Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude Review
By Michael Richter |
Among those of us old enough to have played it, the Leisure Suit Larry series has been a real cherished memory. The well-loved adventure series stood out thanks to fantastic humor and "adult situations." Now, to the delight of kids over 17 everywhere (especially those whose parents don't have Cinemax), Vivendi and High Voltage have brought the series back in Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude.
Rather than focusing on the further adventures of Larry Laffer, the new game follows the exploits of his nephew, Larry Lovage. A new dating show has just come to the younger Larry's college and he's anxious to get on it. To do so, he'll have to try to get into the pants of nearly every lady on the campus. Along the way, he'll have to work in a gay bar, drink lots of alcohol, hustle some whores, drink a little cough syrup, and try not to get caught peeing in the quad.
In short, this game is so much like my own college life that I'm considering suing the designers.
In addition to meeting big-headed Larry, you'll also encounter the usual suspects of any teen sex romp film: the ditzy cheerleader, the rebellious rocker chick, the cold science major, the awkward exchange student, the business-like sorority leader, and many more. It's worth noting that High Voltage adds a unique twist to each of the characters that make them seem (a little) less like tired stereotypes. The countrified cowgirl is also Jewish, for example, while the black-clad, Euro-style hipster is, well, I don't want to spoil all the fun.
It seems that the game designers have managed to spoil much of it all on their own. You can thank this game for accelerating the decline of the intelligent gamer. From the opening sequence to the final credits, everything is much too clear and too obvious here. Rather than the classic, thinking-pervert's gameplay that we remember so fondly from the original game, High Voltage has decided to focus almost exclusively on repetitive mini-games of hand-eye coordination, meaning you can safely leave your brain out of the game altogether.
It's not that I want to click on every single object in the environment or spend an hour trying to puzzle out the syntax of a particularly obscure trigger; that type of trail-and-error game mechanic was frustrating even back then. But there's simply no exploration or puzzle solving here. Given the Larry brand, I expected this game to challenge to something other than my reflexes. At every stage of the game you're told who to talk to next and where to find them. This makes you feel more like a voyeur than an active participant. Sure, there are some secrets to discover here but they're all completely incidental to completing the game.
Much of the gameplay involves steering a small, smiling sperm cell around various scrolling obstacles. You're trying to build up a heart meter and keep it full till the conversation's end. If you hit a belch, you lose some heart. If you hit a camera, you lose heart as well but you're compensated with a close-up of the girl's breasts. Cocktails and beers also float by and, if you hit them, you'll become drunker and have a greater delay in moving the sperm guy around. You can sober up a bit by hitting a coffee cup.
It's fun to hit some of the bad spots now and then just to hear the hilarious things that Larry says but, though the content changes, the overall outcome of each successful conversation is exactly the same. They're all either pass/fail and don't allow you to develop any kind of variety in your relationships.
You'll also frequently be called on to play basic rhythm games like those found in Parappa the Rappa or Space Channel 5. Whether you're painting a picture of a model, mixing drinks at a bar, or participating in a game of follow the leader on the dance floor or trampoline, you'll have to follow and repeat a sequence of directional inputs. In some cases, you'll be given a sequence that you have to repeat in time. When you're dancing the correct inputs scroll across the screen and you'll have to hit the right button as each icon passes through a small ring. Other times you'll see the icons pop up one at a time and you'll have to hit the corresponding button before it disappears.