My first experience at gaming happened some 26+ years ago. My parents bought me an IBM PCjr from a friend who worked at IBM, since it had been considered a commercial failure and was being sold on the cheap to IBM employees. While it may have been a commercial failure, for an 11 year old kid it was heaven. I immediately began playing any computer games I could and Sierra On-Line became my favorite publisher. Then one day, around my 12th birthday my parents bought me a game that hooked me for life, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards.
This sparked my interest in the series, which lasts to this day. Just what made the series so great? Well a lot really. The Leisure Suit Larry series was published by Sierra from 1987 to 2009, but for this review I’m going to focus on the adventure games that they released from 1987 to 1996. Those released afterwards were poor adaptations that many fans of the series have disavowed, and for good reason. Created and written by Al Lowe, Leisure Suit Larry follows the escapades of its main character, Larry Laffer who, though still somewhat lovable, is a balding, no-luck, double entendre-speaking, leisure suit wearing loser in his 40s. The series follows him around as he spends much of his life trying, and usually unsuccessfully, to seduce attractive women.
The Origins of Larry Laffer
The Leisure Suit Larry (LSL) series had its origins in Sierra’s earlier Softporn Adventure, a 1981 text adventure whose story and basic structure were reused for the first LSL game. The name Leisure Suit Larry came from Lowe’s comment to Sierra founder Ken Williams that Softporn Adventure was so dated that it should be wearing a leisure suit.
The LSL games were one of Sierra’s most popular game series during the genre’s heyday and as such, they remain well-known among fans today. While the series stands out among Sierra’s catalog for being the only games the company produced that contain significant sexual themes, they gained somewhat of a reputation for not actually showing all that much racy material. Lowe and company were masters at revealing just enough, but not stepping over the line. To be fair, this really wasn’t a game produced for 12 years olds, its target market was a little older. Still, it was a lot of fun to play.
The Sierra adventure games defined a generation of gaming. If you’re unfamiliar with them, they utilized Sierra’s Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI) and Sierra’s Creative Interpreter (SCI). The AGI game engine was used by Sierra through most of the 1980’s to create and run animated, color adventure games. AGI-based computer games accepted typed commands via keyboard, as well as joystick input. Think of point and click games, but with the addition of typing in commands for characters to perform. The SCI engine was a bit more advanced, it allowed for games to use higher graphics and made it easier to code for the point and click games, as well as accepting type inputs. These game engines became famous for their easy of use, and familiarity when playing the various Sierra titles. We still see these type of adventure games in use today.
Now let’s take a look at the first six games in the series, since they never released a Leisure Suit Larry 4. Now why was there no release of a Larry 4? Well that’s something that eluded fans for years. It was jokingly referred to by both Sierra and fans as The Case of the Missing Floppies. Some speculated that the game was complete, but the set of floppies it was saved on disappeared and the team would have to rebuild it from scratch. But the actual reasons it wasn’t released are far less fun. Lowe stated that Sierra began work on a multiplayer installment of Leisure Suit Larry that was to be played out over The Sierra Network (think of it as Sierra’s version of an interactive Xbox Live). This failed due largely to technical reasons, and the planned multiplayer Larry game was shelved.
Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards
The first in the Leisure Suit Larry series, the game is set in the fictional city of Lost Wages and follows Larry Laffer, a 40 year old virgin as he tries to get lucky. Land of the Lounge Lizards establishes several elements which recur throughout the series, from his leisure suit to his perpetual bad luck with women. Living in his mother’s basement and having grown weary of his lonely existence, Laffer decides to visit the resort city of Lost Wages to get the experience of a lifetime and finally find the woman of his dreams. Larry’s quest involves four women: a nameless, seedy-looking prostitute; Fawn, a club-goer of low moral fiber; Faith, a receptionist who (true to her name) is faithful to her boyfriend; and Eve, a bathing beauty and Larry’s ultimate goal.
