Fresh off my very enjoyable play through both version of Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, I was quite excited to load up the second installment in Al Lowe’s adventure game series: Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (In Several Wrong Places). I expected another sex-filled romp through the life of terminal loser Larry Laffer replete with the uproarious wit and challenging puzzles I had come to expect. But, while I can ultimately say that I recommend this game, it’s not without a few reservations.
Larry 2 picks up right where the previous game ends. If you don’t want any plot spoilers from Larry 1, I suggest you skip this paragraph. We open on Larry dutifully mowing the lawn outside the house of his dream girl Eve. It looks like Larry and Eve have moved in together after their hookup in Larry 1, but when Eve arrives home, she is shocked to discover Larry and can’t even recall his name. Apparently Larry was just a one night stand to her. She unceremoniously kicks him to the curb and so Larry’s girl hunt begins anew.
The distinction this time is that Larry’s not just after tail. He wants to give up his lounge lizard ways and settle down with a woman he truly loves! Yes, it’s only the second game and our hero is already reforming. As creator Al Lowe tells it, he had hoped to increase the game’s accessibility by toning down the sex and focusing on a real story. It didn’t work, of course. Parents and retail stores that had been scandalized by the first game weren’t going to give the sequel a shot. But it was a great windfall for fans. Despite complaints that Larry had “gone soft” (drum fill), the addition of an actual plot added a lot to the gameplay and served as a model for the balance of story and sex found in future installments.
And don’t think there aren’t girls. There are plenty of girls. You can even get intimate with a few of them. The only catch is that these attempts will almost always result in your death at the hands of the KGB. Oh wait, let me backtrack a bit here. You see, Larry’s been confused with a Russian spy who is his exact double. Unbeknownst to him, Larry has his hands on an incredibly important roll of microfiche that the baddies will do anything to recover. Luckily, he’s just won not only a free cruise, but also a million dollar lotto prize. So he should have no trouble staying on the lam.
Unfortunately this is where the annoyances begin. Because those sneaky KGB bastards are constantly on your ass, death lurks around every corner. And by every corner, I mean at least every other screen. Food is poisoned, drinks are spiked, and every proposition from a beautiful woman is most assuredly a trap. Of course, with Larry’s looks, that was pretty much a given. This really keeps the game interesting, which is necessary during the middle when the story seems to be losing steam, but it can also get irritating. Not since Maniac Mansion have I seen a game so hell-bent on punishing you for exploring. You will literally want to save before and after everything you do to ward off the backtracking that will come from an unexpected blow dart to the neck.
And if you’ve never played an old Sierra game, let me tell you ahead of time to use multiple save games. You see, Sierra used to have this fun habit of making games that let you progress even if you hadn’t found all the items you needed from an area. For Larry 2, Al Lowe knew he would need six floppies worth of disk space, so he created six distinct areas that you visited one after another, with no way to go back. He hated having to constantly switch disks during a game. But you’ll be longing for backtracking when you realize at the very end of the second area that you need an item you should have picked up at the beginning of the game. Or worse, you may not realize it at all and be completely lost. I have played several games with this maddening quirk, and have never had as much trouble as I had with Larry 2.
The death messages do try to give you a hint as to what you did wrong, but you still can’t correct the problem unless you thought to keep a save game allowing you to go back to the necessary area. Unfortunately, the game only allows a fixed number of save slots regardless of hard disk space. So about two thirds of the way through, you’ll have to start deleting old saved games in favor of new ones, hoping you won’t need the data later. Compared to Larry 1, which basically kept the entire game world playable throughout, this is a major shortcoming.
And here’s a bonus: a lot of these sections are TIMED. I didn’t even figure out my goal on the cruise ship until it was already too late to achieve it.
Additionally, the text parser returns and it’s even more finicky than before. In fact there is a documented bug in the final pivotal command of the game that causes it to suddenly require articles like “the” to be used for successful parsing. (Search Al Lowe’s official site for info on getting past this and why it isn’t his fault.) But unlike Larry 1, the freedom to type any phrase you want doesn’t outweigh the headaches. In fact, Larry 2 has shockingly bad text recognition and almost no hilarious responses for unknown commands like the first game did. Nearly any unrecognized word will illicit the reply “Don’t you ever say WORD to me again!” If you choose to look at an item with no description, even one that doesn’t exist, you get “It doesn’t look interesting.” Using an imaginary item gives you “It’s of no use.” This from the guy who wrote the MASTURBATE command (which does reappear with a less funny comeback).
