Sunday 6 September 2015

Leisure Suit Larry 5 – You Are What You Is

Written by Alex

Commenter The Mara recently noted that her question, "[H]ow much more tasteless can Leisure Suit Larry get" is one she has to wait for the answer to. Well, the wait is over. Hold on to your Tardis, because here comes the stupid!

So here’s Patti, outside of K-RAP studios in Philadelphia.

Wait, or is it Baltimore. Continuity error!

Regardless of where in America the Passionate One is, she needs to gather evidence that P.C. Hammer is in the pay of the mob. Nowhere to go but into the studios.

Ahh. The classic built-into-the-side-of-a-mountain trick. Is this Mount Philadelphia, or something?

Patti faces no obstacles getting inside, mainly because this is Leisure Suit Larry 5, and there are no obstacles.

At least this text box gets it right.

Inside, there is only one room and one exit. Checking out the door informs Patti that it belongs to the sophomorically named Mr. John Krapper, the Founder, Owner, President and C.E.O. of K-RAP. Also, contrary to popular belief, NOT the inventor of the flush toilet, that being one Mr. John Harrington. The more you know . . .

Clicking “Eye” around the desk informs Patti that the receptionist will be on her way back soon, but being LSL 5, there’s no time limit, no pressure, no nothing. There is nothing to do with the desk or the plant in the foreground, nor can Patti open the door. However, there is a touch pad next to the door. Realizing that the only option is to enter the access code displayed on Patti’s DataMan when the P.C. Hammer cartridge is inside (1 point), I get into Mr. Krapper’s office before this supposed receptionist returns from wherever she was.

The level of discourse we’re dealing with, folks.

Krapper’s office is decorated in a modern style that Patti seems to really like. There’s a door to the left that leads to the toilet, but I decide to explore the room for some evidence first.

By chance, I click “Eye” on the large potted plant to the right. Patti sees something glinting in the soil, and rummaging through courtesy of her handy-dandy “Hand” icon, Patti finds a small key (10 points). I wonder if it opens that desk there?

Yep. Puzzles!

Opening the desk drawer gets Patti a cool 13 points, and inside she sees a sticky note with the numbers “57033” written on it (5 points). There’s also a folder labeled “Personal,” which Patti takes (5 points). Checking out this folder in her inventory screen, Patti finds a paper that refers to mob activity and is signed by someone named Julius (4 points). This guy is everywhere!

Okay, so Patti has evidence that K-RAP is getting mob money. But the game then wonders how Patti can get the evidence out of the office.

It’s a good thing that Krapper keeps a photocopier in his office. Before heading to that, I decide to click “Eye” on the desk to see what there is. Nothing but a computer and a phone Patti can’t use, and a letter opener, which she can take (4 points). I don’t know the point of this, until I click it on the desk. Turns out Patti can use the letter opener to unlock the desk drawer, supposing she doesn’t find the key in the potted plant. A puzzle redundancy, commonly referred to as an alternate solution. In principle, I approve of these. In this game, it seems like a moot point.

Anyway, I click the folder on the copier.

Is this an homage to Space Quest III, or just a work simulator?

Patti gets her copies (12 points), but the printer jams, and mucking around with it results in a small explosion, covering Patti head to toe with black toner.

Oh brother, things are about to get a whole lot stupider.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
  • White woman who is an undercover FBI agent sneaks into a radio station
  • The radio station is in Philadelphia, a city with a large African-American population and that is a hub of black culture
  • The white woman does not want to be seen, or else her cover will be blown
  • The white woman then gets completely covered in black ink
If you’re guessing the punchline is something that rhymes with “Track Place,” DING DING DING! I guess you were a designer on Leisure Suit Larry 5!

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. First, let’s ask the game what to do next by looking at these copies in our inventory.

Thanks game!

Patti returns the folder to the desk, locks the drawer, puts the letter opener back on Krapper’s desk, and returns the key to the potted plant. And now, since the game doesn’t let Patti leave through the right door, she has to go into the left door, to Mr. Krapper’s (sigh) Crapper.

Wow! This is bigger than my first apartment in Boston!

