Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Leisure Suit Larry 5: Final Rating

Written by Alex

Leisure Suit Larry 5! Final rating! GO!

Puzzles and Solvability: 1

What puzzles? This game is impossible to lose, and as such, I cannot give it a higher rating than this. Here: I’ll show you. After getting all 1,000 stupid points in this stupid game during my initial playthrough, I proceeded to do an “As Little As Possible (ALAP)” run. Let me give an example of how this game goes beyond hand-holding into outright giving you the solution. See this?


I think I forgot to mention this in my gameplay posts. It lets you skip parts of the game. Not just cut-scenes, but actual “puzzles,” as far as this game has any. Remember this part?


 

Remember how I wrote that:

“Here’s another blown situation for a puzzle. See the top portion of the screen? Just keep clicking ‘Hand’ and eventually Larry hits the autopilot button, saving the plane from doom (100 points). No puzzle, no brainpower needed, and no need for ANYTHING, since doing nothing causes Larry to run out of the cockpit in a panic and accidentally hitting the autopilot button, garnering him no points but still safely landing the plane.”

OR you can click the skip button.

Or remember this part? As in, the final “puzzle” of the game?


Just skip it and jump straight to the ending! You don’t even need to pick up the brasserie cannon way back in the FBI lab at the outset of Patti’s adventure, because Inspector Desmond just gives it to her during a cut-scene.


Sure, this eliminates a dead end, but why just not create a true alternate solution for players who failed to pick it up? Or better yet, make the player automatically get it at the beginning of the game, when it is shown to them and actually makes sense to pick up?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is the Official Leisure Suit Larry 5 ALAP Run. All of the stuff you have to do to trigger certain plot points, and what you can skip.

  • Larry: Get the three resumes and the AeroDork card to trigger the appearance of the limo outside of PornProdCorp. Open resumes to get what is inside. Leave for the airport. Buy a plane ticket to Atlantic City. Board plane.
  • Patti: Ignore all of the people in the FBI lab. Walk to the right. Get indoctrinated. Learn Desmond’s phone number. Get tracking device implanted. Leave FBI lab without taking anything. In limo, call Desmond twice to get two faxes. Show P.C. Hammer fax to driver to get taken to Baltimore or Philadelphia.
  • Larry: Get quarter from slot machine. Get limo company number from billboard. Call limo. Show matchbook. Arrive at Tramp casino. Talk to man outside of casino to call a limo for you. Leave for airport. Buy ticket for Miami.
  • Patti: Wherever you get taken to, immediately get back in limo. Leave. For argument’s sake, let’s say Patti went to Philadelphia first. Immediately get back in the limo and show the driver the fax for des Rever records to get taken to Baltimore. (If you skip Baltimore and actually do the Philadelphia sequence, the game won’t let you out of Krapper’s office until you have a) opened the desk, b) copied the files, c) returned the files, and d) returned the key, the letter opener, or both. You do the rest of the puzzles normally, but you don’t even have to take the tape Patti makes of 2 Live 2 Screw).
  • Larry: Get two quarters from cigarette machine. Look at billboards until you find limo company number. Call limo company. Show card. Arrive at Dr. Pulliam’s office. You can call the limo company from the lobby, but they will be out of drivers. Get doily and wear it. Talk to receptionist to be let in. Just keep clicking “Talk” on Chi Chi to trigger the next sequence. Call limo from lobby. Go to airport and buy ticket for New York City.
  • Patti: Arrive at the Shill Building in Baltimore. Go inside. Talk to guard. Show fax. Go up elevator. Walk past gold record to recording studio. “Skip” the keyboard “puzzle.” Click zipper on Reverse Biaz to get “evidence.”
  • Larry: Get quarter from tin. Look at billboard to get limo company number. Call limo. Get in and show napkin. As Larry leaves the limo, the game automatically makes him take the DayTrotter. Enter Hard Disk Café. Click “Talk” on maître d’ until he gives Larry tape. Use tape with old-fashioned music cylinder. Use tape on both purple machines. Keep clicking “Talk” on Michelle. Call limo from lobby. Go to airport. Buy ticket for L.A. Wait and click nothing to eventually land airplane.
  • Patti: Wait and Patti automatically shoots Julius with the brasserie cannon Inspector Desmond gives her in the earlier cut-scene.

