[beranmuden] It all started, when we decided to give a glimpse on the game collections of The Good Old Days members. And as the big Sierra fan I am, I couldn't be more thrilled to see Mr Creosote also having Sierra games in his collection. This ignited a spark which led us to combine our strengths and weaknesses to create an all-coveringreview.
[Mr Creosote] Why, of all? Well, my boxed Sierra adventure game “collection” happens to consist of a Space Quest collection (the first five on CD), which I got from a friend when he gave away all his games, and… . It's literally the only originally boxed version of all those series I own. I don't even recall how I got it. I assume it must have been bundled with another game I bought off ebay about 20 years ago. What's more, I'm quite sure I never played it before now, so this is going to be an interesting combination of you bringing in all the experience and me… tagging along.
[beranmuden] And I was more than happy and honored to unveil the curtains of this lovely company called Sierra and the gems they have fabricated for us. Even though I know Mr Creosote is a bit more “skeptic” about the quality of the Sierra games, I've decided to make it my missions to make him love them. And what a great opportunity to useas the vessel for our journey.
[Mr Creosote] Surely a brave attempt, knowing my previous record with them. Though then, this is one from the beginning of the SCI era, where even Sierra may not have been able to ignore advances in game design anymore. Let's dive in and see how Mr. Laffer does this time! Though maybe first, you'd like to set the scene a bit with how he got here?
[beranmuden] With the release of the first Larry in 1987, they have subsequently released a sequel each year. And so,was released in 1989. Although somehow in my memory I always thought it took way longer before a new edition came out.
I'm guessing that for the adventure games they've reached a moment at their peak and thus competition was heavy for Sierra. Sierra had to compete with Lucasfilm Games, which had great hits at the time with games like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Loom and The Secret of Monkey Island. Luckily, Al Lowe was the man in charge of the Larry series from writing, compiling to even composing the music of the game.
[Mr Creosote] The first Larry having turned into the company's sleeper hit, they churned them out in quick succession, indeed. Did you play this game in 1989, or when was your “first time”?
[beranmuden] Oh, for sure I did, back then I was about 12, maybe 13 when I got my hands on an illegal copy (thank you, older brothers!). So, most of the humor and gags went straight over my head. So, in a way, it's nice for Sierra to be a bit immature as I was easily entertained with pixelated boobs and jokes about sticks that looked like dicks.
For me the game started with the intro, a stylish animation of Larry's legs, and some female legs next to it, followed by 5 questions you had to answer correctly to be able to view all the naughtiness. And since it was the pre-Google era this was already the first challenge to conquer. Also, since most questions are more relatable to an American audience, it quickly became a game of writing down the questions and try each answer until you had success
Funnily enough, the questions at the start is more reminiscing to the first Larry, where Larry 2 only had a copy protection at the start, now you are also tested for having a proper age to view those pixelated boobs.
[Mr Creosote] Oh, yes, this age quiz… I doubt even in 1989, many European adults would have been able to pass! Honestly, this was a bad start for me, as it indeed showed the quite narrow view on their target audience Sierra seemed to have. Not only did they never bother to translate their games in this era (unlike the competition), they also made it quite hard to appreciate their games thematically etc.
[beranmuden] You know, you could have just asked me, I'm the Sierra master after all. You can easily skip the questions by pressing [Alt] + [Ctrl] + X.
[Mr Creosote] Doesn't exactly change the impression of not being welcome to the party, does it?
[Mr Creosote] The previous game having concluded with a happy ending of Larry getting married, this game begins with the expected throwback to the classic Larry status quo. His wife has left him for another woman, his father-in-law fires him… what else to do than go looking for love once more?
[beranmuden] During those final moments in, there was also a brief encountering with Polyester Patti, who apparently had a name change into Passionate Patti for . So as far as the writing of the games was done, the seeds of the Patti character were already planted in the second installment.
Personally, I think they did a great thing with the first scene, where parts of the dialogue can still be read, while carefully starting your adventure as a slightly overfed Larry Laffer.
