Friday 4 March 2016

Les Manley in: Lost in L.A. - Did I say WON!?

written by Aperama

… I decided that the only way to find my way out of this foxhole I was digging myself into was to finally speak face to face with the developer. Accolade died before the turn of the millenia. The game's credits took as long as the introduction to a Star Wars movie to read, but it was all of the 'actors' – none of the actual workers. Except for one name – and his website was written as though it were some sort of recursive loop – the only mention he ever gave to his shameful creation being something about 'designing and developing the first game to use actors against a blue screen'. I was fairly sure that was wrong, but that wasn't a question I wanted answered right now. He'd left no contact details – it was as though he knew that he'd be watched by others who were finding their way to this little secret. All this to make sure I could never really find the truth. I was backed into a corner with nowhere to look but up. How could I find my way out of a hole that didn't want to be filled? It wasn't just about the fact that the game had gone from 'Laffer appearance' to full-blown 'unexplained computer knowledge' – wasn't he in video production in the first game? When did he ever grow to learn so much about computing? Unless he wasn't actually supposed to be Lester – but Larry...

Okay, so I lied

Les Manley 2 has not been the breezy walk in the park that I had so hoped it would be. The game feels like it drones on forever yet actually goes nowhere. I've managed to take over a thousand screenshots just so that I can get decent representations of the conversations that take place as I go through – they're all held so briefly and with such a degree of general disinterest that I struggle to actually care that there are words on the screen. The irony is that through the plot and dialogue alike, nothing is 'bad' – there's plenty that I'd call 'cringeworthy' but nothing that actually makes me want to cry and hide in a hole. (The puzzles do that for the plot, after all.) It isn't quite bad enough to draw out true worry, just.. apathy. I see it in movie terms here (which clearly works due to the plot). There's universally 'good' – everyone loves Monkey Island. There's 'flawed' – maybe a King's Quest title here.. good in the right mentality. There's 'so bad it's good' which is a touch more rare in adventure game terms – in truth, I think everyone had fun with Emmanuelle and the like even though it was definitely not a good game – it's no Tommy Wiseau's The Room or Ed Wood film, given, but still. Then, there's 'bad, just bad'. This is unfortunately where Les Manley sits – it has some half decent parts, but none of them actually add up together to anything resembling a whole. I'd almost like to see what this really would have been like as an LSL title, here!

The nearby stage door leads to the studio where Maladonna is shooting her latest music video..

...and the latest caption contest will be taking place.

I'd actually played past that point I left off at in the previous post, but unfortunately, the game didn't actually end there. It didn't even require a resurrection card™. In fact, all it was? The 'latest in special effects'. Jason (or the robot that the studios has playing him) somehow faked Les' death. A shame, because had I been quicker with my trusty alt+F4 I may have been able to pretend that's what actually happened. The axe (which is somehow never referenced as being either a prop or having special effect-y powers when you look at it) can be taken directly from the JasonBot's hands, which I do due to my natural kleptomania. Les then finds a stage door to Maladonna's latest video. Several terrible dance moves involving her, Boy and Toy are shown, only for Les to come swinging through on a chain a la Tarzan. He suggests that Maladonna might 'need to have her bodyguards go get an ice cream sandwich' after he swings through, then she disappears. Why? I've no earthly clue. We're then shown a little cutscene of a pair of Hollywood-types watching Les Manley being shot from all angles with awkward faces. The faces aren't even funny, just strange. They think he's got 'IT', and they're sure hopeful he has an agent! Thankfully, we know one of those..

“Well, I think so, Brain, but if Jimmy cracks corn, and no one cares, why does he keep doing it?”

The temperature of Les Manley is not a matter for debate, game

I'm unsure how he instantly learns of his fame – the game brushes over this, simply stating that he's unable to see Maladonna after crashing the music video (reasons? Who needs reasons!) and that with his 'newfound fame' (boy, these LA newspapers sure get around fast!) that he's going to want to try getting to see Abe Goldstein as a potential Hollywood star looking to be the next 'big thing'. Seeing Tony Leoni at Sleazy Agents 'R' Us, it turns out that Les is going to need a portfolio. Thankfully, in the next screen where we found the mystery electrical appliance salesman, there's a dreadful looking portfolio creation/photography place run by Luther Blue.