Remember how at the ending, the game tells Larry that his efforts ultimately didn’t matter? Inspector Desmond tells Patti pretty much the same as she reports failure after failure.

It’s okay. Everybody wins!

Leisure Suit Larry 5 is the participation trophy of adventure games. It’s an adventure game for people who don’t like adventure games. There are no dead-ends, which is great . . . but it is impossible to lose or die. The tragedy is that, with a little tweaking, these puzzles could have been great! Some even have actual alternate solutions. For example, giving the maître d’ credit cards OR using the membership tape on the music cylinder to get access to the inner sanctum. Or renting the roller skates with the camera OR paying $500.00 in casino tokens. That’s how alternate solutions should be. Being allowed to repeatedly click “Talk” on a character in lieu of having the required item is not an alternate solution. Very disappointing for an otherwise well put-together and presented game.

Interface and Inventory: 6
Much like with the Leisure Suit Larry 1 remake, the interface is easy to use, manipulating objects is easy, and the game went the extra mile in adding clever jokes when you try clicking inventory items on each other. As in, nearly every single item has a unique message when clicked on every other message. There are too many good ones to mention, but let’s just say it gave me an extra reason to click around in the inventory.

Story and Setting: 3
Oh boy. Let’s get this out of the way: Leisure Suit Larry 5 has a stupid story. Which would be okay, and even entertaining given some of the social satire going on, but the fact that it is of no consequence whatsoever really diminishes the entire narrative. Plus, there’s a blackface gag which, sure, is as innocuous as a blackface gag can get in that it’s not deliberately setting out to insult or demean African-Americans, but it’s still a bit much. The setting itself—various cities across America—is great, and the only thing that gets this category up to a three. The story prevents it from going any higher.

Sound and Graphics: 6
Call me a hypocrite, but I think the graphical style works better in this game than it did in the Larry 1 remake. From the computer-inspired designs of the Hard Disk Café to the tacky gaudiness of the Tramp Casino to the overdone monstrosity that is the K-RAP studios, the game presents a myriad of different settings for the player to poke around in. If only there were, you know, puzzles to solve in these settings.

Sound-wise, this game is fantastic. The Leisure Suit Larry series has always had great music, and this game is no exception. I don’t remember a single bad track, and some, like the Hard Disk Café themes and tune Patti plays at des Rever records often get stuck in my head.

Environment and Atmosphere: 6
I think both the environments and the atmosphere of Larry 5 hit the mark. The game is supposed to be a cheesy, risqué romp through some of the sleazier parts of the American landscape, whether that sleaze be sex-related, business-related, or politics-related. Crooked musicians, gangsters, scumbag Hollywood TV producers and yes-men coexist with an odd assortment of women whose only purpose really seems to get down and dirty with Larry. Okay, the female NPCs aren’t all that fleshed out, but let’s not forget that Patti is really the game’s only competent character. Larry lucks into and stumbles through everything. Patti—adventures in blackface notwithstanding—at least takes some agency through her solutions to the puzzles, and they tend to require more brainpower than just clicking “Talk” on a woman or giving her some random item.

All the same, I feel that the game missed a big opportunity for more spy stuff with Patti. Where are the other gadgets for her to use on her missions? There was a missed opportunity for a James Bond spoof a la Get Smart or Top Secret! (Ever seen Top Secret!? Pretty funny movie). Ah well. That seems destined to be Larry 5’s epithet: a missed opportunity.

