It turns out that the name Leisure Suit Larry has become an ironic title, as the cold reality of the game’s resource management tasks set in and reloading the game to fill your wallet becomes a painful chore. Again and again you scurry off to refill hapless Larry’s wallet at one of many electronic gambling machines, where luck rather than skill determines how quickly you can move through the game. Do you spend time walking outside and receiving a $10 gift from a homeless man when you’ve gone broke or do you simply “cheat” and reload the last save, from when you actually still had money to gamble?
The blame isn’t entirely on N-Fusion Interactive or publisher Replay Games. To be fair, going broke in the original Sierra title meant a game over and forced reload. Turning the clock back is much more of a voluntary act here, since that same homeless fellow will keep feeding you a sawbuck every time you bottom out. Instead of being forced to reload, you simply want to because it’s so horribly dull to keep betting your $10 and losing it, over and over, until you hit a long enough string of jackpots to fill your wallet anew. The difference now is that you feel like you’re cheating every time.
There are other strange design choices here as well. Increasing your bet can only be done in $1 increments, each of which requires a single click, since holding down the mouse button brings up a radial menu for swapping between the different pointer commands. It’s a redundant feature, since you can also use your scrollwheel, your right mouse button, or a drop-down menu at the top of the screen to switch. Then there’s the lack of quick-save/quick-load buttons, forcing you to dive through a series of menus every time you want to recover your lost dollars.
If you’re wondering you’ve just spent three paragraphs reading about a story-driven adventure game’s slot machines, it’s because of how much time you spend staring at them. Larry’s money is constantly trickling away as you play, whether you’re spending it on cabs, on booze, on paying for an ill-advised wedding, and on any number of other things. You need it, and you’ll need considerably more in the end than the paltry $100 you start with. Gambling is a requirement.
This was a poor choice in the original game and it remains a poor choice now. The lingering importance of gambling in the game is frustrating, but it also speaks to the bigger issues at play in Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded. There’s a failure of design, but there’s also a creative miscalculation. Replay’s successful Kickstarter campaign for Reloaded could have delivered a re-born Larry for a 21st century audience, but little has been done to fix what was fundamentally broken before.
The finished product here feels more like a direct port of the VGA remake from the ’90s with a new skin on top of it. Fan service is valuable, but Larry felt uneven in 1987. N-Fusion could have gotten away with taking some creative license here and there to deliver a more fun game instead of just an HD re-release. There’s new content in the form of an extra woman to spurn Larry’s advances, and the point-and-click play continues to be charming, but the hoop-jumping progression through the story hinges too much on luck rather than the player’s powers of deduction.
That said, Reloaded isn’t a disaster. The heart of the 1987 game is intact, and fans of the Sierra classic won’t be able to keep from smiling as they explore one familiar puzzle after another. The revamped soundtrack from Austin Wintory is also an immediate winner, reviving the original chiptune melodies with the nice, full sound of a live band behind them. It’s hard not to linger when you load to the title screen and hear the familiar tune play again.
The cartoon-style presentation is also a success, with character animations reminiscent of the skipped-frame style of Adult Swim’s programming. The writing continues to be sharp, and it pops anew thanks to the efforts of a full voice cast. The baritone narrator is a particular standout, his voice booming frequently out of your speakers like a wiseass voice of God. Whiny Larry is harder to listen to, but you get the sense that that’s sort of the point.
The new content adds a bit of playing time to the game, but the biggest timecrunch in Reloaded is, unfortunately, the laborious process of returning to the gambling machines again and again. Strip those out and you’re left with a relatively brief adventure, and one that frequently stalls around obtuse puzzle solutions that require visiting and re-visiting specific locations you might otherwise overlook.
With studios like Telltale Games working to push forward a new era in adventure game storytelling, Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded feels as dated as his titular outerwear. There’s something to be said for the simple joy of strolling through the newly refreshed environments of Sierra’s classic and to hearing all of these beloved characters actually speak for the first time, but it isn’t enough. The immature humor and outdated, borderline offensive treatment of women all works within the context of the fiction, but never has it been more clear that it’s time for Larry to grow up.
(This game was reviewed on the PC)