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July 27th, 2005


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11:57 pm - LSL: BFD
I had my class tonight so I didn't get any substantial packing or moving done, but I did fill an entire large Sterilite container with stuff from my closet, which I'm going to weed through tomorrow, repack, and then move. By then I'll be down to my PC, toiletries, furniture, and two large bookcases worth of books which I am dreading moving. Nate and Sean will be moving their stuff on Friday night, and (hopefully) mine will get moved during the day on Saturday (possibly Sunday, if things don't go as expected). Either way, I get the feeling that our network hardware is all going with Nate and Sean, so I may be without Internet for part of the weekend, which really scares me.

Anyway, I finished Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude this evening. What a lousy game. I guess Sierra (or rather, Vivendi Universal) made something of a bestseller of it, but that's all because it was marketed as an adult game... which it is. It's extremely adult (then again, I played the "Uncut and Uncensored" version), but that's the only outstanding thing about it. You'd think that there would be enough porn on the Internet to satisfy people who are looking for that kind of stuff, but apparently there's a market for this stuff. I bought the game (against my better judgement, incidentally) because I was familiar with the previous Leisure Suit Larry games. The biggest incentive for finishing it was the fact that I'd spent money on it. Games used to advertise "40+ hours of gameplay!" I wonder how long this one was projected to take its players? I finished it in under ten.

Do I sound disappointed and kind of annoyed? I am. I grew up with the Leisure Suit Larry games, man! A lot of people my age did. The major selling point (for 12-year-olds, anyway) was the sex. We all figured out sooner or later (usually sooner) that the LSL games were on the same level as, say, a particularly racy sitcom, but those of us who stuck with the games anyway found the rest of the experience to be pretty grand. While most stores wouldn't sell them to minors (or maybe they would -- I never tried), the games rarely rose above a PG-13 level (and we're talking early '90s PG-13, not The Nutty Professor 2 PG-13). They were marketed on the strength of their comedy and being a little racy. LSL: MCL is too, but it's a different kind of comedy that just doesn't work for me, and it's definitely aiming for the gaming demographic that loves Johnny Knoxville, American Pie, and the Grand Theft Auto games.

So what was so bad about it (and I ask purely for the sake of exercising my fingers, since very few of you will read this)? In a nutshell, the problem has more to do with attaching it to the Leisure Suit Larry franchise than anything else. "Leisure Suit" Larry Laffer, hero of the previous six games, has been relegated to cameo appearances. LSL: MCL focuses on the college exploits of Larry's more fashionably-dressed nephew, Larry Lovage. The game is full of references to previous LSL games, but they're badly forced. All of the campus locations, for example, are named after characters from previous games. Why would Uncle Larry's ex-boss, adult entertainment king and mafia flunky Silas Scruemall have a dormatory named after him? These references aren't important to the plot. Uncle Larry isn't important to the plot. If the game had had a different title, it would just have been another mediocre bestselling video game that I could happily ignore. Plastering Leisure Suit Larry all over it was a total marketing move, especially since Al Lowe isn't even mentioned under the "special thanks" section of the credits. He created the character and designed the rest of the series, dammit!

Specifically, I disliked the gameplay. The comparison to Grand Theft Auto is more than apropos -- it's like the designers (who, in my fantasy, are big fans of Josie and the Pussycats) were sitting around playing GTA3 and saying "wouldn't it be jerkin' if like, we made a game like this, but set it on a college campus? With naked chicks?" Worse than the GTA comparison is the fact that there are no puzzles. At all. The game is a series of "go here and talk to _____" tasks, peppered with arcade sequences. These minigames represent most of the time I spent playing the game and aren't fun. It takes a couple of tries to get the hang of most of them, and by the time you've beaten them you don't really want to play again. Then they're repeated ad nauseam. The one I hated most was basically Dance Dance Revolution played with the arrow keys, but there are also clones of Pong, Simon, and a simulation of the tried-and-true college pastime of quarters, but once you've spent six games figuring out how to move the mouse properly, the prospect of doing it again several times isn't very rousing.

The plot is banal and unengaging -- Larry wants to get on a dating show called Swingles, blah, blah, blah, seduce several women on campus, blah, blah, blah... Actually, cut out the "blah"s, and that's about all there is to it. There's an awful lot of sex and an awful lot of profanity, but you can't market a game on these two things alone. The gameplay has to be fun. Failing that, the plot should at least be entertaining. In previous Leisure Suit Larry games, Larry Laffer defeated the evil Dr. Nonookie, rescued Dan Quayle's mommy from certain death, and got kidnapped by aliens, setting up a sequel which never happened. Leisure Suit Larry 8: Lust in Space sounded like a good idea to me. Magna Cum Laude seems sophomoric and unimaginitve by comparison.

Was there anything good about the game? Yes, actually, there were a lot of jokes and animated sequences that I liked, but they were adrift in a huge sea of not funny. Especially notable was the conversation interface, which a lot of reviewers picked on and discussed when the game was new. When you're talking to a character in LSL: MCL, you control a sperm on the lower half of the screen. Icons come toward you, and the direction of the conversation depends on which ones you hit. They play with this interface in a few places, such as the scene with the aspiring actress who won't shut up about herself. Larry's mind is wandering, and you get to hear his internal dialogue. In another scene you're on the dance floor. Summer Nights from the musical Grease is playing, and the lyrics change according to the icons you hit. It's entertaining, but it was funnier the first time I saw it... in The Curse of Monkey Island.

