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|8 OCT 2004 at 2:24am|
Posts : 7
Joined: 31 JAN 2004
Status : Online
|Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude|
Platform reviewed on: PC
Let me say this in introduction: I have a new respect for High Voltage Software.
I KNOW you've heard of this game. Who hasn't? It's one of the biggest stories in adventure gaming. I mean, Sierra reinstated, to active duty, a series that has been in the mud for nearly eight years. Since the very (quiet & mistaken, thanks to CGM) announcement of the game, there's been more diversity on the subject of how good the game will be than there is on the subject of whether Myst is a gift or a curse. One side says:
"This is going to be awful. It's not an adventure game. It doesn't even star Larry Laffer. Sierra really blows."
The other side says:
"Hey, change is good. Don't mind the shift to a new style of play -- it's still a new Larry game."
I have stood behind this sequel since... well, since the day I stopped opposing it. (Sorry, that was awfully anticlimactic.) For the most part, though, I've been totally optimistic, probably due to Josh Mandel's praise of the new concepts and ideas. I preordered it. Six weeks ago. I picked it up hours after it arrived at EBGames. I've been waiting for this game for eight years, and it finally arrived. It finally came. It finally entered my CD-ROM drive and installed its little heart out.
And then I played it.
Let me tell you this.
Wait, let's insert another suspenseful pause.
Anybody that tells you that Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude is drivel made with no regard to its adventure game brothers needs to go fall in a puddle.
I am not kidding when I say this: Magna Cum Laude is OOZING with throwbacks and references to the series. The design team obviously had to have played those adventures with a passion; they had total respect for the series, and the game has total respect for the adventure game counterparts. Long-time fans will notice some small details that make you unable to do anything but smile; take, for example, the fact that Larry's dorm hall was dubbed "Scruemall Hall." Or that the museum is the "Boysulay Art Museum." It's one thing to reference Leisure Suit Larry 5's villain, but to reference the last name of the front desk clerk in LSL6? What a wonderful tribute! These are just two examples; Where's Dildo, from LSL7, can be found in many places throughout the game. Larry's computer shows a cycle of screens from Leisure Suit Larry 4. The porn rack at the local seedy convenience store holds a copy of Playspy magazine. You can even explore "Lefty's Too", a bar -- you got it -- modeled after the Lefty's in Lost Wages. The inside is nearly identical to the interior of the bar from LSL1VGA. There are small differences, but it remains a solid model of such a landmark location. Larry Laffer himself sits at a table in the bar, and any time you talk to him, he starts reminiscing about his old days. "id I ever tell you about the time I defeated the evil Dr. Nonookee?" "Jeez, where are all the EGA/Tandy girls?! Now THOSE were some 16-color babes!"
"But this game isn't an adventure game! How can it RESPECT the old games?" you might ask. The spirit of Larry Laffer lives on in his nephew, and it shows. Lovage is identical to Laffer, from head-shape to personality to the sacred factor of utter failure. Despite it not being an adventure game, LSLMCL -- no, LSL8 -- just FEELS like a Larry game. Maybe it's the lack of meaningful purpose. Maybe it's the graphical style. Or maybe it's just to old fan in me, bursting forth in pure joy over such a wonderfully crafted sequel.
Oh, and speaking of the graphics, they are astounding. The disproportional stylings capture the look that became standard after LSL5. They're crisp and clear, completely cartoony, and never once feel out of place. The locales are large and a joy to roam. There are SOME objects that are terribly pixellated, which kinda detracts from the experience, but there aren't many. The game keeps a consistent frame rate, and Larry moves nice and fast, something that can be appreciated highly by anybody who cranked up the speed in a Sierra game out of frustration for the slow default. The camera is taken care of VERY well; rarely have I had a problem with it.
Movement itself is a pure stroke of greatness; you can play with only the keyboard, but you can also use the mouse, which is what I do and thus is what I will review. Larry moves forwards, backwards, or sideways with the arrow keys, while the mouse looks -- basically, just like many third-person or first-person games. The mouse wheel will cycle through things you can look at if there are multiple objects where you're standing, and clicking the wheel switches to a first-person mode, which is very nice if you'd like to examine something closer or just take a look around at the visuals. (Or, since it's a Larry game, if you'd simply fancy staring at a woman's breasts.) The left mouse button Activates, which is basically the general term for talk, do, search, open, etc. The right mouse button Examines. In my opinion, if more adventure games would use this style of movement and camera mechanics, we could probably finally have some solid, full-3D adventures. The controls are well-implemented, and gameplay is very smooth. The ability to examine objects felt WONDERFUL, to be perfectly honest -- one of my favorite adventure gaming pasttimes is looking at objects to hear the description, and this game definitely delivers in that department. Larry has something to say about many things, and while some are only furnished with a generic response, even those can be pretty funny. ("You know, I'm getting tired of coming up with this stuff. Can't we go look at some boobies?"