Dialogue and Acting: 6
This is another category I can’t fault. Messrs. Lowe, Mandel, and their team of writers have again packed this game full of bad puns, witty jokes, and all-around cleverness. Most of the gags hit their mark, seeming to go for a chuckle and a playful nudge on the ribs as opposed to being offensive or mean-spirited. Aside from that blackface gig. I mean, come on! As far as blackface gags go, that’s about as benign as you can get. But really? A blackface gag?

Aside from the narration, each character is well-drawn enough that their personalities come through from just a few lines of dialogue. Patti is skeptical and street-smart. Inspector Desmond is a square-jawed defender of truth, justice, and the American way. Lana Luscious is a Jersey tough-girl. Michelle Milken is a high-powered Wall Street type. Julius is an bloviating bore. And Larry is . . . well . . . Larry. And so on. Nobody is particularly deep, but in a game like this, they don’t need to be.

Final Rating:
Let’s tally this up: 1 + 6 + 3 + 6 + 6 + 6 = 28 / .6 = 46.6 rounded up to a 47.


That seems fair, and a little higher than I would have expected. Ultimately, Leisure Suit Larry 5 has everything you want in an adventure game—good graphics, a great soundtrack, funny gags, clever writing, memorable characters and settings—minus what people in berets may call the raison d’être for adventure games: Puzzles. And that’s a pretty big omission. Tough luck, Larry. Better luck next time.

As for me, I get to move on to Police Quest III. Should I be happy to move on from Larry 5—as I think I’ve spent more time with this game than anybody else, God help me—or am I about to wade into even stinkier waters? My memories tell me the latter, but a guy can be optimistic, can’t he?

CAP Distribution:

100 points to Alex
  • Blogger award - 100 CAPs - for blogging through this game for our enjoyment 
60 points to Joe Pranevich
  • Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - for playing Questprobe #3 for our enjoyment 
  • Classic designer blogger award – 5 CAPs – for linking to a Reddit thread on Ron Gilbert's blog 
  • Look what I found award - 5 CAPs - for linking to a citation of The Adventure Gamer 
45 Points to The Mara
  • Tell me a story award - 30 CAPs - For submitting a What's your story with extra bonus questions
  • Necromancy award - 15 CAPs – for catching up and commenting on many old posts, reminding us of games we hadn't thought about for years
20 points to TBD
  • True companion award – 10 CAPs - for keeping Alex company through his Leisure Suit Larry 5 journey
  • Mindbending multiples award – 10 CAPs - for helping Joe find games with multiple protagonists
15 points to Dehumanizer
  • Late night personality award – 10 CAPs - for helping Joe find games with multiple protagonists 
  • Snakes alive award – 5 CAPs - for trying to say something nice about Princess Python 
10 CAPs to Ilmari
  • Psychic prediction award – 10 CAPs - for guessing closest to the score of Questprobe #3
10 points to Laertes
  • Psychic prediction award – 10 CAPs - For correctly guessing the score of Leisure Suit Larry 5
10 points to Splitting image
  • Genuine People Personality award – 10 CAPs - for helping Joe find games with multiple protagonists
10 points to Rowan Lipkowitz
  • Multiple personality award – 10 CAPs - for helping Joe find games with multiple protagonists
5 CAPs to Corey Cole
  • I lived in the past award – 5 CAPs - for details on turntables
5 CAPs to Aperama
  • I lived in the past too award - 5 CAPs - for linking to a video on the weirdness of 80s comedies
5 points to Scott Adams
  • First hand account Award – 5 CAPs - for commenting a smack down on Dehumanizer and TBD 
3 points to Kenny McCormick
  • Is that a snake in your pocket award – -2 CAPs - for telling us about his trouser snake
  • Science and religion award – 5 CAPs – for pointing out that a candle should blow out in a wind tunnel, then somehow trying to make it tie into the bible? Or something?

30 comments:

  1. Really love the look at just how un-adventurous this game is; excellent work on that summary.

    Pity this game was so poorly-received. I think my end of year ladder is shot at this point...

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  2. Ouch, that's a bit of a poor score. A fair judgement though!