[Mr Creosote] I liked how they essentially did a big playable pre-credit/credit sequence which sets the scene nicely. The player isn't simply told all what we just said (breakup, getting fired, getting suited up), but it's already part of the interactive experience.
What immediately struck me, though, was the rather generic setting. What did you think of it?
[beranmuden] In hindsight the setting was indeed almost extremely generic, with very little variation and also not that many screens to visit. If you compare this to, for example, you had way more scenes to visit, from a town to a cruise, jungle etc.
[Mr Creosote] Variation on the setting is lacking, yes, but even more so, I found it a bit disappointing to be in a jungle of all places. I mean, when I think of Larry (based on my limited experience), I think of tacky tourist traps, not beautiful nature backdrops. They tried a little bit by populating this jungle with souvenir vendors, a casino, a comedy club etc. Though it never really turned into a theme for me. Most of the time is spent walking along trees. Thematically, I really found Larry more at home in the City of Lost Wages or that hotel of part 6.
[beranmuden] Well, I can't agree more on that part, as I said something that excelled inwas the setting and variation of the places to visit. And had this familiar theme of a city, with places to visit. Sadly, I must admit that's a thing in where falls short.
In Sierra's defense, the end part of the game makes up for a great part of variation.
[Mr Creosote] The second “episode” of the game, for lack of better word, has the player taking over Patti as the protagonist, and it indeed gives a very nice tour of other parts of the island. It made sense based on Larry's part. He gets to explore the “developed” part of the island, Patti went into the uncharted areas. Though didn't you feel that this second part was a bit tacked on? Like they made the game with Larry in the driver's seat, but then felt it's too short and added the part with Patti?
[beranmuden] No not really, I think this was the plan all along, they (read Al Lowe) wanted Larry to have a happy ending. Remember, Patti was already introduced in, so they knew she was going to have larger part in this installment and even larger in the following. Some things seemed off though, I mean the love of your life just left, why would you visit a male strip club to search for clues? Although I'm pretty sure the 13-year-old me never thought of that before
[Mr Creosote] Good point about the strip club. Also, even with the “big misunderstanding” which drives Larry away after their big love scene, why would he go away into the unknown jungle? Why not simply leave the island? Oh well. I guess the graphics artists had more jungle material ready.
[beranmuden] Hahahaha, let's call it artistic freedom.
[Mr Creosote] It made for a great, climactic scene of Patti stepping out onto her balcony and looking out for Larry in any case.
[beranmuden] I really liked that scene, it was a welcome change of emotion with a bit more dramatic and sincerity about love.
[Mr Creosote] Well, I wouldn't know if I'd call it “sincere” considering that Patti only picked up Larry for his body and the sexual fulfilment he offered, but for sure, it seemed to come straight out of a Hollywood love story. Which I found quite appropriate thematically. So much that I would have appreciated much more of this. How else to treat a character such as Larry, after all?
[beranmuden] Well in all honesty, most of Sierra's characters are pretty one-dimensional. And they even change greatly during the different parts. In my eyes it's easily forgiven, but you are correct it's a fair point towards the characters “character”, so to speak.
Then, there is the very ending, where you end up in a whole meta scene complete with references to a dozen of other Sierra titles. Did the setting of the latter part of the game surprise you? Or did it feel out of place for you?
[Mr Creosote] It goes completely meta here, which also felt quite appropriate in a way, as this was the end of the trilogy. What spoiled it for me was that they pulled an almost identical stunt already at the end of Space Quest III.
[beranmuden] You know it's funny, for me it's the end of a trilogy, yet there were more games after this one. I wonder if more people feel this way, but personally I always thought Larry and for example also Police Quest were a trilogy.
[Mr Creosote] At least in case of Larry, the jump which came after was even more apparent than for the other series, even in the numbering. Ahem… I guess we have to take it for what it is. After all, any “worldly” way of getting Patti and Larry out of the captivity of the lesbian cannibals would have felt anticlimactic.
[beranmuden] Correction, “Amazonian women lesbian cannibals”. I mean, if you're lesbian, at least declare your gender.
