Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded is a love letter to fans of the original series, which is fitting given that it was funded by fans through Kickstarter. For those not included in that group, the misadventures of Larry Laffer serve as a sobering reminder that nostalgia doesn’t always upgrade well, especially when those memories are built on a shaky foundation of dick jokes and… more dick jokes.
As an adventure game, LSL:R presents a real simple story. Larry Laffer is 40, a virgin, and looking for love in all the wrong places. As the very reason lyrics like “Don’t tell me no lines and keep your hands to yourself” exist, Larry and his eponymous leisure suit have no concept of personal space and think sexual “her-ass-mint” involves offering a woman Alpine chocolates during coitus. A character this unlikeable really puts the onus on the player to supply his own reasons for doing things, as I can’t imagine anyone actually caring about whether or not this gremlin in white actually gets laid or not.
Unfortunately, the only other reason Reloaded gives you for moving forward and exploring is in the jokes and dialog. Using mechanics heretofore unseen since adventure games in the 90’s, Larry can touch, lick, and unzip his pants on any one and anything, with the game’s sarcastic narrator describing the resulting actions. While the game offers three different ways to access those icons (having a bar pop at the top of the screen, allowing a radial menu pop-up, and simply right clicking through them), it’s a dated, awkward way of performing these actions.
What makes the method worse is just how necessary those icons are to access the majority of the game’s content. There are different dialog responses for every item/background/icon combination, so getting the most out of the Reloaded experience requires constantly swapping between Larry’s various actions. With the resulting jokes missing more then hitting, the search for laughs is as tiring as the endless parade of one liners spouting out of Larry’s mouth whenever his eyes fall on anything that even remotely resembles a female.
Ahh, the females. Each an insanely sexualized stereotype, the women of Lost Wages, LSL‘s much smaller parody of Las Vegas, the four originals are back from the game’s first incarnation, along with Jasmine, a new character whose inclusion was the result of meeting Kickstarter stretch goals. Their existence is essential to the Larry experience, but they’re also huge red flags in a time where everything is placed under the microscope of sexism. While it could be argued that the women are the powerful ones in the Larry/Love equation, their existence as nothing but characterless conquests removes any benefit that power may provide.
Jasmine’s particular portion of the game, taking place within the Caesar’s Phallus Hotel, is also filled with pacing issues, missed jokes, and a surprisingly cruel puzzle involving hot sauce and a whale. The hotel itself is a hot bed of inactivity, with 6 of 8 floors filled with nothing but “knock on door/interrupt sex jokes.” A bit long and laborious, only one joke really delivers any kind of laughs.
What I did find notably funny is a series of jokes you are likely to miss if you are not being completely diligent in exploring rooms multiple times. The room to the right of the hotel’s elevator is a stage that hosts a stand-up comic host, complete with a whole routine, who introduces a starlet singing a love song about crowd source funding. As you are the only person in the room, the comic’s whole schtick is built on you not paying attention, clapping or responding to anything he says, while the girls song is actually extremely clever, coming off as smart, endearing, and ultimately very appreciative of the people that chipped in their hard earned cash to make Reloaded a reality. It’s all very meta, and is the only part of this game that feels like it knows what decade it’s in.
One awesome set of jokes aside, LSL:R‘s biggest problem is one of age. This is a game from a different time. The problems that it exhibits now, including but not limited to the icon mechanics and sexism, were selling points when the game was originally released at the end of the 80s. It was groundbreaking then, and while I would never have called it amazing, there were enough people with enough love for it still, after all these years, that felt an HD update was not only worth it, but needed.
In the end, that’s what it comes down to really. Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded doesn’t hold up when compared to other games this generation, but then that was really never the point. Released in 2013, LSL:R feels just as out of date as Gearbox’s Duke Nukem Forever, and critically speaking, I can only offer a review based on what it is now, not by what it was then. To the fans though, the score I give really doesn’t matter, nor should it. They paid for the game they love, and in this case, they got exactly what they wanted, dick shaped nose and all.