Mr. Krapper apparently has the greatest, most opulent and extravagant bathroom this side of creation. Apparently, he lives up to that old adage, “You Must Do Whatever It Is Your Last Name Tells You To.” I guess it could be worse for him.

I click all over the place, but to no avail. The only thing the game lets Patti do is take a shower in the booth on the left, because when trying to escape a hostile environment with incriminating evidence that can take down the people you stole it from, the only sensible thing to do is worry about cleanliness.

The obligatory “Patti gets naked” scene.

Patti takes her clothes off and drops them on the floor—which becomes a plot point, believe it or not—and proceeds to shower up (7 points). Or try to. Turning the faucet causes the chintzy little shower booth to descend like an elevator from the old Batman TV show.

Wait for it . . .

Wait . . .

That’s a pretty K-RAPpy joke.

Relatively funny gag there, but that pun . . . ugh. Even by this game’s standards, ugh.

So Patti finds herself in the K-RAP studio basement level, where the studios are. She can see 2 Live 2 Screw in Studio A talking about something. Since I’d really like to eavesdrop and maybe even record this little palaver, I decide to explore these studios.

Of course, since Patti is naked and her inventory is lying on Krapper’s floor, I can’t walk anywhere. Good thing there are some rapper clothes hanging nearby! Patti snags them for one point and the ability to walk around unmolested.

That’s right! As a plot point in a commercially released adventure game by Sierra, the main character walks around in blackface to avoid detection! Wow! I am not making this up!

And yet . . . and yet . . . although I know the ugly history behind black face and the minstrel shows that spawned this phenomenon (for non-American readers: performers in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries used to cover themselves in black makeup and play “black” characters on stage, completely overdoing all of the racist stereotypes about African-Americans) this is really too damn stupid to offend.

Anywho, an exploration of the studios reveals Studio B to be occupied by P.C. Hammer himself, and Studios C and D to be empty. Each studio, as well as the shower-elevator, have keypads. The only thing I can think of is to use the code found in Krapper’s desk on each door. The only one the code works on is the door to Studio C.

The only things Patti can interact with are the console on the left and the shelf in the back, which the “Eye” icon reveals contains some blank tapes. I sang one (4 points) and put it on the console. Nothing left to do but keep clicking “Hand” on the console until Patti gets the feed from 2 Live 2 Screw (8 points). I click “Hand” on the tape to turn it on and record the conversation (4 points), where the rap group yuks it up about doing nefarious things. I really feel like this was a missed opportunity to create a puzzle where the player would have to actually figure out what to do on the console themselves, but what do I know?

Clicking “Hand” again on the tape once the conversation is over makes Patti turn it off, rewind, and place the tape in her inventory (7 points). But just then, P.C. Hammer sees what Patti is up to, and moves a heavy boom mic stand that was out in the hallway and Patti couldn’t do anything with in front of the door, trapping her inside! He then goes to the elevator and punches a code which Patti, somehow, can see from all the way across the hall.

I can deal with a lot in a comedy game, but this is a bridge too far.

Oh well. Nothing left to do now but escape. This is another “just keep clicking, you’ll get it” kind of “puzzle” that this game is full of: “Hand” on the console makes Patti turn up the volume and move the microphone near her mouth. “Talk” causes her to belt out her highest note, cracking the glass and making an oh-so timely Memorex joke. She escapes (15 points) as the game engages in a little “tell, don’t show.”

It’s like, is the player even necessary in this game?

Patti tells her driver “Home.” Congratulations, this is the last Patti sequence of the game. Now it’s time for a boner joke!

Oh brother. Between the racial insensitivity, the lack of puzzles, and the fact that, in order to do what the game posit Larry just did, he’d have to be packing a 15” member, I’m about ready for this one to be done. Stay tuned for Larry in Miami.

Total Points: 647 out of 1,000
Larry: Hidden camera, charger, one blank tape, Michelle’s tape, Lana’s tape three resumes, napkin from Hard Disk Café in New York City, AeroDork Gold Card, AeroDork’s in-flight magazine, matches from Tramp Casino in Atlantic City, business card for Doc Pulliam in Miami
Patti: DataMan, Reverse Biaz cartridge, P.C. Hammer cartridge, brasserie cannon, gold record, Reverse Biaz tape, evidence tape, photocopy of Krapper’s “Personal” folder

Session Time: 40 minutes.
Total Time: 4 hours and 45 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 points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. Wow. The blackface section is both tasteless and humorless.