Perhaps the lack of Easter eggs in the code and the stock responses is because the game was rushed to completion. This surely seems to be the case when you examine the final area of the game. I won’t reveal anything, but suffice it to say that even Al has admitted that he ran out of time and floppy space and pretty much just made the entire ending a non-interactive cut scene.
Fortunately, by the time you get to that cut scene, you won’t care, because by that point the story has picked back up from it’s mid-game slump and you’ll be thoroughly enjoying it again. In fact just when I was fed up with this game and the ever increasing trips to the walkthrough it was causing me, it started to win me over.
Despite its obvious flaws, this game is really quite fun. It’s far funnier than its predecessor. I actually laughed out loud several times, a phenomenon that didn’t occur in the first game. I’m chuckling just thinking about one fantastic joke in particular that I won’t give away here. There are several great running gags including the reappearance of the exact same barbershop in every area you visit and the description you get when you look at a new girl which is always the same description with one key detail changed. Al also took the immersion concept from the first game to the next level by allowing you to enter your favorite trite phrase (i.e. “Have a nice day!”) The phrase you type will then be used by almost every character you meet.
The deaths, while annoying, are consistently funny and often accompanied by elaborate animations or cut scenes of Larry meeting his demise. Also, while the secret parser jokes are gone, the other in-jokes are still quite present. Multiple references to other Sierra games exist, and if you find them, by way of the look command, you’ll often earn extra points. Best of all, the native chief is an obvious parody of Sierra president Ken Williams who forces you to prove your manhood by writing a program in assembly language.
The graphics are a step up from the original. It’s still 16 color (I think), but you’ll get a lot more variation in the palette as well as shading for added dimension. The sound gets a much needed beef up as well. MIDI tunes accompany you on your quest and a sting from the Larry theme plays each time you get a point.
On another quick technical note, the tamer subject matter means no age verification quiz like the first game, but there is a copyright protection feature. Each time you play you’ll be presented with a girl from your little black book whose phone number you’ll have to correctly enter to proceed. Your little black book is, of course, the game manual which you must surely have if you didn’t pirate the game, right? If you’ve lost it, it can be found numerous places online, but the easiest solution is to just enter 0724 for any girl. This is Al Lowe’s birthday and the code he used to skip this screen while testing the game. But be warned, you’ll miss the opening cinematic with this cheat so it’s worth looking up the numbers at least once to see it.
I started out loving this game, began slowly to hate it, and then finally settled on “pretty good”. Just resign yourself to the fact that if your trying your damnedest on a puzzle and can’t get it, it’s almost certainly because you didn’t type the exact phrase the parser wanted or you’re missing an item that you no longer have access to. Come to terms with the fact that the walkthrough will be your occasional companion on this one. I got into the habit of completing an area entirely by myself, but then checking the walkthrough to see if I’d missed anything so I wouldn’t be at a disadvantage for the next area. It’s up to you.
Ultimately, if you liked Lounge Lizards, or your planning to play Larry 3 which references the plot of this game often, you’re going to want to give Looking for Love a spin. It’s much too difficult and that’s mostly a function of the technical choices rather than the creative ones, but the experience is there. And if nothing else, the jokes are even more solid than before. If you didn’t like Larry 1 or never bothered with it, I can’t recommend this. You’ll need the intro to the character and the training the first game provides if you even hope to muddle your way through this game’s flaws to reach the fun underneath.
Even funnier than the first. Plus there’s a full story this time!
Feels rushed from start to finish and you’ll never know if you found every item or tried every option until it’s too late to go back. Hope you have a save game.
“You are so impressed! You’ve never had a girl invite you to her pad before–Not to mention her landing pad! ‘Perhaps if things go well tonight’ you think to yourself, ‘I could give her a subscription to Popular Mechanics!'”