Who ever heard of becoming a Hollywood star by crashing a music video set instead of being jailed immediately given you're accusing the star of kidnapping?

I think he's accusing Les of looking worse than bacon? I love me some bacon, is all I'm saying.

Luther Blue is clearly not only reputable but clever, as he tells Les that there is only one way forward. I know what you're thinking – he's not particularly photogenic, so perhaps some makeup, a different outfit? No, no. The outfit's fine. It turns out that all Les is going to need is some minor plastic surgery. Naturally. As I am seeing more LSL parallels here – the Pulsating Pectorals aren't being generated by an annoying minigame this time but via surgery – I know immediately that I have to go to Dr. Nick.

Hi, everybod-- wait, no, not you

… On second thoughts, can I go back to the Simpsons character?

Dr. Nick Nikopoulas is only eager to recommend some ill advised surgery. It turns out that he has a rather negative feel as it comes to Maladonna (he happens to know that the majority of the celebrities who have been spirited away are either her rivals or her former lovers) and that he's actually finding his business booming with all of the abductions, as it turns out that celebrities are still all too willing to come by and have minor scars and blemishes introduced that they're a little less appealing to the mystery kidnappers. He's willing to give his 'deluxe package' to Les – changing his look completely, making him appear muscular and like a Greek Adonis – but this would cost $30,000 cash (even though he does kindly offer a 90 day trial period!) Unfortunately, the credit card again shows itself as useless. Attempting to haggle him down makes no difference – Les has no paper money whatsoever. All that Dr. Nick is willing to offer him is a 'Dr. Nick True Life External Prosthetic Device'. Les doesn't like the lips on offer, but the nose ('a cross between DeNiro and Swayze – tough, yet sensitive. Even the Terminator is kinder and gentler.')

I could say so much, but this picture literally canvases my reaction

You can see the true enthusiasm. It's as though his image and feeling is just leaping out of the screen – I'm talking about Luther here, by the way

Portfolio in hand, Les is ready to meet with Abe Goldstein! If only I cared.. (They're meeting at a place I haven't found – this worried me greatly)

The suggestion to 'go by a shop in Rodeo Drive' seemed clever enough at a glance, so I immediately went to the only clothing store that actually existed in the game – funnily enough, it was now open. I should also add that this is when I managed to break the game – by changing screen in the wrong place, Les maintains his screen position. There's a painter sprite taking up a small section of pixels and he doesn't move – the game wouldn't let me interact with anything. (See below.) Once actually inside the store, there wasn't an awful lot to do that I could tell – the clerk barely offered anything, and naturally, again the 'but you have to pay cash!' kills the only monetary means I have. I'm really wishing for the 'steal the store credit' puzzle from Monkey Island 1 at this point – and that was the puzzle I least liked in that game! Instead, you need to find the small number of pixels in the corner that actually allow you to 'move' near the clothes rack on the right hand side of the screen. There's no way of actually knowing you need to click here, and if you encircle the wrong part of the screen it takes it as an attempt to examine the clothes. This is neither a puzzle nor fair – it's just an annoying way to get someone to call the hint line once more. Thankfully, brute force and dumb luck combined to my solution, and we're greeted to a short cutscene of Maladonna doing everything but getting a swivel chair and turning around with a cat in her lap..

Stuck between a painter and a store window, Les lived the rest of his life as a busker who solved minor computing problems for burgers and cocaine

'There's a creepy guy standing behind the women's clothing!'

Maniacal laugh... Maniacal laugh...