|8 OCT 2004 at 2:24am|
Posts : 7
Joined: 31 JAN 2004
Status : Online
|The minigames, while nothing to write home about, are a fun challenge. They make up the bulk of the gameplay. The most fun -- and most used -- of these is the conversation system. Oh, why didn't we develop such an innovation sooner! By guiding a smily, wiggly sperm up and down a long window, you must collect all the 'good' icons while avoiding the 'bad.' The goal is to say the right things and keep your heart meter as high as possible to ensure a happy ending to your conversation, which basically advances that girl's plotline. Before Larry says a line, an unavoidable row of three icons -- two bad, one good -- will slide across the window. If you collect a bad icon, Larry'll bumble through and say something idiotic or in bad taste. If you collect the good icon, though, he'll play it smooth and up the heart meter. Between your attempts to get your Cyrano on, other icons will roll past. Heart icons raise your heart meter (wow!), beer icons raise your alcohol level (which causes the sperm to be harder to steer), coffee icons LOWER your alcohol level, etc. The other minigames aren't QUITE as engaging, but still spiffy in their own right. Some even pay you for a successful win. Also, the good old LSL theme even rolls happily out of your speakers during the Flyer Toss game, which is another point for the References. The minigames'll probably get repetitive over time, but it's always fun to see if you can get one perfect. Secret Tokens (that feature a smiling Where's Dildo -- in another stroke of coolness, the find-the-hidden-object of Larry 7 appears on the find-the-hidden-objects of LSLMCL) can be found in various locations in the game for Activating various things, and can be spent to "Wimp Out" of a minigame, bypassing it if you don't have the motor skills or just despise that particular minigame entirely. Overall, they serve their purpose well, and while they'll never replace true inventory-based gameplay, they're a good diversion and fit in well with the style of play.|
Leisure Suit Larry 8 is definitely deserving of its rating -- though one must wonder HOW they condensed it to an M-rating and kept the AO out of the picture. This game is a Mothers Against Grand Theft Auto NIGHTMARE; just replace "gratuitous death" with "gratuitous swearing, sexuality, nudity and general naughtiness." (On a side note, I'd love to see "General Naughtiness" appear on the ESRB Content Rating panel on the back of a game.) This game is not afraid to show anything but the most tender of parts -- if it's below the waist, it's censored, though this may or may not even be a subtle wink at the Censored boxes of LSL1. You will see women in their underwear. You'll probably see women topless. But then, you'll also see Helmut in his bikini thong, and that's enough to bring you out of any sexual high you might be on. One of the unlockable features, gained by buying them off of certain people with Secret Tokens, is a "nude mode," which may or may not remove the censored bars -- again, something I haven't unlocked myself yet, but judging by the name, I think it's a safe bet. This game can be very offensive, and takes no effort at being politically correct. This is a very good thing; it's about time somebody stood up against those that are offended by the mere use of a slang term for "breasts." Stereotypes abound, and I wouldn't have it any other way; it wouldn't be a Larry game without them.
There are some problems, which I hate to write about, but must for the sake of fairness. The game runs perfectly to my liking, but it lacks any sort of tweaking ability for those that want to change something. You can't modify Larry's running speed, you can't add subtitles -- you can't even tweak the video settings. The most you get is a config tool, executed externally, that lets you set the resolution, whether or not to play in a window, and whether or not the window should be borderless. While it runs perfect on my system, I'm sure many'll be bummed out that they can't lower some texture quality or remove shading or decrease draw distance if their performance is sluggish. In a way, purists may praise this for being truer to the adventure game foundation LSL8 is based upon, but that's quite a stretch. I would've at least liked to be able to have subtitles, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. Also, the swearing is a little TOO heavy. As far as I can remember, none of the LSL games dropped the F-bomb, but it's not uncommon here. Usually it's in the form of somebody insulting Larry. However, there is one character it fits perfectly, who, in my opinion, wouldn't be complete WITHOUT it: ever seen My Cousin Vinny? Analise is the spitting image of Mona Lisa Vito, from the look to the heritage to the accent to the mouth. Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not offended by the cursing in this game. As a George Carlin fan, I've heard much worse. However, it's a bit of a pity that they had to use it so often when the LSL series rarely had to rely on the shock value of a curse word. This IS based at a college, though, and thus the swearing is sorta understandable. Still, would've been nice to rely on something else to propel the insults.
You may agree with what I've said here. You may disagree. You may be completely open-minded, you may be rigidly biased, or you may be somewhere in the grey. If you're open-minded, however, you'll definitely glean a cornucopia of happiness out of LSL8. High Voltage must be commended highly for their treatment of this sequel; they did it with just as much respect as any fan rightly would. You can say what you want. You can bash the game into oblivion. You can refuse to ever acknowledge its existence. The fact remains, however, that this is a solid game that is totally deserving of its namesake. If you can view it with an open mind and don't turn it away almost as soon as you see or hear the name, you'll find an enjoyable game under the worrisome surface. I DEFINITELY recommend it to all Larry fans.
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