    I do like the idea of a "skip" button though, there have been adventure games that I've played where being able to skip a puzzle or get a hint (without resorting to an internet search), would be very helpful.

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    1. @Joe

      Yes, "unadventurous" is another great description of this game. Entertaining, but unadventurous.

      @Andy

      I too think that the "Skip" button is an innovative feature that more games could, and should, use, when it comes to cut-scenes or other times where control is taken away from the player. I do not think it is appropriate to be able to skip puzzles. Otherwise, that means the puzzles are either (a) so poorly designed that they are not fun for the player and the, designers recognized this, hence making hem skip able, which also would beg the question, "If they're this bad, why were these puzzles left in the game?", or (b) the puzzles are ultimately pointless. Neither option reflects good game design.

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    2. Reminds me a bit of the 7th Guest were you could skip the puzzles by reading the library book 3 times, except the last puzzle that is put behind a point of no return. The reason why it wasn't recommended was since it also took away some of the small story segments that explained the plot (if I remember correctly). Which makes it a bit weird since it is a puzzle game and if you skip you basically don't play. Then again after the 30th chess piece puzzle you might want to speed through certain sections.

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  3. Time for updating the rankings of the games:

    1. Space Quest 4 - 65 points
    2. Larry 1 Remake - 60 points
    3. Space Quest 1 Remake - 58 points
    4.-5. Timequest and Larry 5 - 47 points
    6. Hugo II - 18 points

    And we have our first tie! A bit of a surprise pairing, I'd say. It seems most people got the order of Larrys completely wrong.

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    1. Yeah, I'd say that the 'full house' won't be happening. I really didn't hate this game quite so much, but I do understand where Alex came from here too.

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    2. @Aperama

      "Hate" is a pretty strong word. I don't hate this game, I just find it very disappointing. With a few tweaks, it could have had some great puzzles with alternate solutions and ranked right up there with the other Larry games, which, for the most part, are high-quality adventure games.

      Most of the elements are there (writing, graphics, characters, setting, atmosphere, and so on), but none of the player's actions are of any consequence, which is why I could not give the "Puzzles and Solvability" category any higher than a 1. Contrast this with Monkey Island 1 and 2: It is impossible to die in those also (or nearly impossible), and impossible to get dead-ended, but the player gets a sense of accomplishment for solving a puzzle because they actually require brain power, aren't spoon-fed to the player, and cannot be skipped. I'm not asking for much here!

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    3. That's interesting that this tied with Timequest. They're really opposites. Larry 5 has polish and atmosphere, but a stupid story and minimal puzzles. Timequest has many great puzzles set in diverse locales, but minimal graphics and a story that ended stupidly.

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  4. This sort of review is why people don't comment on this blog. JUST because you don't need to solve a puzzle DOESN'T mean they don't exist and can't be rated. You might as well fault lucasarts games for the inability to die since it robs the adventure of all tension but we all know you won't do that. Despite both decisions being a stylistic choice.

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    1. @Anonymous


      Wow! I'm single-handedly keeping people from commenting here! I never knew I had that kind of power!

      If you read my assessment, I did reference both Monkey Island games as games where I believe the balance was struck between fun, solvable puzzles that won't dead-end the player but actually require some thought to accomplish. And there is tension in
      Lucasarts games, as the player cannot advance without solving the puzzle; he cannot simply keep clicking "Talk" or push a "Skip" button to advance.

      And perhaps your wording is more accurate: Just because a puzzle is optional doesn't mean it isn't there. But in these types of games, puzzles are typically prerequisites for advancing further. In Larry 5, they really are not, and I rated them as such. I think there is room for reasonable disagreement as to whether that makes them puzzles generically or puzzles in the typically used adventure game sense.

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    2. Correction: referenced Monkey Island games in previous posts.

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    3. Anon,

      The great thing about the PISSED system is that it will be able to account for differences in game design so that even though this game has very weak/optional puzzles, the rating actually suggests it's a pretty good game. It's pretty much as "good" as the original King's Quest!