The game begins in Lefty’s bar, a seedy townie bar on the outskirts of Lost Wages. From there players are given two real-time hours to complete the game, at which point a despairing Larry commits suicide, resulting in game over. There is a way to circumvent the time limit, and it involves speaking to a prostitute. Players control Larry’s movements with the directional keys and by inputting commands into a text parser. You need to get creative here and think of things to tell Larry to do, like “order a drink”, “open window”, “run away” etc. Fear not though, if you’re too far away from a person or object to comply, or if the command you input is invalid, a caution message appears with hints on what to do.
The city consists of five areas: Lefty’s Bar, a hotel casino, a 24-hour wedding chapel, a disco, and a convenience store. Keep in mind that this is 1987 we’re talking about so having vast open cities was unheard of, and to be frank near impossible to do with the current technology. As a player you can control where Larry walks to, or in cases where the distances are to great takes a taxi to. It’s important to remember that taking a taxi costs the player money so don’t spend it on frivolous things. If you try to walk somewhere a taxi is required it will results in Larry being mugged or hit by oncoming traffic.
Larry’s interactions with key women are accompanied by a detailed image of whomever he is speaking with, unlike other non-player characters. Each of the women shun Larry at first, but respond favorably to gifts of varying sorts. He’s basically bribing them for recognition. Although it is not possible to woo all of the women, giving gifts is needed to advance to the game’s final area, the hotel penthouse. Everything costs money in the game, and it’s essential to have enough money to take taxi’s, but gifts, etc so you’ll be spending a good amount of time gambling in the casino, playing blackjack and slots. The more you earn, the more you can spend.
Leisure Suit Larry and the Land of the Lounge Lizards is a fun, interactive game that is easy to complete, but will give you laughs from start to finish. It’s important to keep in mind that games were limited to their technology, much like they are now, and back then computers were no better than the smartphones of four years ago. For its time, the 8-bit graphics that brought Larry to life were some of the best on the market. The game attracted millions of fans, and still has the power to bring in new fans. If you’re interested in playing a classic series, this is where you begin.
Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places)
Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places) is the second game in the LSL series, released in 1988. Unlike its predecessor, which used the AGI interface, this game utilizes the SCI engine, featuring 16-color EGA graphics and a mouse-based interface for movement. The engine also supports FM and General MIDI music. This was a big step up when it came to the games look and sound.
The game continues the exploits of Larry Laffer, who becomes stranded on a tropical island during an ill-fated vacation. Unlike the original Leisure Suit Larry, the game follows a linear story progression where the character’s movements are controlled via the mouse, although a text parser is still used for all other actions. Rather than navigating through a single city, Larry is guided through a variety of puzzles and mazes. As a player you must be certain to acquire certain items over the course of the game, items that help in the progression of the story. While there’s no visible time limit like the beginning of the first game, there are a number of pre-scripted events that require you to act quickly in order to reach the next sequence.
The game opens with Larry mowing the lawn of Eve, the woman he had a sexual encounter with from the previous game. Unfortunately for Larry Eve barely remembers him who Larry is, for her he was simply a one night stand but for Larry she was much more. A distraught Larry wanders off, winning a free vacation after stumbling into a rigged game show. During his preparations for the cruise ship, a microfilm falls into Larry’s hands by mistake; this attracts the attention of the KGB as well as the mad scientist Dr. Nonookee, who both want to recover the film. This leads Larry on a wild adventure that has him crossing paths with dangerous, and beautiful women.
It’s interesting to note that with their SCI engine, Sierra dropped their disk-based protection mechanisms. This game uses a copy protection screen where one of several pictures of women are displayed and the user must enter their phone number as given in the games manual. But, there’s a secret code that allows users to skip this screen by entering 0724 as the phone number. It’s creator Al Lowe’s birthday, July 24th.
Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places) was wildly popular, but garnered some criticism for fans who missed the double-entrende that was prevalant in the first game, as well as some of the more adult themed situations.
Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals
Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals is the third entry in the Leisure Suit Larry series. The game was developed using the SCI engine, resulting in an increase of graphics as well as a larger repertoire of MIDI music. The controls are the same as its predecessor and feature a mouse-based interface and a text parser for directing Larry’s actions. This installment abandons the linear progression of the second game in favor of the dating sim aspects of the original title. The plot follows Larry, fresh from an abrupt divorce, as he combs through a tropical resort looking for love.