My favorite part of the game by far though centers around Tilly, the president of the sorority. She's an upper-class twit who refuses even to speak with you unless you don a suit. When you're not talking to her, she's usually on her cell phone saying things like "...lost in the mail? How do you lose a 350-pound robotic henchman?" or "15 million dollars for a prototype missile defense laser, and I'm the crazy one?" She's hungry for power, and in the middle of trying to convince her that you can help her seize it, you accidentally admit that you're working for somebody else.

"And who is this person?" asks Tilly.

Mind racing, Larry looks frantically around the room and notices a box of cereal labelled "Free Rathgar toy inside!"

"Rathgar!" Larry exclaims triumphantly. "Mr. Rathgar."

Tilly thinks Mr. Rathgar sounds like a powerful ally, so she asks to meet him. Larry conducts the meeting by keeping Tilly outside his dorm room as she converses with strategically-chosen scenes from an episode of a cartoon where Rathgar is featured as the bad guy. Rathgar is obviously a takeoff on She-Ra's Hordak (right down to the fact that he leads the Evil Horde which is headquartered in the Fright Zone). This sequence is controlled via the same conversation interface, and when you hit the wrong icons, Larry accidentally plays revealing clips like "Throw him in the deepest, darkest dungeon we have!" or "Foiled once again by that heroic nincompoop, Star Sky! Curse you, Star Sky!"

Anyway, my point -- yes, I have one -- is that that scene is funny.

There, I've ruined the best part of the game for you, and you don't have to buy it.
Current Mood: boredMeh.
Current Music: Moxy Fruvous -- My Baby Loves A Bunch Of Authors

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:valec
Date:July 28th, 2005 06:01 am (UTC)
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That game does look pretty crappy.

I miss the days of Secret Agent, Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max, Duke Nukem (Arcade). Those days are gone, and shall never return I'm afraid :(
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:July 28th, 2005 02:38 pm (UTC)
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Not only do I remember all of those games, but you've named two of my all-time favorites: Sam and Max and Day of the Tentacle. Sadly though, you're right. The gaming industry has backed itself into a corner where it's basically just a cheerleader for the hardware industry. Adventure games don't really showcase new technologies, so they've kind of fallen off the map.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 29th, 2005 02:11 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I'd rate them on the top of my lists also. Along with Gabriel Knight 1. Although I haven't played that in quite some time, so although I find teh former have lasted well for me, GK may not have (the other two I wasn't so keen on - maybe it was the lack of Tim Curry)

I think you're quite right regarding adventure games. They used to be great becuase the amount of memory on your graphics card etc wasn't so important to people. I think anoother issue is that back then the car freaks and jocks etc weren't as into their games, whereas now they're more of a key player.

Damn, I need to go load these games up when I get home
[User Picture]
From:valec
Date:July 29th, 2005 02:15 am (UTC)
(Link)
twas I, twas I!

Oh, I never mentioned Maniac Mansion also.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:July 29th, 2005 03:28 am (UTC)
(Link)
Actually, Tim Curry returned for Gabriel's voice in GK3, but I never actually played it. I borrowed it from a friend for more than a year, and sheepishly told him I played it, but I never got around to it. People tell me it's grand, though.

So who's this commenting anonymously on my journal?
[User Picture]
From:evil_jim
Date:July 28th, 2005 07:01 am (UTC)
(Link)
Sterilite? STERILITE???! ARRRRRGH!!!

Would you like some Rubbermaid Roughneck 22 gallon totes? I have several I don't need and free to give away. They are sturdy, flexible, each have their own fitted lid and are a lovely beige colour. I'll be in your neighborhood anyway midday Saturday if you would like a delivery.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:July 28th, 2005 12:50 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you for your comment! I was going somewhere with the Sterilite topic, and somehow I managed to forget.

I like Rubbermaid containers better, but I had several until one day last summer when I discovered that they warp in the heat of my closet. We had the same experience several years ago with the containers we store props in at Rocky Horror. I bought the Sterilite containers to replace the others just because they were cheaper, but again, I recently had to throw out two more Rubbermaid products while I've been packing because they'd become misshapen to the point where their lids wouldn't fit. As far as I can tell, they're made of exactly the same material. Why the Sterilite containers should hold up better, I have no idea.

Thank you for your offer, though. As I said, I prefer Rubbermaid, and will probably return to buying their products when I move to the new place, as I don't expect it to get anywhere near as hot as my closet.
From:renny1780
Date:July 28th, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I have a few Rubbermaid containers that I could loan you...they're green :) I'm not sure where they all are but I know they're around here somewhere. Just a thought...
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:July 28th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I appreciate it, but I don't really need any at this point. I've got all the boxes I need for moving. The trick now is to get them transported and unpacked.
From:renny1780
Date:July 29th, 2005 02:33 am (UTC)
(Link)
Meh, I tried...
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:July 29th, 2005 03:23 am (UTC)
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No, no! It was a terribly nice offer and I really appreciate it!
[User Picture]
From:devianttouch
Date:July 29th, 2005 01:14 am (UTC)
(Link)
"and it's definitely aiming for the gaming demographic that loves Johnny Knoxville, American Pie, and the Grand Theft Auto games."

So... Jimi.
[User Picture]
From:sacredspud
Date:July 29th, 2005 01:16 am (UTC)
(Link)
Really? That explains that, then.
LSL: BFD - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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