About the ending, and the punishing errors of forgetting something in a Sierra game, I wonder if Patti didn't grab the magic marker, would this be a game breaker with only a restore left to save you? I'm afraid I already know the answer.
[Mr Creosote] I'm afraid you're right
[beranmuden] Speaking of those kind of jokes and gags throughout the game, what is your view on those?
[Mr Creosote] Oh, you want to open that can of worms? Honestly, most of the jokes didn't work for me. Since finishing the game, I thought quite a bit about it, whether it may just be an issue of our times having become more politically correct and yadda yadda. Though then, what are the jokes about in this game? A muscular woman is called “Bambi”. Har, har, that's the kind of joke which is so obvious that it wouldn't have been funny in the 1980s, either. A man accidentally dresses up in women's clothes and has to do a dance performance. That was probably funny in the 1950s. Some Like it Hot style.
[beranmuden] Well let's be honest, the jokes are really outdated. I mean racism, sexism they are not avoided, instead heavily (ab)used through the whole game. Then again, now at an adult age, some of them had me really laugh out loud. Being finally at an age I can properly translate foreign sentences and interpret attempts of humor, they had at least had 1 hit in every 10 jokes thrown at you. The thing about humor and jokes is, that nowadays they are viewed upon a magnifying glass. Most of the jokes in this game would probably catch a fire now. Does this make Larry a game filled with good gags and refreshing jokes? No, if you want that you should play more LucasArts games.
A fine example is the stand-up comedian part, where you as a player can type a minority for which the comedian will base his jokes upon. Classy?
[Mr Creosote] I don't mind that the jokes are sexist and racist. I mind how stale they are and how stale they were even at the time. The stand-up comedian sequence is indeed a good example of that. It made me think: is Al Lowe actually pulling some meta humor here? I.e. having a guy telling jokes which are not funny at all, unmasking the interchangeability of those clichés, thus showing some ironic self-distance? But then, extrinsically, he still runs this humor newsletter where he sends out similar jokes every day to subscribers, doesn't he?
[beranmuden] Ouch, you're poking through my made-up wisdom of Sierra and its former employers now, I didn't know of Al Lowe's newsletter, neither am I subscribed to it. For me, Sierra is all about nostalgia and the latter products I wisely choose to ignore.
[Mr Creosote] What irks me even more about this scene, though, is that it is literally Larry going to a stand-up comedy club, sitting down (only on the correct chair, mind you) and watching a guy do his routine. Those jokes are not even embedded into the gameplay or the narration!
[beranmuden] It's like an unskippable scene, just there for you to earn those valuable points. 100 points for “sitting through it”, just looked it up in my documentation. Again, as the advocate for Sierra, two of those jokes had me laugh out loud.
[Mr Creosote] I'm not going to ask which ones, don't worry Though two out of… how many?
Then we have “classics” of humor such as Larry making out with a woman on the beach and being interrupted by a souvenir vendor before things become too hot. How many Carry On movies did this in the 60s? Two dozen?
[beranmuden] That's a bit of reoccurring theme throughout the game, Larry attempting to court this array of lovely ladies. Yet his attempts are futile and end up in some kind of disaster.
[Mr Creosote] Finally, there is the game's insistence to explain its own jokes. The pun “If you are this busy, why don't I come again later?” is bad enough. But, no, that narrator cannot keep his follow-up comment to himself. On that one, I have to admit it is probably also my dislike for snarky narrators in general.
[beranmuden] That's a typical Sierra thing, the poor jokes, going the easy way. It's something you can find in almost every Sierra title there is, but especially in this one. Larry is more based upon adult humor specifically, unlike the other series. In the end, I blame it on a culture. If you compare it to English humor, you'll notice it holds a lot more refinement. And indeed, that's a thing Sierra lacks.
[Mr Creosote] The instances I liked were actually the ones where the game went really “adult”. Not this teenage schoolboy humor (“hihihi, he said the dirty word”). Like for example, I had to smile when Larry crossdressing actually lead to him having sex. That was fun, because completely unexpected. Also, one point for not resorting to gay panic jokes in this scene.