The story begins years after the events of Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places). Following Larry’s victory over Dr. Nonookie, the tropical island of Nontoonyt has become a resort reminiscent of Honolulu, Hawaii. Larry has settled into a high-paying job in “Natives Inc.” and lives in a luxurious house with his wife, Kalalau (the daughter of the tribal chief from the previous game). After years of marital bliss, Larry’s union comes to an abrupt end when Kalalau dumps him for another woman. As Larry’s current boss is Kalalau’s father, he soon finds himself out of a job as well. With this news, Larry retreats into a phone booth and swaps his aloha shirt for his signature white suit, firmly announcing his return to the swinger lifestyle.
Littered throughout the resort are Larry’s potential mates, including Tawni, a topless sunbather who is more interested in souvenirs than dating Larry; Cherri Tart, a showgirl who performs at the casino; Suzi, an attorney of law firm “Dewey, Cheatem & Howe” willing to finalize Larry’s divorce proceedings; Bambi, an aerobics instructor; and Passionate Patti, a jazz pianist in the hotel. Larry’s attempts to seduce each of these women are, in typical Larry fashion, doomed to failure—until he meets Patti, who can be won over if Larry collects the right items and performs the right actions. A departure from the previous series sees that none of these gifts require money to obtain.
Leisure Suit Larry III features a second playable character, the titular Passionate Patti. Patti’s portion of the game is much the same as Larry’s, including multiple ‘death’ scenes and a detailed character portrait of her love interest, a male stripper. However, the Patti sequences are more reminiscent of traditional adventure games, requiring players to navigate through a maze, as well as collect items for use in later puzzles. The game ends with Larry and Patti living in a California log cabin working for Sierra Entertainment, and Larry writing an aptly titled series of computer games based on his adventures. This was supposed to be the end of the line for Larry’s adventures, but he proved too popular.
With Leisure Suit Larry III Sierra decided to return to the adult-oriented themes, which were absent from its predecessor. As was the case with Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards the game begins with a series of tongue-in-cheek questions to which the authors reasoned only adults would know the answer. As before, however, this process can be skipped by pressing Ctrl-Alt-X. The number of questions answered correctly determines the games “Filth Level”, which displays itself on a scale from 1 to 5: The lowest level (Mother Goose) bars players from viewing any of the game’s titillating scenes; alternatively, the highest level (Totally Raunchiest) leaves all instances of nudity intact. Although the game contains several instances of nudity, none of Larry’s sexual encounters are shown explicitly. On the higher “Filth” levels, players are also given the option to input an expletive which is repeated throughout the game.
The artistic style of the game’s characters are more cartoony and exaggerated than in the previous game, which opted for a realistic approach. The instruction manual which was packaged with the game resembles a tourist manual, with several “advertisements” which function as codes for bypassing Sierra’s copy protection.
Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work
Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work is the fourth entry in the LSL series of graphical adventure games published by Sierra Entertainment. It is the first title in the series to have 256-color graphics and a fully icon-based interface. The game expands on the multi-character feature of the previous installment, with control periodically passing between Larry and Patti. The overall difficulty is greatly reduced in comparison with past games; neither character can become trapped or die, and losing the game is impossible. Many of the items players collect on their journey are merely optional, and will not affect the game’s progress.
The absence of a Leisure Suit Larry 4 forms the basis of the game, as Julius Biggs has stolen the ‘missing floppies’ of the game and caused Larry to become amnesiac. Larry is now in the adult film industry, working for a Mafia-connected company known as PornProdCorp. His boss sends him across the United States to scout for models to appear in “America’s Sexiest Home Videos”.
Meanwhile, Patti is recruited by the FBI to dig up incriminating evidence on two record companies which are supected of hiding subliminal messages in their songs. At the same time, PornProdCorp schemes to eliminate the competition in their industry by donating money to CANE (Conservatives Against Nearly Everything).
Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out!
Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out! is the fifth entry in the LSL series. Originally developed for DOS, a remake that offered revamped graphics and voice acting was produced in CD-ROM format a year after its release. Both versions use an icon interface similar to other Sierra games of the time, but unlike most Sierra games, the icon bar is visible at all times.
The plot continues the exploits of a single Larry, who after competing on the television dating show Stallions wins an all-expenses paid trip to La Costa Lotta, a luxurious health spa populated by women. Due to his status as non-paying guest, he is treated rudely by the staff and given the worst room on the premises. As such, none of the available women in the resort want anything to do with Larry, but he never gives up as he tries changing their minds with gifts.
The eight romantic interests, all of whom are named after types of wine, include Gammie Boysulay, a receptionist whose svelte upper body conceals an enormous lower half; Rosé Eleeta, a Spanish beauty; Thunderbird, a female weightlifter; Charlotte Donay, who spends most of her time in a mud bath; Burgundy, a country music singer who performs at a blues bar; Cavaricchi Vuarnet, a bisexual aerobics instructor; Shablee, a makeup artist with a big secret; and Shamara Payne, a depressed New Age follower.
Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail!
Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail! is the last LSL game written by series creator Al Lowe, and the last to feature Larry as the original protagonist of the game. After many of the LSL games had gained a reputation for not actually featuring all that much raunchy content, Love for Sail! included some much more risqué elements compared to previous installments. It also featured more fleshed-out, cartoon style graphics than its predecessors, as well as full voice acting.
Love for Sail! picked up immediately after the sixth game, with Larry getting dumped by Shamara. The formula was much the same as the previous games: the “twist” was that Larry was a passenger on a cruise ship populated by parodies of famous people. Among the other cruise guests were “Drew Baringmore”, “Dewmi Moore”, “Victorian Principles”, “Jamie Lee Coitus”, “Nailmi” and “Wydoncha Jugg” and “Annette Boning”. Various other pop icons were parodied in the background, such as the Archie Comics gang playing nude volleyball, various incarnations of James Bond in the ship’s casino, a Sierra staffer dressed as Sailor Moon, and porn icon Ron Jeremy walking around naked.
The plot revolves around Larry’s attempt at winning a weekly contest held on the ship by Captain Thygh, a gorgeous blonde. The contest involves a series of other games varying from legitimate sports competitions like bowling to naughtier things like a machine created to test one’s sexual prowess. Each passenger is given a score card with a selection of the various competitions to compete in, and the passenger with the highest cumulative score at the end of the week wins. Players must come up with ways to cheat in each of Larry’s assigned competitions so he can get the highest score and win the contest. The competitions include a cooking contest, a “best dressed” contest, a game of horseshoes, bowling, the sexual prowess contest and more. The prize is an additional free week on the cruise spent sharing the Captain’s cabin, and her bed.
A new feature, and one that was a bit ahead of its time was the ability allow players to appear in the game by placing voice samples of selected dialogue and a digitized photo in a particular directory. Unfortunately time constraints prevented the information from being printed in the manual, but it was published later in an on-line announcement.
The game also shipped with a “CyberSniff 2000”, a sheet of numbered scratch-and-sniff paper, corresponding to a number displayed on the screen at a certain location, so that the player could get a scent of what the area the player was in smelled like.
This was the first LSL game to receive an ESRB rating (Mature) upon its original release.
Larry Lives On Today
The legend of Leisure Suit Larry is far from over with Replay Games acquiring the license for the Leisure Suit Larry series. In April of 2012, Replay started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $500,000 to fund an HD remake of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. They recruited creator Al Lowe to be involved with the development, and because they surpassed their goal, with a total of $674,698 they will be adding more story, dialogue and a new female character to the re-release. The game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Reloaded was released in July, 2013 on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.
Still, there’s no need to get the Reloaded version. Finding the Leisure Suit Larry games online is very easy. Just go to gog.com, where you can download the entire series for a whopping $9.99. Unfortunately if you’re a Mac user it’s just available for PC’s now, but fear not a Mac version may come along sooner than we think. Once you get sucked into Larry’s world, you won’t want to leave.