That’s right, I’m back on my retro bullshit. Today I will be talking a bit about a curious, short game called Leisure Suit Larry – In the Land of the Lounge Lizards. Now, for my millenial brethren: a Leisure Suit is what comes up when you type in “70’s disco costume” into Google images, and a Lounge Lizard is a term for someone who likes to frequent expensive places, perhaps to seduce a woman with charm.
Tw: misogyny, racism, mentions of suicide
Leisure Suit Larry is a game about a man who is fed up of being alone, and will kill himself if he doesn’t lose his virginity before sunrise. Yes, that’s where we’re going today people. Now usually it would be fair to emphasise that this game is very much a product of its time, but nah, scrap that. It was only the 80s and women have been around a lot longer than that, and I do think they’ve always wanted respect, something this game does not do. Also this is a retrospective, so I’m going to read this game accurately, as it is: a sexist playbook.
Leisure Suit Larry came from the desks at Sierra Entertainment, a company known for its very early mastery of graphic adventures including the wildly iconic King’s Quest and Space Quest series. It also became known for its penchant for esoteric puzzles and frustrating difficulty levels, with plucky heroes dying in a multitude of hilarious, physics defying ways. I never picked up a Leisure Suit Larry game because it seemed far too seedy and far too heterosexual for me, a camp little child of the millenium, but I love a graphic adventure, with Point and Click games being one of my favourite genre of game hands down, and I wanted a taste of this slice of videogame history.
In the game, you use your keyboard to control Larry. You move around with WASD and you type in commands to make Larry do things, such as opening doors, looking around the room and picking up objects. The text parser is pretty flexible and trying to trick it into misunderstanding a command is a fun little metagame to play with yourself. ‘Will the game know what I mean if I say rubbish bin instead of trash can?’ And so on. Sierra games used this to its fullest extent before the verb-menu-based systems of games such as Monkey Island came into vogue.
The premise of the game is thus: you are Larry, a middle-aged virgin in the city of Lost Wages (a play on Las Vegas). You wish to lose your virginity. You are so desperate to do this that you will commit suicide at dawn if you are not successful. This little tidbit is actually a feature of the game: if you take too long to complete the game Larry will take out a gun and shoot himself. Of course, the game is quite short and the chances of you taking long enough to get this Bad Ending are slim, so it’s more of an Easter Egg than a time limit.
Now while I do personally find the premise gross, it’s not the only time such a premise has been used in media. But the game goes an extra mile to be chauvinistic. Not only is the entire goal of the game to get Larry’s wick dipped, the game even gives you the opportunity to sleep with a sex worker (of course the game does not call her a sex worker, the game calls her a hooker) but this does not fulfil the win-condition. Having sex with her ‘doesn’t count’ apparently. Even worse, if you take this optional route without first purchasing and wearing a condom you will come up against one of Sierra’s classic death screens, with Larry’s genitals exploding from some sort of magic venereal disease. Very classy.
Let’s take a look at the women Larry encounters throughout his night in Lost Wages. The first one you will encounter is Fawn, a charming young woman you will find at the discotheque. She will demand three expensive gifts from you that you must find from the other areas of the game, and then dance with you in a surprisingly charming send up of the disco scene from Airplane and the original scene from Saturday Night Fever. After this, she will drain your money from you (a limited resource that you must accrue at the local casino), demand you get hitched at a seedy marriage chapel and then tie you to the bed of the casino’s honeymoon suite, taking all of your money with her.
Now while I can’t say Larry doesn’t deserve this comeuppance for being so dim, it’s also a pretty boring characterisation for a false romantic lead to be a money-grubbing harpy whose name is literally Fawn. And let it be known that the only reason you have to go through with this at all is to pick up the rope that she uses to tie you to the bed in order to work through a puzzle to get a bottle of aphrodisiac pills to seduce the next girl.
Next up we have Faith, who is a receptionist at the penthouse suite of the casino. Her storyline is shorter and less remarkable. She is a rather aggressive woman who threatens you with her hip-holstered gun right up until you offer her a bottle of Spanish Fly which she readily downs. She immediately becomes so uncontrollably horny that she abandons her desk and vaults off-screen to go jump her boyfriend’s bones. True to her name, she is faithful and will not sleep with Larry. Faith is probably the most ‘normal’ character in the game. She distrusts Larry, and while she is rather open about her use of sexual stimulants and is truly dumb to take pills from a stranger, she at least doesn’t fall for Larry’s ‘charms’. So she has that going for her.
The final girl and the one actually dull enough to allow herself to the ‘final girl’ is Eve. Again, true to her name, Eve becomes the first woman to sleep with Larry at the end of the game. How does he manage this feat? He breaks into her penthouse suite and gets into the hot tub with her, while she is naked. Granted, Eve seems to the kind of woman to enjoy this dangerous flit with a stranger but oh my word, this is pornography-level writing of the dullest calibre. The only redeemable aspect about this is that in order to seduce Eve you must give her an apple, something you absolutely most likely do not have as acquiring an apple in this game requires you to give money to a randomly appearing homeless man. I quite liked the puzzle being a biblical reference, I’ll say that much.
So you might be thinking, ‘hey Ryan, is the misogyny the only problem with the game that you encountered?’ and you’ll be utterly shocked to find out that no, no it was not! The game also features literal toilet humour, a frustrating gambling system, a foreign shopkeeper with a racist accent, multiple deaths and game overs that make no sense (such as walking too near the road or accidentally forgetting to tell Larry to take his condom off after having sex at the bar, causing the police to arrest him for public indecency), or the simple fact that the man literally commits suicide because he cannot get laid. If this was made in 2020, this game would be titled Incel Simulator.
This would all be (slightly) fine if the game took an introspective attitude to itself, and called Larry out on his behaviour, or confronted the player’s prejudices at all, but it doesn’t. The repercussions that Larry faces are comedic and short-lasting in the grand scheme of things, and he does indeed ‘get the girl’ in the end. It’s an effort in wish-fulfilment for the
Now, I don’t want to be completely negative (stop laughing, I’m serious). There are some things this game does right. The blackjack mini-game is decently fun, the huge bouncy censor bar that covers Larry and the sex worker getting down to business is pure comedy, the drunk priest is a classic comedy trope done well, and some of the puzzles are quite ingenious. One particularly funny moment comes if Larry manages to find a blow-up sex doll. If the player instructs Larry to try and use this doll to fulfil his desires, the doll will pop, flying across three screens as Larry chases his rubber would-be companion in horny desperation. It’s a genuinely funny moment. Does this redeem the game’s horrible treatment of women and foreign people and the lack of respect for the gamer’s time? No.
When I played this game however, I was not going in expecting a genuinely fun experience. Sierra were good at making games for their audience but I simply do not enjoy games from this era of graphic adventure development – I feel much more at home with the efforts of LucasArts. But these games are part of the history of this era of videogaming and I went into this as a punter would a museum. This was an informative, educational experience that gave me some insight to the era’s humour, design philosophy, and cultural mores. Something very interesting was seeing how they built a storyline and gamified experience with no direction other than ‘get laid’, and I’m actually now even more curious to see how the series progresses in the following Leisure Suit Larry games.
Who should definitely get it: people who really want to experience the early days of graphic adventures
Other games like this are: King’s Quest, Space Quest, Order of the Throne, Quest for Glory
You will not like this game if: you are offended by any of the content in this review, you are annoyed by slow-paced protagonists