Reviewed: October 25, 2004
Released: October 13, 2004
One of the oldest PC games in existence still manages to keep its name in current console circles with Vivendi Universalís entry in the video game world of gettiní some. Ahem.
Anyone who remembers the days when you bought games on 5.25Ē floppy discs and had to know at least enough DOS Ė hell, just knowing what DOS was probably qualifies you - to start the game probably has at least heard of the timeless tale of a pathetic, middle-aged, gold chain-wearing, astrology sign-asking horndog on the prowl. No, not the Bill Clinton story, itís Leisure Suit Larry!
The 80ís are known for many things, not the least of which is the T&A flick. Thatís right, the decade that gave us Porkyís also spawned a genre of electronic gaming that unfortunately still stands today. Itís like a frat house on a DVD disc.
But, believe it or not, unlike so many other countless PC games that fail to gracefully make the transition from PC to console, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude doesnít do too badly, but it doesnít exactly satisfy either.
In this outing not Larry Laffer but his nephew, Larry Lovage is the Big Sleaze On Campus. In his attempt to do his uncle proud, young Larry decides his best chance of scoring the hottest babes at his school will be as a contestant on the new game show Swingles, being filmed on location at his beloved Walnut Log Community College. You see Walnut Log is a metaphor...oh, never mind.
The title screen of this game says it all. With a huge smirk and a rolling of the eyes, you are thrown into the world of Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. Games like these tend to run the gamut as far as their level of innuendo and subtlety. There are games like Dead Or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball, which at least pretend to be a different game that happens to have very sexy people running around in it. Then there are games like The Guy Game, which makes no attempt at all to be anything other than what it is in its perversity. Luckily, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, playing out like the lost episode of Benny Hill Goes to College.
Essentially, Larryís goal of getting on the Swingles game show involves him making enough money to audition, and that can only mean...mini-games! Now being a game set in college, the main activity is drinking like a fish. And in fact, one of the more fun mini-games is playing quarters with various babes. You have to make sure to start the game in a state of near sobriety to insure victory, as the actual aiming accuracy is sketchy despite analog control. Still, itís fun to see the tricks those quarters do when Larryís on top of his game.
While thereís a lot of running around to be done (the bane of the adventure story), there are plenty of opportunities to meet chicks and ultimately make some quick cash. The problem with the whole moneymaking scheme is that you make very little money each time, and it costs a lot of money to audition for the show. This makes the game a lot more of a trial than it should be which whittles away the fun quickly.
All in all, however, the different mini-games, though not particularly innovative do provide some puerile interest. There are rhythm games that involve mimicking button presses a la DDR, the old slapping game where you put your hands out while the other player slaps them before you can move them away, and a game very reminiscent of Williamsí 1983 arcade classic, Tapper, where you throw fliers to would-be activists. These mini-games work best on a console rather than the PC platform where the series was born.
But ironically what makes Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude a lot less entertaining that it should be are the atrocious load times often seen on console games. Every time you go in or out of a building, from one section of the campus to another, or start a mini-game, you sit in silence while your PS2 disc drive chugs away. There just isnít any excuse at this stage of the hardwareís life cycle for such load times. I canít understand why developer High Voltage Software would allow this sort of problem to occur, much less let their product out the door in that condition.
The look of Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude is quite conducive to the feel of the story line with a style reminiscent of Pitfall: The Lost Expedition. You donít feel quite as sleazy when youíre dealing with the exaggerated, cartoony characters as opposed to the more photo-realistic characters of Silent Hill 2 or 3. And thereís a good sense of flow established by the decision to use the in-game engine for cutscenes, as there are no traditional CG renders to be seen.
Characters are varied and simple in design, exemplifying all of the major stereotypes of college folk on your average campus. I hope itís obvious before playing the game that it requires a certain resistance to offense.
The single most amazing aspect of the sound in this game revolves around the sheer amount of dialogue. Apparently, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 lines of dialog were recorded, which is staggering. What this amounts to is that Larry has something to say to literally everyone he runs into - and where he doesnít, he often speaks to himself.
Thereís a nice bit of licensed music here and there where it makes sense, but otherwise the sound of the game focuses more on the dialog than anything else despite a lot of ambient sounds like chirping birds in the quad and whatnot. Itís not a Star Wars game after all, but it does what it needs to without relying on cheesy recycled sound bytes.
If youíre one of those obsessive gamers that must find every last secret and sight gag in games like this, you could spend around 24 hours playing this game to completion (longer if you take into account the hours of load times), but you probably wonít worry about replaying it once youíre finished. Games of this genre donít really foster a lot of loyalty or a strong sense of longing that makes you want to visit it again and again like your Lord of the Rings Extended Edition DVD sets.
Perhaps a little multiplayer would have introduced a new aspect to the game though I canít see a company spending much precious time working on something that would have to be programmed and designed for multiplayer in a game that focuses on single player jollies.
Video games are for entertainment, first and foremost. They rarely aspire to Shakespearean profundity, so you have to take a game like Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude with a big, scantily dressed, grain of salt. This game will certainly not win any awards for innovation, or advance the cause of console gaming as a positive movement for society, but it never tries to be more than what it is. Itís ribaldry and bathroom humor told with tongue planted firmly in cheek or perhaps hand planted provocatively in pants Ė take your pick.
I have to admit, the puerile can be a little infectious, and itís hard to resist smiling at some of the sight gags in the game. But, unless youíre just looking for a little nostalgic kick, or canít find your worn VHS copy of Revenge of the Nerds, you might want to just rent this video frat party. Unless you need the beer money, of course.