    I can sort of accept "gay" jokes in games of this era as a sign of the times they were written in (for example, I gave a pass on the crossdressing in Space Quest IV), but a blackface joke hasn't been acceptable for a very long time. I suspect that Mr. Lowe was pushing at the boundaries of good taste deliberately, but I wish that Sierra had axed this one.

  2. "this is really too damn stupid to offend."

    That's okay, I'll just be offended by the stupid instead. (I would "lol" here, but...)

  3. Humor is hard and changes over time. Trying to find material for jokes for my blog articles and in-game, I've several times looked up such things as "poker humor", "funniest jokes", and so on. In the first category, for instance, I find the same ten non-funny jokes repeated on dozens of web pages (most of them relating to sexual embarrassment).

    Most of the jokes are at someone's expense. For example, the joke often considered funniest has a punch line that starts out, "Watson, you idiot..." Then there are the blonde jokes, Polish jokes, Irish jokes, etc. I just don't find these funny, but they're nothing new - we had Polish and blonde jokes when I was a kid. (A blonde bridge player at my club has a license plate frame that reads, "Not all blondes are dumb." It's installed upside-down.)

    So, yeah, black-face was all the rage in the early 20th Century. I think Al's point in using it as a joke in a late 20th-Century game was that the whole idea was so ridiculous as to be funny. It certainly wasn't intended as an insult to black people - Al doesn't swing that way.

    By the way, with the sequence as given, the papers that Patti put back in the desk would be smudged with ink and probably have her fingerprints.

    So really, can anyone name five (make it any) funny jokes that do not rely on insulting an ethnic group or other stereotype? At least Al's joke only insults the player's intelligence, not Patti nor people of color.

    1. A woman walks up to a bar.
      "Bartender," she says, "I'd like a double entendre."
      So he gave it to her.

    2. (With apologies to a friend that told me that one this week.)

    3. I vote that Joe's joke is sexist, and present to you one which never fails to make me laugh:

      Why did the triceratops cross the road?
      Because chickens hadn't evolved yet.

    4. Well, I had written it originally as this and you would have said it was a gay stereotype. ;)

      A man walks up to a bar.
      "Bartender," he says, "I'd like a double entendre."
      So he gave it to him.

    5. No, that's funny because it's unexpected. You come to expect the sexist one.

    6. A robot walks up to a bar.
      "Bartender," he says, "I'd like a double entendre."
      So he gave him a Screwdriver instead.

    7. Haha, funny one, Joe.
      I wonder if Sierra had any way to keep track of the age/gender demographics of their customers for any given game. It would be interesting to know how the different series fared in this regard (not that I expect many surprises, but still).

    8. Q: What's the internal body temperature of a Tauntaun?
      A: Lukewarm.

    9. Hahaha! That's a good one! Here's another.

      The dwarves wanted to visit Snow White but came up short.

      Heh heh heh! Damn, I'm funny!

  4. I think Corey is spot on here in saying that the blackface joke isn't at anyone's expense, and that Al isn't a racist (which I kind of expected he wasn't). That's what I meant by "too stupid to offend." If anyone here thinks I'm somehow okay with blackface in general, you're dreaming.

    Some jokes hit the intended mark, and some miss. The important thing here is that, while a video game, the LSL series is afoot comedy. Therefore, I take these games with a huge grain of salt, much like I do when going to a stand-up show or watching a comedy movie. A similar gag in, let's say, Police Quest game would probably not go over nearly as well.

    1. I don't think that Mr. Lowe is a racist! I just think that joke was in poor taste and that we probably find the joke to be in worse taste than they did back in the 90s.

    2. One of the reasons I never liked Larry V was that the humor struck me as generally forced and in your nose. Even by the series' standards. I found Larry VI much more enjoyable as it felt more of a throwback to the general spirit of the original. So yeah, humor is one area where there's definitely no account for tastes, but I can't help feeling that there's an underlying consensus about this installment that it was just a bit too much.

