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