[beranmuden] Oh, I can add to that, I found the workout / shower scene just wonderful, even the way the scene presented. The up down view of the player walking into the showers. This time it wasn't about the female nudity, but Larry himself. No bars hold, just up-close and personal.
[Mr Creosote] Yes, that one was weird, indeed. Exactly what I mean. Surprise me, and I'll be on board. Another one I liked was: “This old tanning machine has been broken since the late eighties.” Almost felt like the writers had the foresight to imagine their game would still be played decades later! Unfortunately, I found the game had far too few of those moments.
[beranmuden] Then again, I think most puzzles were easily solved, did you have any points in game that you got stuck on a dead point? For me, even after having played this several times, I forgot where to find the knife I needed. I remembered the need of having a knife, which you had to sell your beach fling, since she is so materialistic (again stereotyping).
[Mr Creosote] Puzzles were alright, I thought. Larry's part was quite solid in this respect. The solutions made sense generally and were even sometimes maybe a bit too strongly hinted at. I mean, remarking that they could be used to sharpen a knife is not the most natural thing to describe stairs, is it?
[beranmuden] Yeah, I agree, yet like said before, back in the pre-Google era, I remember just doing this with two hints given ingame. That's why you should always check your inventory, not only does it show a picture of the actual piece you're holding, it can also add a clue, in this case it said it was a particular dull knife.
[Mr Creosote] While I was relieved that the puzzles were not as outlandish and random in some of the, they were a bit… dull, weren't they? Unimaginative is the term, maybe?
[beranmuden] For me, the most rewarding, yet also the potentially most punishing part, is the work-out puzzle. It starts with having to find the proper locker, which requires you carefully examined the card. After which you can change and use the workout machine. Now this part can be a bit broken on newer machines, which you unfortunately might have some experience with, Mr Creosote, correct me if I'm wrong…
[Mr Creosote] You're right, this bit was quite good as per intention. Careful examination of jigsaw pieces, put them together right in a non-obvious way. I got hit by the apparently now well-known timing issue when doing the workout and had to restart the game, but ok, I'll not blame them for not anticipating computers several orders of magnitudes faster back in 1989.
What I also liked, although you remarked negatively about it at the beginning, was that the setting was quite compact. This limited random search space when not knowing exactly what to do next. In this regard, the game actually felt quite modern.
[beranmuden] The punishing part is, when you forget to lock your locker when leaving for the workout. The game punishes you in such an awkward way, you don't even know you have to restore your game. You're just locked in this locker area, which you can never ever leave again. Maybe a faith some of the less intelligent players still linger on these days…
[Mr Creosote] Generally, I found the game rather forgiving, though. There were few deaths, few dead ends… it all felt quite relaxed to play, or was it just my wrong expectations coming straight from the staircases of death in?
[beranmuden] No, you're absolutely correct.
[Mr Creosote] It felt almost ironic that of all Sierra games, this was the one reminding me every five minutes to save my game. Seemed mostly unnecessary.
[beranmuden] Ah yes, the autosave feature, I almost forgot about that one. Indeed ironic, considering the possible fatalities. Did you also notice the “Expletive phrase” and the boss-key options? Apparently Larry has this sentence he will utter in extreme situations, which you can tinker to your liking. Nowadays they seem very insignificant, back then it almost made me go “wow”.
[Mr Creosote] The boss key told me I could never get out of there again, so I refrained from touching it after the first time…
[beranmuden] The boss-key is indeed just a lame thing to end your game early. Just don't touch it. Also never ask about pocket lint in Larry games as well…
[Mr Creosote] On puzzles, though, it may surprise you that I quite liked them in Patti's part. On the surface, they may be just about a woman gradually undressing. Though then, I realized: clothing items are rarely considered by players to be “real” inventory objects. Using them to solve sticky situations is actually inventive!
[beranmuden] This one, actually had me have flashbacks to, in which at the beginning, you have to get King Arthur dressed using every part of his armour.