    3. I definitely agree with Corey's suggestion that the joke was probably meant to ridicule the whole notion of black-face, instead of having any real racist implications. The awkwardness we are feeling now when we hear about it just shows how hard it is to make fun about such stereotypes and tropes without sounding like actually endorsing these very same tropes and stereotypes.

      Taking another instance from the game itself (and something Alex has left mostly unmentioned), while Larry is dreaming of sexual escapades with Patti, Patti is dreaming of sexual escapades with thinly veiled caricatures of famous billionaires (we've seen Donald Tramp, but there were also dreams with Bill Gates and Scrooge McDuck). Is this just ironical joke how ridiculous the old gold digger trope is or is it a tired joke based on that trope?

    4. On the one hand, I'd say it's a reversal of the stereotype that men are promiscuous and women desire commitment above all else. On the other, it implies that Patti would have sex with a duck if it were sufficiently wealthy.

      I think there are too many conflicting negative stereotypes about women's sexual behavior to be able to definitely say a scene is addressing a particular one. In breaking one stereotype (female desire for commitment), it accepts two more (female promiscuity and gold-digging) in the name of being funny. It's not funny.

    5. Well, maybe Patti wasn't a paragon of virtue herself-- same for any other character in the series. LSL is all about stereotyping.

    6. Come on, cut Patti some slack. She was trapped on a volcanic island for years, for crying out loud.

    7. Is it possible to have two conflicting stereotypes? I'd say female desire for commitment is a stereotype, as is gold-digging but I'd argue female promiscuity isn't a stereotype as it's considered much rarer (male promiscuity though is definitely a stereotype)

    8. The reason I didn't touch on those dream sequences, Ilmari, is because they are total non-issues. Unlike the blackface thing, the dreams are making fun of these particular characters, Larry and Patti. Larry and Patti are not stand-ins for men and women generally. I really don't know what to say to anyone who takes them as such, other than that they seem to be looking for reasons to get offended.

  5. I'm thinking that there's a little more thought going into this than was ever intended. The game is essentially a rolling punchline wrapped in a game.

    The age of political correctness makes this seem far worse than it is. There's definitely no 'yes, massa' styled jokes I can see either attempted or intended in here - this is just a sight gag meant to make one or two people giggle that modern context has probably taken too far.

    1. The offensiveness of black face painting is an American thing, as other countries don't have the same history with the practice.

      See what happened a few years ago on an Australian variety show that offended Harry Connick Jr and he had to explain why he was offended before the show/host understood and apologised.

    2. I wonder why it's okay for the Wayan Bros to turn themselves into white chicks but it's bad taste for white chicks to turn themselves into ni...ce African Americans.


  7. I played the game around 1992 or 1993, and this sequence struck me as rather ham-fisted even then.

    Overall, Larry 5 is my least favourite game in the series. In most of the other games, the main source of the humour is the disconnect between Larry's strangely high opinion of himself as a Casanova and the lengths the player has to go to even get a woman to speak to him. Larry 5 was the series' one exercise in world-building, in which Larry and Patti get involved in the political issues of the late 80s. It doesn't work.

    I also thought the gag was a bit of a retread. I think what Al was going for was something like the Cherri sequence in Larry 3, where Larry ends up in a showgirl costume dancing for dollars on stage. If cross-dressing is okay, why not a little blackface? But there isn't really a payoff here, the way there is in Larry 3 when it turns out that the showgirl costume is needed to attract the attention of another woman in the game. If Larry 5 had had any puzzles to speak of, maybe Al could have made it work. As it is, I think this sequence was one of the series' bigger misfires.

  8. I found this part of the game the only time I really felt I achieved something adventurey (the breaking of the glass puzzle - I had the idea of doing that and then tried to make it happen) but that's largely because I didn't realise that if I just kept randomly clicking on things that would happen anyway.

  9. Re: the neon sign. Maybe it's so bright that it illuminates Baltimore from its location in Philadelphia?

    (Yeah, you're right.)


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 points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of the reviewer requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game...unless they really obviously need the help...or they specifically request assistance.

If this is a game introduction post: This is your opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that the reviewer 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 score votes and puzzle bets must be placed before the next gameplay post appears. The winner will be awarded 10 CAPs.