Thursday, 30 July 2015

Game 58: Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patty Does A Little Undercover Work (1991) - Introduction

Written by Alex



Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: This is really the fourth Larry game. I won’t do the hacky Internet writer thing and make some joke about the missing floppies or whatever; it’s been done to death and series creator and head designer Al Lowe tells the story much better than I ever could here. But since it turns out that I actually am a hacky Internet writer, here’s the condensed version: The ending of Larry 3 left our heroes, Larry and Patty, happily together and writing computer games for some fantastic company located in the California Rockies. In order to get out of this continuity-bind, Mr. Lowe, in a flash of genius, wondered why he had to make the games go in strict numerical order. Why not make the next Larry game the fifth one, begin in medias res, and refer to the events of the fourth game, hinting as to why Larry and Patty are not together developing really sweet adventure games? So it’s all just a part of the joke. That Al Lowe, making comedy games that are actually funny. Who does he think he is?


The above story is a lie, of course. We all know what really happened to Leisure Suit Larry 4: It corrupted the super-computer on the planet Xenon and allowed for the takeover of the entire planet by the dastardly Sludge Vohaul. Read Adventure Gamer contributor Joe Pranevich’s chronicles of the true story behind Larry 4 here.

Back to Larry 5. Released September 7, 1991, this was the first new point-and-click Larry, created from the ground-up with Sierra’s then-new interface in mind. A point-and-click remake of the first game came out in July of that same year; I covered it on this very site not too long ago.

This game has a thoroughly stupid plot, but what else would you expect? We begin with a pretty cool animated intro showing Larry plastering the missing number 5 onto a poster for the game. Patty then walks seductively by, causing Larry to stick his leg in a bucket of paste and end up getting his hand stuck to the poster. There’s got to be a sexual innuendo here, but I can’t for the life of me figure it out.


Check out the bald spot.

The graphics are in the cartoony style of the VGA Larry 1, and although I complained about how ugly the aesthetic was in that game, I already think it works better here. Probably because I’m not comparing to an EGA version. The animation isn’t the best that I’ve seen for games of this time, but it gets the job done.






We then turn to an East Coast board meeting where some shady-looking businessmen are talking to a menacing figure we only see from the back: Only his eyebrows and his cigar are visible. They explain their business’s operations in pretty hilarious fashion:


Come on, that’s pretty funny.

This shadowy corporation has been involved with encouraging children to do drugs, which has caused drug sales to increase, leading one to believe that this company is involved in that particularly vile trade. These people are also involved in pornography, a business that has been showing “explosive growth” for 25 years, but has recently gone “flaccid,” resulting in “painfully declining penetration.” I will not post screenshots of these graphs, but let’s just say that they are rather phallic and juvenile, and therefore perfect.

In order to combat the declining pornography sales, which they blame on cable, they have been trying to insert pornographic lyrics into their rap music to encourage people to buy some X-rated films and get busy with the self-abuse. But to no avail. In an eerily prescient moment, one of these men describes a world in which people don’t need to actively seek out and purchase pornography, because they can get it for free in their own homes. Sounds familiar, right?

TL; DR version: Cable porn is cutting into an evil company’s porn profits, and this company also sells drugs and uses music to sneak subliminal messages to America’s children. What scoundrels!


And here’s the biggest scoundrel of them all.

The action then shifts to a West Coast board meeting six months later, where the higher-ups at PornProd Corp. are discussing their plans to find a new host for their upcoming television show “America’s Sexiest Home Videos” (I told you this was a stupid plot). They need to find the “Sexiest Woman In America,” and they will call her “Vanna Black.”


Classy.

This woman needs to be so ready, if you catch my drift, that she’d drop whatever she’s doing and bump uglies with anyone, no matter how dorky or how big of a loser. Does this sound like anybody we know?


Yup.

See, Larry works for PornProd Corp. as some kind of low-level assistant. This scene acts as a little tutorial, with on-screen prompts telling the player how to click through the icons, recommending that they click on the coffee pot in the upper-left and read the game’s documentation if they haven’t done so already, a pretty cool way to get players used to the old parser-interface familiar with the new point-and-click system. Also, a rather high-quality digitized voice keeps screaming “COFFEE!” as Larry fumbles around.