[Mr Creosote] These clothes puzzles were even nicely introduced, because the player here as well has to painstakingly dress Patti first. So, remembering later that these are objects in the gameplay sense could be possible. Nice, subtle hinting. What I didn't appreciate at all, obviously, in this section of the game, though, is the awful maze (even with a time limit!) and the fact that random deaths seemed to return a bit here. Right after the maze, you have to drink water from the stream. The game insists you get close to that stream. But not too close. Otherwise, you fall in. Really? Why introduce such things again so late in the game?
[beranmuden] Again, typical Sierra mechanics at work here. Although I must say I don't recognize the random deaths you say. Just fill your bottle before going in the jungle and the solution to the directions is somewhere in the manual if I'm not mistaken. If you want random deaths, go play Gold Rush (which also happens to be my first review for The Good Old Days!)…
[beranmuden] Did you know that at one point while playing Patti, you can actually gain access to the strip club by performing certain acts of fellatio? Now back at the day I thought, so this is how women progress in life. Nowadays I realize they just have pay the entrance fee like everyone else to get rewarded with points… Sexism and Sierra… this was the '80s after all…
[Mr Creosote] Speaking of sexism, and how women are in this game, what did you think of the puzzles of Larry convincing the various females into accepting his advances? It all felt a bit… mechanical, didn't it?
[beranmuden] Well that certainly did not stand the test of time. The women are mere puzzles which need to be overcome. Tawni at the beach, she likes to buy stuff, so that's the angle to go on for the puzzle. Cherri wants a piece of land, which you happen to own, just get the deeds in place. Bambi likes strong men, she even says so when you approach her pre-buffing up. It's all very shallow and predictable, but maybe somewhere there lies a bit of the charm of the series. You shouldn't take things too seriously and it definitely isn't an attack towards women and you should also take into account that we're talking about a game that's over 30 years old. Different times.
[Mr Creosote] Oh, yes, you literally give Tawni your credit card (!) and this triggers sex. That's literally the first scene of the game proper, after the prologue. Didn't give me a lot of hope to start with. Later, when it went on like this, I thought: maybe the game's strategy is to show how shallow all these interactions are, just to contrast them when meeting Patti, the real love. But, no, she also likes just a hard body, a fresh shower, deodorant and flowers to woo her. The only difference is that she needs more than one key object to “unlock”.
[beranmuden] Erm… doesn't that still apply today? Whenever my wife complains about something I can fix it with a fresh shower and some flowers.
[Mr Creosote] Well, there is one key difference there. You are talking about someone you're already in a close relationship with. Usually, the women I met for the first time in my life (like Larry does) did insist on some meaningful interaction before proclaiming their neverending love. I felt this was a missed storytelling opportunity.
[beranmuden] Nowadays, I totally agree with you. For 1989 and an American stance, I think it's just fine.
Speaking of that, it reminds me of one of the questions asked before starting the game:
I am easily offended by
b. racial humor.
c. foul language.
d. None of the above.
[Mr Creosote] I remarked already I had some technical issues with the game at one point. In one way, this turned into a blessing, because it means I actually played three different versions of the game now. I started with the one I own, the Amiga version. Then moved to the original one, for IBM PC. But then, I actually saw some screenshots of the Atari ST version and re-launched the game with that. The latter is the one I actually finished. Although obviously based on the same art in general, I found that version easiest on the eyes graphically.
[beranmuden] I'm impressed, I think I might have played it on Amiga, back in the old days. For my replay now I used Dosbox and a Roland emulation. Very soothing to the ear, graphic wise, it's more nostalgia than true appreciation. Although I must say, the face closeups are done very nicely still on this day. Did you notice any big differences between the platforms you played on?
[Mr Creosote] Obviously, it's always 16 colours at most, but nicely dithered in places. It's getting a lot out of EGA in some backgrounds. What always bugged me with EGA, though, isn't even the 16 colour limitation, but rather the colour palette. The colours which can be used are essentially all ugly. I mean, look at the skin colours in the closeups. Patti is just red. On the Amiga, Sierra never bothered to upgrade the colour depth, but they could at least have swapped the palette easily, with 4096 colours available to pick from. And they actually did change the tones, but towards the worse – everything is even more garish! Pains me to say, but that version is the worst. On the ST, everything looks a bit more muted, more natural.
