Leisure Suit Larry (1987) / 2 (1988) / 3 (1989)
Like Spider-Man, this is a text adventure game, but loads better. Anyone who was into computing in the 80’s should be able to tell you about the successful Sierra adventure games. As opposed to crap like Wumpus Hunter, these were able to combine text and graphics to make a successful adventure. Basically all you did was move your guy closer to the object you were supposed to interact with, but it made a surprising difference, just like the guitar peripheral for Guitar Hero, you need that help to make the jump from interactive to immersing.
Anyone who has played LSL should be crying foul that I played this game when I was eight years old. And moreso, I played it with MY FATHER! Anyone who hasn’t played LSL, let quote from the details of the Wikipedia entry:
Because of the adult nature of the game, it featured an age verification system, which consisted of a series of questions to which the authors reasoned only adults would know the answer.
This was mostly the reason I had to play with my father, since I didn’t know any of the answers. Also, I wasn’t a fast typer, and I didn’t understand anything that was going on (I couldn’t even pronounce “prophylactic”, let alone try and buy one from the Quick-E-Mart). Plus it made the game more fun, because we could solve the problems together, get stuck together. I’d mostly direct him (boss him around) to finding how to get Larry to meet the girl of his dreams. I can’t imagine how my dad could have played this without breaking a sweat (“Dad, what’s Spanish Fly?”). The great part is the game was actually educational. Since it’s all text, it’s all reading. What better for an eight-year-old than to do with his time?
Everything was very logical, but very humorous. Al Lowe was a master with the jokes, leaning on the ridiculous and silly (a bum in a barrel walking through the street, pocket lint in your inventory, the “boss key”). This is probably some of the reason my sense of humor is so warped. The subsequent sequels doubled up on this, especially with the variety of locations, pursuit by the KGB, and the “trite phrase” which we had endless fun with. Number three combined an adventure game with an arcade game, and had one of the greatest lines in humordom – “where’s my pants?”.
This was my first real exposure to pretending to be someone else in a video game. And as I write this, I realize that when being someone else, it’s got very little to do with the person and more to do with the environment and supporting characters. These are the things that make you feel like you’re there, that you’re doing something.
But Leisure Suit Larry wasn’t about being someone else. It was more like a comic novel or movie, like American Pie, where the pervert hero goes on a raunchy sex romp, and hilarity ensues as you accidentally tumble onto a dating game show, fall from an airplane, dance in a peacock outfit, save an island of topless natives from an evil doctor by crushing him with a piano, and follow a flying inflatable doll to the woman of your dreams (at the time). Funny mature games are few and far between these days – most are satirically dark like Grand Theft Auto or Destroy All Humans. I don’t think we’ll see anything as ridiculous, customizable, and laugh-out-loud funny like Larry Laffer again for a long time.
Until next time, save early and save often.