      I'm thinking of eventually doing a Missed Classic on "The Manhole" and that would get a 0 for this category, but it's still a classic adventure game for kids.

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  5. Impossible to die or lose is the standard for modern adventure games, where "modern" starts with lucasarts. Or do I have to remind you that it's impossible to lose or die in Monkey Island for instance? As for skipping puzzles, Myst can be solved without going to any age if you happen to know the number of the combination you need. These are not sane criteria.

    What is sane is saying that the "whatever I do is irrelevant" effect is particularly bad in this game. But only masochists liked the "die-reload-die-reload-die-reload-fuck I'm deadended, I have to restart" cycle of the older Sierra games.

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    1. @Oliver

      You don't have to remind me of anything. In fact, I referenced the first two Monkey Island games in previous posts as games who get it right regarding the balance between excellent, non-frustrating game design and challenging puzzles that the game doesn't spoon-feed the player the answers to.

      And lest we get talking about sanity, I never said that "lose" equals frustrating deaths or Roberta Williams-esque dead-ends; if that was implied, I apologize. Lose can also mean be unable to advance and therefore stop playing. Death and inability to win are not hallmarks of good game design; you are right.

      But here is a case in point: In Monkey Island 1, Guybrush does not die during a sword battle when he does not know the proper insult or retort. He goes back to the map and then has to find the proper comebacks to win the battles, and eventually take on the Sword Master. No death, no dead-end, but also no way to just keep clicking on something and win a way, thereby rendering the puzzle meaningless.

      Regarding Myst, I actually have never played that, so I'll take your word for it.

      Oddly enough, I find Larry 6 to be very well-designed, with deaths, yes, but no dead-ends that I can remember.

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    2. @Oliver

      Actually it is possible to die or lose in Monkey Island 1. Jnvg 10 zvahgrf haqrejngre, be jnfgr nyy lbhe zbarl ba Bgvf be gur tebt znpuvar.

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    3. "If you already know the answer to the puzzle, you don't have to solve the puzzle" is not really an argument.

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  6. And the CAP distribution has been updated!

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    1. But I'll update the leaderboard later, because it's past my bedtime...

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    2. Leaderboard updated.

      Notable movers: Joe Pranevich has gone up 2 places to 7th, and the Mara has gone straight from nonexistent to 38th place!

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  7. Lucasarts is some peoples standard for modern adventure games and makes more sense if you think of them as only for children. But its not the only school of thought you know. If you have played Stasis, deaths in that game (and the tension that results) are very much part of the game design.

    This blog is very pro-lucasarts to the point where any other school of thought is dismissed as anachronism. Thanks for making my point.

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    1. I would say that there is some truth to this, but the rating scheme is flexible enough and robust enough that those biases (while present) are pretty weak.

      I like to think of the PISSED scale as idealizing a "perfect" Monkey Island game with good puzzles, an intuitive interface, a good story that has a defined mood, nice graphics, and fun characters. Yes, that may mean that other types of "adventure" games may rate more poorly on the scale, but that's just because you have to start somewhere. And even if you don't agree with the ratings, you can still enjoy reading about our experiences playing these games.

      Incidentally, the CRPGAddict's rating system has the same flaws. It's pretty much been envisioned for an idealized version of Ultima 7 or Baldurs Gate 2. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of other great games out there, but it will tend to rate "Ultima-like" games higher because they align better with his ideas.

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    2. I do enjoy reading this blog. Its not so much the score I disagree with but the dismissal of any other way of enjoying an adventure game. If you look at rpgs there is a lot of diversity in terms of 'what is an rpg?' to make the question meaningless. If you look at adventure games that criteria can be very narrow and it doesn't need to be and it shouldn't be. Adventure games should be as diverse as rpgs and they aren't because adventure gamers can't see past there favourite experiences as much as rpg gamers.