[beranmuden] For me, after having played this a dozen times throughout the 30 years after its release, the addition of Roland sound adds so much to the game. Sierra really deserves a big thumb up regarding music after the internal sound speaker games they've released.had Jan Hammer composing their third installment, but Al Lowe created the music for . He really did a splendid job with that and without wanting to sound biased because of my love for Sierra, I truly think he's unappreciated for his work here.
[Mr Creosote] Funny, I found the music very unremarkable. It was just tootling in the background, so uninteresting that finally, I even switched my speakers off. What they surely deserve credit for is having a constant background soundtrack at all. This was a major, really uncommon technical feat at the time!
[beranmuden] Again, in all honesty I must say, when you re-enter a certain scene, the music starts all over. That can be quite tiring if you tend to walk around a lot. I remember LucasArts doing this waaaaaaay better with Monkey Island 2, which had ambient music that gradually shifted into the scenes you entered.
[Mr Creosote] True,introduced iMuse, which enabled smooth transitions. Though that was a good two years later.
[beranmuden] I really appreciated the jabs LucasArts made at Sierra, sadly I cannot remember Sierra doing the same towards their adversary…
[Mr Creosote] There is the bit in Space Quest IV, where you go to a software store and they bash “Boom” () for having no characters, no puzzles, no challenge etc.
[beranmuden] Hahaha, yeah true, forgot about that one.
[Mr Creosote] Anyway, technical excellence in Larry's sound cannot be denied. Composition… that's a matter of taste, I guess. What I don't really get is all the excitement about the Roland music these days, though. Sure, it sounds great, but who had a MT-32 back then?
[beranmuden] I don't think many people had that support back then, you were probably lucky if you could listen to some AdLib music at all. Yet, they made the effort for whomever could afford it and it was backward compatible for those who didn't. For me it's blessing to be able to play through the games with Roland now. I believe they intended their games to have this epic musical score with them, yet at the time they were bound with the technology at hand. Soundblaster, everyone has that, so let's make that our priority. But let's also include Roland, because that's the “umpf” we want players to hear if they're able to. For me it's indeed a total new experience, even with a game like. Every Sierra titled I re-played with Roland support blew me away. They have some well experienced composers that just don't come to their right when translated to a Soundblaster card.
[Mr Creosote] In this discussion, the role of the critic naturally fell to me, obviously. Nevertheless, I must say I foundto be a fair game overall. Gameplay was mostly smooth. Major progress compared to the likes those earlier Sierra games! Irritations here and there remained, obviously, not the least of which lay in this graphical/parser hybrid system I never liked. Though within these limitations, I found the game entertaining enough, not overstaying its welcome. The flow was there, objectives were clear, inner game logic consistent.
[beranmuden] Personally, I really enjoyedas a final goodbye to the series. Although that might not but the truth, it's the truth I wish to accept. Speaking of graphics, had so many improvements and the sound just accompanied that overall feeling of a step up. Regarding its scenario, it's all pretty generic and boring. Story-wise, it's a bit of a “mweh”, yet nearing the end things improve a bit. Still… this is the pinnacle of the character Larry Laffer, he doesn't get any better from this point.
Larry himself still is some sort of anti-hero, a clumsy lovehunger fool, but one that could indeed be charming enough. If you look at the close-ups of Larry in part 2 and 3, he's in fact a handsome man (especially after regaining his hair in Larry 2). In the later installments, his character has really transformed into a dork. Something I always regretted.
Passionate Patti brings out all the best of in all that he has to offer. Does this stand up if you play the game on its own? No, it doesn't. On its own it's a just mediocre adventure game at best. Still for me, it's the ending of an era. The end of a loser wearing a leisure suit, seeking true love. I hope you found what you're looking for Larry!
*leaves while whistling a familiar tune*
[Mr Creosote] Having no big previous attachment to Larry and his ensemble, I confirm your “on its own” conclusion. It's playable. Playworthy? It just doesn't stick out from the masses of adventure games of the era at all. It has a big name, that's about it.