ST Format Review
Leisure Suit Larry 3 – Passionate Patty In Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals is the third game in the Leisure Suit Larry series and the last one to be primarily keyboard-driven. For those unaware, Al Lowe’s creation is a slightly desperate man approaching middle-age, a balding virgin in the first game and self-styled lothario in later releases. Larry’s roots can be traced back to sex comedies like Porkys (albeit the characters were younger) where the joke is often on the males who just don’t quite know how to get to grips with a confident woman.
There is of course some attempt at random titilation for those willing to answer the somewhat US-centric proof of age questions (most of them will have gone over the heads of Brits even if they were old enough) – you get different levels of filth depending on your answers. This is revealed early on in the first scene, where using a set of binoculars focuses on a window with a young lady removing her clothes and jiggling her pixellated breasts. One would have to be pretty desperate to get much excitement from that.
For this review I’m running a MiSTer FPGA box with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve chosen to use Vectronix’s release, and took the opportunity to install it to a hard drive so speed things up as Larry 3 is notoriously slow as it is. I did consider running with a Mega STE but I’ve strayed far enough from the typical hardware of the time as is – few ST owners had hard disks as far as I know.
So before we delve into the story and some pretty screenshots I want to talk a little about the technical side of the game. It’s clear fairly early on that the game is not using the ST’s graphical capabilities as fairly rough colour palettes are smooshed together with dithering – certainly it’s nowhere near as pretty as Operation Stealth. Looking at the PC box I note it’s compatible with Tandy, CGA, EGA and VGA but one would assume that the lowest common denominator is the base and that’s what we’ve ended up with here – my gut feeling is that we’re looking at EGA graphics, which are really quite ugly. The second problem, which ST Format alluded to, is that the graphics are slow. The intro has an ‘animation’ of a young lady running her leg up and down Larry’s suit, but the animation is two frames and you can actually see the frame being drawn. In the game itself you can set the speed to highest and for sections Larry will zip around quite speedily but as soon as there’s some animation like maybe the credits rolling in or a 3-frame fountain he slows to a crawl. On a technical level the game is a mess.
The game is a bit of a dead-end in design terms too. Much as Magnetic Scrolls Wonderland game tried to take text adventures into the graphical era with an approach more rooted in text, so Sierra’s system is also fundamentally a text adventure with graphics bolted on – the only purpose of the mouse is to move Larry. This is in sharp contrast to the full graphical adventures characterised by Lucasarts and Delphine, and later Revolution. Where Magnetic Scrolls attempted to use the GUI to mitigate weaknesses of the text adventure by listing objects and available exits, Sierra have gone a different way. In a text adventure you have to fairly explicitly tell the player what things exist to interact with, which makes it much less of a guessing game. However, the addition of graphics gives the developers an excuse to let the user infer what the objects might be. This is a mistake however, coming unstuck in just the first scene. There is what looks like a bin. You try to “look at bin” or “examine bin” to no avail. Even walking up to it and just typing “examine” gives you the “look at room” text which fails to mention the ‘bin’ – this is the text you would have got in a text adventure upon arriving into the location. Looking at a walkthrough reveals that it is in fact a plaque. Look at plaque will let you take a look at the plaque. Now this isn’t a super-essential puzzle but it highlights how the addition of graphics without graphical hotspots leaves the player guessing. This might have been fixed if mousing over the scene gave you the names of objects as you rolled over them. This was not done.
Annoyingly Larry 1 is actually much better in this regard. Expectations are clearer because there is no pretence of mouse control, and the shit graphics actually make it easier to see what objects are on the screen, what you can interact with, etc. Indeed, I found myself preferring Larry 1 original to the remake (Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded) for this very reason. The game is significantly easier than Larry 3 because it’s immediately clear what you can interact with, and text descriptions properly fill in the gaps, knowing that the mouse isn’t an option. Indeed Larry 3 is written almost as if there’s an assumption that you’ll be able to mouse over elements and get a name and hotspot to go with it in the traditional adventure style, maybe that got cut at the last minute.
Another usability complaint, exits are very poorly signposted, with one screen having 2 exits next to each other on the left depending on which foliage you stand behind, with each path awkwardly jagged so that Larry keeps getting stuck on invisible barriers which would leave an inexperienced gamer thinking that wasn’t an exit. There’s an exit, but you’ve got to really work for it.
ST Format take issue with the puerile humour but for me that’s what makes Larry, and everyone loves a bit of puerile humour. Ok some people don’t, but for the most part those people are dried up husks and if you’re one of them please press the X on the top right of this window as you are not welcome here. Of course it’s ironic that after complaining about puerile sex jokes the review’s author then wishes Larry would catch a fatal dose of VD – I think we have an early example of the Social Justice Moron. Or perhaps just a miseryguts who thinks he’s too good for this.
So you may have gathered that I’m not particularly impressed by Larry 3. It’s a shame as Larry 1 was awesome, but the myriad usability and technical faults drag a decent story with some good old fashioned puerile jokes and silliness down pretty badly and result in a game that’s simply not worth the effort of playing. A game running on technology that’s unclear on what it wants to be results in a game that just doesn’t match up to other adventure games released in the era. It’s not even the best adventure game in ST Format Issue 15.
Some kind folks have uploaded the manual so go read that. It’s actually quite fun with some cool spoof 80s adverts.