From the beginning, Leisure Suit Larry has seemed like a series struggling to define itself both technically and thematically. In the first game, Larry is a chauvinist jerk for whom sex is obviously his only goal. There is very little plot and zero character development. The game world is open for exploration at all times, though a mistake can result in an important item being permanently lost. In the second installment, Larry is an affable loser looking for true love, not cheap thrills. An outrageous plot involving the KGB guides the adventure as well as Larry’s character arc. The game world is rigidly divided into sections and while losing items is less likely, never finding them in the first place is far more probable. It seems that creator Al Lowe was looking for the best of both worlds. Fortunately, Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals is the game where Al struck the perfect balance of all of these elements, fully defined a Larry game as we know it, and delivered one of my all time favorite adventure titles.
I think that’s all the review you really need, but The J Man pays me by the word, so let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Leisure Suit Larry 3: Passionate Patti in pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals, or LSL3P(x5) as I call it, follows the tradition of its predecessor by picking up right where the last game left off. If you remain a Larry 2 virgin and want to stay that way for the time being, I’d skip this paragraph. After defeating the evil Dr. Nonookee (or at least watching a cut scene of it) and settling down with Kalalau in Larry 2, the island of Nontoonyt becomes a prominent tourist resort. Since Larry is married to the Chief’s daughter, he gets a great job over at Native’s Inc. and a lucrative piece of the pie. But as the third chapter opens, Larry arrives home to discover Kalalau in the hot tub with a lesbian cannibal. Dejected, Larry wanders off into the jungle to sulk until he realizes that he’s just not the type to settle down. A phone booth miraculously appears among the trees. Larry disappears inside it and reemerges in his patented polyester leisurewear, ready once again for the swinging single life.
And let me say right up front that it swings significantly smoother this time around. Forget the bothersome mini-areas of the second game that locked you off, preventing you from grabbing a missed item in a previous section. Larry 3 stays fully open and explorable for essentially the entire game, meaning you won’t feel rushed to accomplish everything possible in a room before moving on. My other complaint from Larry 2 has been addressed as well. The text parser is far more forgiving and comes stocked with a much wider variety of humorous messages for failed commands. If you try to give someone something you don’t have, the game will feign confusion and ask “Where did you get that?” If you use a word the parser doesn’t recognize, one of the several different comebacks it may use is “You may know the word ‘X’, but it’s beyond Al Lowe’s vocabulary!”
Shedding the touchy-feely emotion of the second game, sex is once again your goal as you clumsily attempt to bed every girl you encounter. But what Larry thinks he wants may not actually be what he needs when he meets the Passionate Patti of the game’s title and discovers he may be in love after all (with a healthy dose of lust thrown in, of course).
Here’s where things get interesting. Through a misunderstanding, Larry gets the idea that Patti isn’t into him. Rejected for the last time, he vows celibacy and runs off into the jungle. Of course Patti does love Larry and wants nothing more than to get him back, so player control switches to her and you get to go hunting for Larry, all the while exploring areas that were closed when you were playing as him.
When the Larry section ended, I already felt like I had played a full adventure longer than Larry 1, so I suspected that after taking control of Patti, I’d solve a few trivial puzzles and that would be it. But in reality I was only halfway through. The Passionate Patti section could have almost been an entire stand-alone sequel. The puzzles are just as humorous and challenging as in the Larry section, with an exceedingly difficult bamboo maze being the highlight. Larry 3 feels like two full games in one.
Though the ending should be obvious, I won’t reveal it. I will say, though, that Al Lowe originally intended this to be the final installment of the Leisure Suit Larry trilogy. With that in mind, he wraps the series up so perfectly that it’s almost a shame that there were three more games to come.
Beyond the quality story, there are also a few interesting new gameplay additions that go beyond your standard item collection puzzles. There’s the aforementioned bamboo maze, a gym where you have to complete a certain number of workout routines to bulk up for a fitness trainer, and like it or not, there’s even a river rafting arcade game thrown in for good measure. Relax, you can skip it.
You can die in the game, as always, and it is possible to lose an item, necessitating a restore to a previous save game. But these instances are much fewer and farther between than in the relentless Larry 2. In fact, if you play reasonably well they are nearly nonexistent.