And fumble around I do. Getting a drink of water from the cooler in the bottom of the screen inexplicably gives Larry 1 point, as does checking out the breast-shaped award in the lower right. Clicking the “hand” icon on the coffee (1 point) makes Larry pick up the pot and walk into the office to serve his boss, Silas Scruemall. Hilarity ensues.





It’s as if Larry was aiming for the guy’s crotch. A digitized “YEOW!” rings out at this moment.

Well, it looks like the good folks at PornProd Corp. have found their loser to audition America’s sexiest woman!


The iconic line!

They have received thousands of submission tapes, which Larry was already aware of, being the company’s Chief Tape Rewinder and Sterilizer (eew!) for the Vanna Black project. Larry needs to go and covertly “audition” the three finalists to see which one really fits the bill. These auditions must be blind, of course, because if the girls know they are going to get down on camera, it would invalidate the results—this is all very scientific, as you can see. So Silas gives Larry a secret camera to do his dirty deeds (1 point).





Because, let’s not forget, in 1989 a 22-year-old Rob Lowe made a sex tape with two girls,
one of whom turned out to be 16.

So Larry has his mission: He needs to get the girls’ resumes from the office and head out to conduct these auditions. The game lets the player decide which woman to visit first, which at the end of the day makes no difference but gives a little feeling of autonomy. I have played through this game relatively recently (three years ago, or so), and can tell you that it’ll go pretty quick, mainly because you cannot die or get dead-ended. That’s right! This game has anti-Sierra logic. Does this make it too easy to be fun, or will the jokes outweigh the hand-holding? We’ll figure this out when it comes to the PISSED rating. For now, Larry needs to poke around the PornProd Corp. office, get the resumes, and figure out where the charger to this stupid camera is, as the battery is currently dead.


Let’s do this thing!

It’s also worth noting that, during this introductory sequence—one of the most enjoyable in a Sierra game, I have to add—the game gives the player a choice of password protecting the game. This is obviously a parental control that the designers figured may be harder to crack than the quizzes in Larrys 1 and 3 or the copy protection in Larry 2 (don’t worry: This game has copy protection as well). I obviously didn’t activate the password feature, but check out the folder for a cool little inside joke.



Total Points: 4 out of 1,000
Inventory: Hidden camera

Session Time: 30 minutes.
Total Time: 30 minutes.

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

25 comments:

  1. This one is a bit odd. It is very un-Sierralike in that it is just too easy - sometimes the game just directs you to the right action, if you do not manage to do it yourself. It's more like a collection of small minigames, tied together with a fun little plot that has little relevance to what you are actually doing. And every one of the small minigames has plenty of non-compulsory things to do and alternative solutions - it's easy to complete, but tough to do it in the best possible manner.

    I guess it will beat Larry remake with a point: 61.

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    1. I'm getting a "hey! listen!" vibe here.

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  2. For no reason whatsoever, I'll guess it'll be one point less than the remake: 59.

    And, having recently bought the collection from GOG, I'll play along - I might actually get further than the first section this time.

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  3. You guys are aiming too high: 57.

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  4. I think it has a certain charm to it... But this is certainly the worst of the Larry games. The only way you can really lose is via the copy protection. I remember first playing it and finding the game felt decidedly un Larrylike. It's not a bad game, but I think that where it hits in graphics et al, it gets bogged down in a story that feels not particularly cohesive. 60 to tie with Larry 1 VGA and risk our top ten blowing out in numbers again.

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  5. I'm going to give this a score of: 56.

    I think it'll probably be decent enough, but I don't think it does anything particularly well enough to warrant a big score. It's a long time since I played it though, and I can only remember vague bits.

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  6. Wait, I thought the intro+1st playthrough session is for Missed Classics only? Damn, this is fast! 55!

    Also, in the early years without Internet and living in a media-controlled nation, I thought Rob Lowe was Al Lowe's brother or something (since he didn't make the news where I'm from).

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    1. When the blog was relaunched and we added Missed Classics, I think it was Ilmari that had the idea of merging the first post and introduction. This is because we wanted the Missed Classics to be compact; ideally, they should rarely exceed 2-3 posts during the 80s and perhaps a bit longer as we got to newer games. This would keep the focus on the real blog posts, while still getting to explore. I think that has worked rather well.