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    3. @Anonymous,

      I am glad you are commenting, because I want to make sure that my posts are not dismissive or otherwise unfair in their analysis. I understand how my rating could make it seem that I was dismissive of other game-design styles. However, that was completely unintentional. I do enjoy games that differ from the Sierra and Lucas mold--die-restore-die and dead-ends to me aren't hallmarks of good game design.

      That said, as Oliver mentioned in a previous comment, this game's biggest fault in my opinion is the fact that nothing seems to be of consequence and that it requires no brainpower. The fact that some puzzles are skippable and that it has no way to die or be dead-ended is not the problem. The problem is that it is, literally, impossible to do anything but win.

      I have always seen adventure games, and RPGs too, as akin to crossword puzzles: You're not looking to be frustrated, but you want to use your brain to tease out the solution to a puzzle or a riddle. And there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with that. With Larry 5, it's more like a VGA movie you click on from time to time.

      I hope that makes it clearer. I never, in my personal life or on here, try to dismiss other people's opinions or school of thought. I'll be more vigilant in future reviews to make sure that I don't do so. And I sincerely hope that you continue to reading this blog.

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    4. @Alex - True. Anonymous makes a good point too but there's a slight difference in a term of technicality; the Adventure genre.

      The criteria to be an Adventure game is, IMHO, too wide in fact. Almost every game out there can be applied with the Adventure label.

      Pacman? An ADVENTURE of a yellow gluttonous orb swallowing as many smaller orbs while avoiding getting swallowed by ghosts.

      Mass Effect? A grand space ADVENTURE!

      Terminator? A sci-fi robotic apocalypse ADVENTURE!

      Truly, you can smack the Adventure game label anywhere. We're trying to streamline it in this blog or we'll have to include all sorts of hybrids here.

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  8. I am not sure if our community as a whole is so pro-Lucasarts as it might seem. Personally, I am of the opinion that while technically (in terms of puzzle structures and graphics/sounds) Lucasarts games are quite professional, their plots fall often to the tried and tested comedy routine. I am very into all sorts of indie games, especially if they have deep plots, and these days I would probably prefer IF over graphical adventures. I am all for a diversity in adventure games and I think that's why it's good we have nowadays a group of people playing these games, with their own sensibilities and preferences.

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  9. I'm ironically more of a Quest-game fan than a Lucasarts one, Anon - but LSL5 is not a game that I would give particularly high marks either. I like dying in adventures! But only when it feels fair. When I die because I run at a monster bare handed? Fair! Don't lock away my gun before cuffing a bad guy? Fair! Forget to walk around a car? No. Anything in B.A.T? No.

    Day of the Tentacle is, in my unbiased mind, probably the best, cleanest adventure game I've ever played. Quest for Glory 2 is my entirely biased favorite game period, however. The PISSED system might not be perfect (Myst will score a 0 in Dialogue/Acting by default in spite of being the most popular adventure game ever) but I'd not mistake that for some particular bias. Everyone has biases, though, and there's no way not to. 'Unbiased' means 'robot'. :)

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  10. What the heck? I'm getting -2 CAPs for talking about Skippy? PETA's gonna hear about this!

    Anyway, 47 is kinda high for this game. I distinctly remember that I had played this game but can't even recall how it went.

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    1. I agree that 47 is high from a 'had fun' standpoint (I personally gave it a 2 out of 10) but the PISSED rating doesn't have an 'Overall Fun Factor' component. Maybe we should change to a PISSEDOFF rating system instead...

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    2. PISSEDOFF . . . I like it!

      The funny thing about Larry 5 is that all of the parts of a good to great adventure game are there. It's just missing the puzzles to hold it all together for reasons stated ad nauseum above, the biggest one being that nothing the player does really matters and that the game pretty much lets you win. Given that PISSED looks at all components of a game, Larry 5 scores quite well in the other areas. An "Overall Fun Factor" isn't a bad idea at all.

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  11. The fastest way to get out of the dentist's office is to select EXIT as soon as you can (as she starts adjusting the chair).

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