the originals. Perhaps I'm simply not a fan of the episodic format. That said they are pretty good adventures in their own right.

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  5. I can verify that the Sam and Max seasons are indeed very fun games. I haven't however played the originals so I can't compare. Solid characters, logical but challenging puzzles and some ... shall we say ... quirky? .. moments are what stood out for me. I take it that was all in the originals?

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  6. I've been playing through Tales of Monkey Island with my kids. They're not as open-ended as the originals and there are other limitations (repeated character models etc). However I think they've done a really good job capturing the spirit of the games and the dialogue and acting are excellent. I especially like what they've done with Lechuck and Elaine. The puzzles are all reasonably good without being too difficult. I'd definitely recommend the series.

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  7. 2 Same & Max games, and Tales of Monkey Island are now on Great Old Games, and to celebrate they are on sale for 60% off for the next 6 days: http://www.gog.com/promo/telltale_launch

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    1. Yeah, I dashed in and posted them before work, not even noticing that this was a new post.

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  8. I will break with the crowd and say I really, really disliked the modern Sam and Max/Back to the Future/Tales of Monkey Island games.

    Part of it is the extremely linear gameplay, part is the art style (which I abhor), part is the very palpable change in writing tone, and part are puzzles I found ridiculously easy to the point of pointlessness.

    But I definitely seem to be in the minority. When the first Sam and Max game by Telltale game out, I was so excited, I even bought one of the special editions to get a poster and some other swag... and then within an hour of playing it all I could think was "This is it?" I also didn't think the episodic format was well-executed, as some chapters played far, far better than others. Finally, to nitpick, I also should caution that I found the controls awful as well.

    However, I will give credit where it's due: the voice acting is excellent (particularly whoever plays Marty McFly in the Back to the Future games, and LeChuck in Tales), and the games set a precedent whose importance can't be ignored: if these reboots make money, which they seem to, it really encourages the companies who made all those great games to either (A) go ahead and reboot the remaining properties, or (B) sell the license back to developers like Telltale.

    I feel that point alone is worth the purchase price, which is why I continued to buy games I didn't really like, let alone love.

    Kickstarter also shows how much grass-roots support these games have, which shows the suits how much people are willing to shill out to see a few more adventures featuring old faces. Personally, I keep my fingers crossed that eventually one of the Major Studios will quietly devote a little effort to obtaining quality writers and resurrect a few of the old games... or, perhaps better yet, start over with new ideas.

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  9. @Trickster: Regarding 16k, I mentioned I'd back his bet in the original comment. Not sure if that was exactly allowed, but I had him covered for the points in case you managed to start using the word 'the'. ;)

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  10. @Trickster: If I were really greedy, I might object that you wouldn't have gotten past the beach without the hint that you had missed the bikini top at the boat, but as it is, I'll bow to your judgement ;)

    On a more serious note, don't forget to move 10 points from me to Canageek! (see the comments in the post for the 1989 games for full and detailed contract we finally made)

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    1. Haha...I think that way of thinking could easily be taken to an extreme that doesn't make sense. In fact, I wouldn't have been able to get past the last part of the game if I hadn't of found the sunscreen at the start. ;)

      I've moved 10 points from you to Canageek. Just to remove any confusion, if someone bets 10 points and gets it wrong, I'm removing the points from the potential spend total and not their all time earnt total. Likewise, if someone trades points, they're trading their potential spend points and not points from their overall earned companion points.

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  11. Hey Tricky, new adventure game on Kickstarter!
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/warbirdgames/jack-houston-and-the-necronauts
    It sounds oh so awesome, a 1950's/60's pulp sci-fi adventure game. The concept art looks stunning, the setting is unique and fresh.

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    1. While we're talking about kickstarter, I feel I should mention that Quest For Infamy has been funded, and is now looking at stretch goals:

      http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1992695780/quest-for-infamy-an-adventure-game-by-infamous-que

      It's a game in the style of Quest for Glory, from the folks that did the remakes of King's Quest 3 and Space Quest 2.

      (I've been posting about this a lot, so apologies if it appears like spam to some people! It's just that I enjoyed their remakes, and so I'd really like them to be able to make the game they've been thinking about for years.)

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    2. Jack Houston and the Necronauts looks frickin awesome Lars-Erik! As a massive fan of Frank Frazetta, I can see his style all through it. Love it!

      10 Points to Lars-Erik for discovering this. I'll add it to the Kickstarter list.

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    3. No need to apologise Andy_Panthro. In fact, I somehow overlooked this when you originally commented about it. I'm giving you ten points now. Better late than never! :)

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    4. Not sure where you'll want to draw the line on Kickstarter adventures on your list, as there's bound to be loads of projects that want funding as time goes by. There's also some more rather unknown ones, such as http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1787675232/sam-suedetm-in-undercover-exposure (with the Al Lowe controversy) and http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/935411564/hexit-point-and-click-sci-fi-adventure-game .

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    5. At this stage I want to promote and encourage the adventure genre revival through Kickstarter. I may set some sort of criteria to hand out points though. Maybe...any adventure game that has a request for $50000 or more. We're not interested in tiny little projects they may never get out of the garage, but HexIt for example looks pretty interesting and only needing $75000.

      20 points to Lars-Erik! He's screaming up the leaderboard!

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    6. Ooop, that didn't last...Sam Suede in Undercover Exposure has sent out a KS cancellation notice. :|

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  12. I was out of town for a week, so coming back to another correct guess is awesome. Too bad I missed the deadline for guessing on Manhunter (especially since I could've gotten 30 point), but since I haven't played that one anyway, I don't really know whether it's good or bad. I'm guessing bad. :)

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  13. Very appropriate PISSED rating, Trickster. This was a game I so wanted to like more than I actually did. Much like Space Quest II, I feel that LSL II's humor kept me playing when a less-funny game would have had me quitting in frustration. My second-least favorite Larry game (V is my least-favorite, but I haven't played it in a while...maybe I'll give it a whirl before you get there.).

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  14. Saturday Crapshoot has done a column on this game, though sadly a lot of the pictures appear to have disappeared. http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/04/23/saturday-crapshoot-leisure-suit-larry-2/

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  15. I don't know if anyone is still reading these old posts, but for the sake of correctness this sentence is wrong:

    "Inventory is the same as King’s Quest IV, which means you can see each item but have no ability to seek further description of them."

    The game does provide further description of the items if you select them in the inventory. Sometimes quite hilarious one too.

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    1. It's almost 2016 now and I've started from post number one and am catching up. So yes, someone is still reading these old posts.

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    2. Nice to know there are people reading these old posts. Feel free to leave comments as you go!

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  16. Most of the comments I would make to RFAs, kick starter projects, sales, etc would be several years late, so I'll probably be relatively quiet until I approach the present. I am reading every post and all comments from the November 2011 post "What's This Blog All About?!" onward. So, once I get up to date I should be pretty chatty.

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    1. Looks like I'm just a few months behind Tyler! Wonder if I'll catch up?

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