      But, as you know, the admins give a lot of flexibility to the writers on how they want to approach a game. If Alex wanted to merge the intro and first post, then that is fine. In this case, I think the introductory sequence works well as part of the first post. (I also think that having a *little* gameplay gives everyone not familiar with the game a chance to see what it's like to make a better guess.)

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    2. Essentially what Joe said. We try to encourage each writer find their own writing style and not just slavishly copy the "Trickster-experience". Even in the intro of Larry remake Alex included bits from the game itself (the questionnaire), so this is not completely unprecedented.

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    3. You both hit the nail on the head. In this game, some of the first bits of gameplay are in the intro, and I felt that since this is a unique way to get the player used to the interface, and it would be a bit awkward to separate those few clicks from the opening cinematic, I would just cover them together to start the next post when the real gameplay begins. I didn't think I was violating any posting tenets.

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    4. I dunno, man. I wasn't informed! I remembered asking it on a Missed Classic and I was told that only Missed Classic had this treatment. I didn't know!

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    5. We're altering the deal. Pray we don't alter it any further.

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    6. *Starts praying to Cthulhu and the Yellow King*

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  7. 52. Probably the most bland and unmemorable Larry game.

    As I mentioned in the past, I have the physical floppies of the rare EGA version, but a few of them have their data overwritten - by one of my parents apparently. There were even some backup copies that had been ruined too.

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  8. I'm going to go with 58 as long as it's not taken.

    I have a lot of fond memories of this game, simply because it was the first Larry game I ever played. The graphic style and simple puzzles (and gorgeous babes) really went along with the 13-years old me!

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  9. My memories of this game are very vague. I do remember playing it, and maybe a couple of scenes, but I have no recollection of how much I enjoyed it. I actually have it installed on my Amiga 1200, which is hooked up in my basement, though that version is slightly uglier than this, due to having only 32 colours.

    I'll go with 53. Just because nobody else guessed that ( yet ).

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  10. I guess that leaves 57 for me, and that's the random number that popped into my head anyway. :-)

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  11. 51 for me, just because all others are already taken.

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  12. Heads up that Trickster's review of Space Quest I is cited in this blog:

    http://www.filfre.net/2015/07/the-14-deadly-sins-of-graphic-adventure-design/

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    1. The article raises couple of good questions. How do we evaluate what makes a good adventure game? And why do we still care about games that have such obvious design flaws as guess-the-verbs, dead ends, unexpected deaths, ridiculous puzzles etc.? Is it just nostalgia?

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    2. A good story trumps all. QFG4 is considered by many people to be a fantastic game, yet the sheer number of bugs within it made it almost unplayable unless you had the absolute correct system to play it on. Police Quest is the fuzzy one here, for me. The game is too rigid, has too many deaths and the story's gear shift is too abrupt to feel 'right' - it would have been advantaged by the 'middle' game being a bit longer with more than just the drug bust in the park.

      Overall, though, it's very difficult to evaluate 'fun' no matter how you do it. I reckon we just shouldn't bother and just go with what we feel seems right. :)

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    3. @Ilmari - Actually, I think it raises all valid points. But considering that this article is decades too late to address the issue, I feel that it's kinda moot. Sophisticated computer games were still very much in their infancy. There will definitely be some stumbling over while taking their baby steps. Those mistakes pave the way for better gameplay upon correction and innovative mechanisms to ensure that no mistakes are potentially game-breaking.

      I can even safely say that, without these early adventure games, there will be no adventure games in our current era (or, at the very least, unrecognizable from its current form... I'll have to take an InterKron back to the past and convince the Williams not to touch adventure games back in 1980) at all.

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    4. Great article.

      >One of the most frustrating things about early graphic adventures is that
      >most of the problems from which they suffered had already been encountered,
      >discussed, and at least to some extent solved by Infocom.

      I always assumed Infocom games were filled with these issues as well, but now it looks like there's more of an incentive for me to play them.

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  13. LOL, Scruemall indeed.

    Judging from what other people said, I don't think this will beat either version of Larry 1, so I'm going to guess 52.

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