The humor is absolutely spot-on in this installment. This time around, the narrator not only berates Larry for his bad luck with the ladies, but conversely gets on Patti’s case for being too promiscuous, making for a very fun change of pace. Sierra in-jokes are bandied about like they’re going out of style (which they were), especially in the game’s finale which completely busts through what little fourth wall still existed in Larry’s world. Not to mention several hilarious Easter eggs that can be discovered for extra points, including an entire bonus sex scene.
Al Lowe’s quest for total immersion continues with the introduction of the custom expletive. Enter your favorite dirty phrase and the game’s characters will repeat it constantly, especially when in mortal peril. There is also a wonderful comedy club area where the comedian will ask you for three ethnic groups and insert them into all of his jokes. Of course, you don’t have to use ethnic groups. Anything you want to type will do fine. Make sure to sit through the entire act.
There are a few negative aspects. Navigation, especially early on, can be challenging. There are several instances where there are multiple paths on one side of the screen. So exiting left by walking in front of the bush isn’t the same as exiting left by walking behind the bush. Some useful narration and a flashing arrow help guide you at first, but you’ll soon learn to check for paths in all directions and have little trouble finding every area.
Not so much a negative, but an important consideration, is the fact that you will absolutely need to obtain a copy of the manual. Designed as an island magazine called Nontoonyt Tonite, the manual contains critical information for two puzzles and very important hints on several others. You may think that you’re a veteran adventure gamer who won’t need any hints whatsoever, but the game strongly relies on you having read the manual and therefore provides very little guidance in-game for certain areas. One character even tells you point blank to look in your manual for help. I have to stress that this isn’t a walkthrough we’re talking about. Think of the manual as an item in your inventory that can be read for vital information. This is important because you will have to actually “show” your copy of Nontoonyt Tonite to a certain character. Even though Larry doesn’t have it, you do.
The age verification quiz once again returns, this time accompanied by an interesting feature called the “Filth Level”. As far as I can tell, if you claim to be within the acceptable age range for the game then you will be allowed to play. However, the number of questions you answer correctly determines the amount of raunchy material you’ll get to see in the game. I’m not sure exactly what the differences are, though I’ve heard the sex scenes are very toned down in the lower levels. If you’re not as awesome as I am and don’t know who Josephine the Plumber was, you can just press Ctrl-Alt-X when you get to the questions and skip the protection entirely.
Graphically, Larry 3 looks even better than 2, though we’re still in “enhanced” EGA 16 color territory. Backgrounds have more complex animations, cut scenes and close-ups look better, and mirrors actually work.
Sound-wise, the entire game is finally fully scored, leaving behind the awkward silent rooms of its brethren. There’s one caveat with the music, however. Unless you’ve got an actual DOS machine up and running, and more power to you if so, you’re probably going to run this beauty on good ol’ DOSBox or a similar program. You’ll have two choices for music: SoundBlaster or Roland MT-32. The old Sierra games were written for the MT-32. If you’re used to SoundBlaster midi, you’ll be fine, but if you actually compare the two you’ll quickly agree that MT-32 sounds far, far superior. But, you’ll need an MT-32 emulator like MUNT, and throughout the game, MUNT would occasionally cause notes to “stick” when I changed screens or opened a menu. So if a piercing whistle was going off when I went to restore my game, that whistle would get stuck and I’d have to listen to it incessantly or quit DOSBox and restart. Even so, I still chose to deal with this in order to hear the game as it was meant to be heard.
Much like a woman after a drunken night with Larry, Larry 3 seems to wake up to the homely visage of Larry 2, kick it out of bed, and take a long refreshing shower. Everything you enjoyed about the first two games is here with almost none of what you hated, plus several welcome surprises as well. Whether you are a longtime adventure fan or a newcomer to the genre, you will definitely get a kick out of this game.
A perfect balance of the best qualities of its older brothers. One of the best adventure games I’ve ever played.
Since it’s still an early adventure game, it is possible to screw up and need to restore, meaning multiple save games are still a must. You’ll need the manual.
“Move behind the screen, Patti! No one here wants to see your naked, sensuous body.