I grew up on Sierra adventure games. The original King’s Quest, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry and all those classics from the 80’s and 90’s. The original Land of the Lounge Lizards is a game I play through annually, a game of which I know every little part there is to know about it. The VGA remake a few years later is another game I find very enjoyable as it improved on the user interface while still retaining everything that made the original great. And now it’s 2013 and the second remake of Lounge Lizards is finally out, I was a backer myself and I was very excited to play it. So I hate to ask, why is Reloaded the worst version of Lounge Lizards? How did this happen?
Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (PC, Mac, iOS, Android)
Developed/Published by Replay Games
Reloaded is designed to be more of a proper remake than the enhanced port that the VGA Lounge Lizards was, adding in updated puzzles and even a new side-story to flesh out the game and make it interesting and different for fans of the original. It’s a great idea on paper and it has worked well in the past for games like 2003’s Resident Evil remake or Metroid: Zero Mission. Unfortunately the changes don’t really make for different puzzles, just longer more drawn out ones. Every change that has been made to the puzzles basically consist of adding one or two more interaction with whatever item you’re meant to use.
Without spoiling any solution in detail, there’ll be puzzles where you’d normally require one item to proceed, and now you need two, but you’ll still get the two items in the same area. It’s more annoying than it is interesting, and unfortunately it’s not made much more complex until right near the end where the sub-plot comes into play. The sub-plot features a new girl named Jasmine and what follows that subplot is a range of new puzzles and dialogue for the player to take on. Unfortunately, while the puzzle(s) in this sub-plot are much better executed than the extended original puzzles, the sub-plot in and of itself feels forced and out-of-place. Mostly because it’s completely left out of everything until right at the end of the original game and leaves as quickly as it’s introduced.
Other original content for Reloaded includes voice acting and some revised writing, the work put into this part of the game shines brightly than any other part of the game. Anyone who has played the CD version of Shape Up or Slip Out or Love for Sail will recognize the lovable voice of Larry Laffer, and it’s as fitting as it always was. The narration provided throughout the game is also great, but is left out of all descriptions when you’re looking at the items in your inventory making for a uneven experience overall.
One of the worst aspects of the original Lounge Lizards was the multiple occasions where you need to make money. Larry is stuck in the city of Lost Wages and will require to gamble to keep is cash flowing, because without cash you can’t advance in the game. You can make money through either playing Black Jack or try your luck at the slot machines, and that’s where the problem is as a whole. It’s all luck. Concepts like this were not uncommon in games from the 80s, but started getting more phased out as the genre moved forward, so I was hoping Reloaded would do something to improve upon this part of the game.
And the game tries to do so, but doesn’t succeed. In the original Lounge Lizards going to the casino costs money, so you could put yourself in a unwinnable scenario if you couldn’t afford a cab there. Reloaded adds in a slot-machine in every area of the game, so you no longer need to go to the casino to make funds. This is a good idea, but doesn’t change the main problem of the gambling aspect at all as it still comes down to playing your luck. So you’ll end up making a save-file between each bet you’ll make just out of fear that you’ll reach zero dollars. It’s annoying, frustrating and not something that should be mandatory in a game set to reinvent itself in 2013.
The visuals of Reloaded is something else I found very hit-and-miss. While there’s never been one defined art-style across the characters in any Larry game, there’s not been as big of a problem as it is in Reloaded. It seems every character in the game were designed for a different looking game and then were just pushed together into a scene. It doesn’t help that the backgrounds, sprites and close-up images are all presented in different shading styles. In the end, Love for Sail from 1996, looked far better and constant in design. I think trying to approach that style would have been a better decision.
But putting inconsistent visuals, lackluster story-extensions and unpolished puzzles aside. All I wanted Reloaded to do was improve upon the mechanics of the VGA remake, something that shouldn’t be hard to do. So it pains me to say that Reloaded is not a improvement in any way. The interface is basically kept identical to the VGA remake with a selection of icons for different actions on the upper part of the screen that you may also scroll through using your mouse-wheel or by right clicking with you mouse.
So it’s a shame that the drop-down menu of icons just sometimes will have a delayed drop-down when you want to reach it. Or that you’ll get to close to the top of the screen trying to find things to interact with only to click on the menu as it pops up. It’s a mess and it gets more annoying than useful, so you’ll end up right-clicking your way through the icons instead, which is tedious, but no more so than in the VGA Lounge Lizards.
But I think Replay Games realized this, because they added in a icon-wheel not unlike Curse of Monkey Island‘s way to designate actions. Hold down the left mouse button to have a set of icons appear, then click one of the icons to designate your action. Sounds great, but once again there’s odd delays before it pops up. That combined with the fact that the icons are often unresponsive and that you need to click the icon rather than just releasing the mouse-button on it makes for a tedious experience rather than a improvement.
The game will also get stuck between animations very often, having a character state that they’ll do something and then you’ll have to wait a good five or six seconds before they act on it. The same will happen to Larry when you tell him to do certain things, he’ll just walk up to whatever you’ve marked and then stare at it for a bit before doing what he’s meant to do. Certain animations or voice-bits are unskippable even if you’ve done or heard them before and trying to leave certain areas of the game is stupidly tricky because of the game not showing where you need to click the walk cursor to do so. The game also doesn’t let you move with the keyboard, so small movement adjustments to fix this is impossible, you instead need to keep clicking until you find wherever the area you’re meant to click is. Loading times are a mess as well, I ended up waiting several seconds just to go into the alley at the start of the game just looking at a black screen.
The old Sierra games were filled with stupid things you could do to increase your score that was always visible at the upper right corner of the screen. Finding all of the stupid little things was tough, and beating a game with a full score was always a splendid achievement in and of itself. I’m happy to say that this is something Reloaded has improved on. A bunch of new pointless side-things have been added to the game, all giving you a separate achievement if you have the Steam version. If you expect to beat the game in one run with all these side-things completed however, then you’ll be disappointed as some of them will prevent you from reaching the actual true ending of the game.
It took me about three hours to finish Reloaded. Out of that time, about half of it was spent making money through luck and the rest spent on the actual game. If you don’t know the original game at all, I would estimate that you might spend another hour on the game at the most. If you want to find all the side-stuff you might be able to add on another thirty minutes in order to figure them all out. I don’t have a problem with this length myself, it’s alright for a game of its’ genre and I can’t deny that there is more to do than the original, which I can finish in about forty to fifty minutes.
In the end I can not recommend Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded. Replay Games have expressed will in remaking the rest of the series, but they need to show that they can do a far better job than they have here for me to be interested. If you want to play a good Larry game, buy the original series’ collection on GOG/Steam and play some Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail!, if you want a nice HD point and click adventure remake to scratch your nostalgia itch, just pick up the Monkey Island: Special Edition Collection instead. There’s just no reason to play Reloaded unless you’re a long-time Larry fan who feel the need to have played everything in the series. And if you are, at least the game is faaar better than Leisuire Suit Larry: Box Office Bust.