Armed with the information that Maladonna seems to be a 'real viper' (his words, not mine) and that she seems to have the idea of getting revenge on Abe Goldstein at Dr. Nick's party tonight, Les is quick to decide that he needs to go and tell Abe Goldstein of Maladonna's plot. Instead, we get another exposition dump as we have lunch with Abe, Deena (Glazed eyes. Large custom breasts. Injects styling mousse directly into her bloodstream.) and Geena (Her vacuous stare suggests a brainstem shrunken by years of cosmetic substance abuse.) They're just there as eye candy officially – apparently Abe 'met the both of them' as he was leaving Dr Nick's place. Les asks about Helmut Bean but gets stuck into his life story via screenshots. Abe stops him mid-way through, insisting that Les' life story is perfect for a movie. If Les takes him up on the offer, he gets swept away into the allure of Hollywood and never remembers Helmut again – if he turns it down, he gets an invitation to Dr. Nick's party. Unfortunately, the game's ending comes up with the 'dead' screen, so I can't officially call that an ending. Dammit. (Abe glosses over any accusations thrown his way without really answering them, making his alibi better than Maladonna's, which is essentially 'I HATE EVERYONE'.)

Oh god the memories... they're no... no... DON'T TOUCH ME THERE (though this is one of the few half funny jokes in the game – 'before the days of VGA...' 'Say, shouldn't this be in black and white?'

I don't know why the Plastic Surgeon to the Stars has a pair of statues of... fifteenth century guardsmen with halberds? That's some sort of niche right there

After turning down the movie offer, Les immediately goes to Dr. Nick's party. I'm just going to show you the widepan screenshots and see who can identify who. I reckon I see Bob Ross, Hulk Hogan, a possible Arnold and Tim Curry (as Frank 'N' Furter) – go for your lives, guys! CAPs on offer if this game hasn't changed the CAP system into a Marxist proletariat by the time this play post goes up!

I've got a few other ideas as to who they might be referencing – what about you guys?

So, this could well be the big climax. The two most likely suspects – Abe Goldstein who has been exploiting Helmut for his use in 'miniaturised sets' for years on end now (which Maladonna helpfully reminds Les), and Maladonna, the jilted ex-lover. Naturally, this is going to be an extremely in-depth conversation with intrigue, suspense and.. oh, who am I kidding..

'She's the one!'

This is actual game dialogue, guys

Les is fairly certain that Maladonna is the true culprit, so he decides to confront her. However, she is presently talking with Deena and Geena, Abe's two buxom friends from Spago. He decides to hang back and watch what happens, ready to grab Abe and save him should Deena and Geena attempt to in some way take her away – things do not go according to plan. Maladonna is kidnapped by the two girls and taken into a white limo. Les being Les, he decides to 'follow the limo'. It doesn't explain how. Maybe he steals a car? I rather like to think that he uses some Les Manley 1 technology and gets himself fired out of a cannon to follow them, hurtling over the front of the car and being splattered into the windshield. It is possible that I'm not the most empathetic to Les or Helmut's plight at this point.

I think that Les just really needs to pick his nose

Or maybe Maladonna wasn't really conspiring with them! FORSOOTH! GADZOOKS!

Next time, on Less Manly 2: House of Waxworks 2: Lost in Time!

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'm almost done. I've got to almost be done, right? There couldn't possibly be much more to this game, right? RIGHT?


  1. Oh God, if you're going to have a Greek guy be a villain, at least spell "Nikopoulas" right. It should be "Nikopoulos," if anything. Dammit, can I call the Greek Anti-Defamation League about this disastrous cultural and ethnic stereotype?

    *dials grievance police*

    Well, it turns out that my people aren't smart enough to get a political action committee up and running. Dammit! I guess I'll just have to grow a sense of humor and live with this slander!

    This game sucks, by the way. I can sense your non-enjoyment oozing from every pixel on my computer screen.

    Caption contest: Let's see . . .

    "Ace and Gary fall on hard times."

    I don't know. I got nothing. This game doesn't exactly inspire humor. Quite the opposite. Please Ape, when you are done playing, let us all know if you need help. Group therapy, perhaps?

  2. Caption contest: "You said you were into chains, but this is ridiculous!"

  3. Are the people kidnapping Maladonna SUPPOSED to have souless dead eyes, or it is just a result of the game being from the 90s?

    1. Well, in the final minutes of the game they are called Killer Zombie Bimbos, so I'd definitely go with it being intentional.


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.