(Editor's note: This review primarily discusses the 1987 version of Leisure Suit Larry 1.)
In the beginning there was Softporn. And Al Lowe saw it, and it was good…
In 1981, Sierra released the game Softporn for the Apple II, one of the first adult adventure games to hit the marketplace for the burgeoning personal computer market and the only non-graphical game released by Sierra. Time featured the game in its first column on computer entertainment, and Sierra went on to sell 25,000 copies of the game. That figure isn’t particularly spectacular until you consider that, according to Al Lowe, there were only 100,000 Apple II computers on the market at the time.
Several years later, Ken Williams asked Al to take home Softporn and see if it could be updated to fit a modern day storyline and use a graphical interface. Al took the game home and came back to Ken, telling him, “…it’s so behind the times it might as well be wearing a leisure suit!” And so Larry was born.
Written in 3 months and released in 1987, the game went on to sell a disappointing 4,000 copies its first month. Al moved on to bigger and better things, only to see Larry hit the top 10 solely from word of mouth 6 months later.
But enough with the history already. Years later Larry has become an icon for adventure gamers, and this is where it all started.
You play the game as Larry (known in later games as Larry Laffer) looking for a night on the town with some lovely ladies using only your charm, good looks, and $94.00 in your pocket. It’s a simple story, and rightly so; part of the charm of the LSL series is that at heart it’s just a lonely man looking for love (or sex) anywhere he can find it.
LSL was written using the same AGI engine used for the early games of other Sierra Quest series, so there’s really nothing new or innovative here if you have played any of the other games. Backgrounds are well detailed considering the 300*200 screen size, and in true Sierra format all have hilarious descriptions if you look at them. The only problem with the graphics in the AGI engine is that it is very easy to overlook small items that you may need later, so make sure to always do a Look command when you enter a room.
Sound is great considering that we’re talking about a straight computer speaker soundtrack. The music is appropriately bouncy and fits the tone of the game, and there is no way you’ll finish the game without catching yourself humming the theme song at least once.
Game-play is typical of other AGI games, and consists of navigating Larry with your arrow keys and interacting with your environment through the use of a text parser. And let me say that this is one of the best text parsers I have seen put into a game. Not only does it understand a much larger range of words that most other titles, but Al Lowe went one step further to make sure that you wouldn’t see as many of the “I don’t understand what you’re asking” messages as are present in other games, text and otherwise (ahem…Syberia…). Half of the fun in LSL is typing in odd phrases just to see what the game will say in response, and it almost always has a response.
Puzzles are mostly of the fetching variety; with each woman you meet needing something to satisfy her before she satisfies you. Puzzles are well done, and logical for the most part if you are in the right mindset for the game. Just be aware that, as with most Sierra adventure games, you can die if you are not careful -- and often you can die even if you are.
The only downside to the game is that it is rather short, and can be easily completed by an experienced gamer in a few hours. But in true Sierra fashion, the game is filled with elements that will keep you coming back to the game after it is solved. The game uses a point system that rewards for successful puzzle solving as well as for taking actions that are outside of the main story but within character, lending a sense of exploration to the otherwise static storyline.
All in all, this game is a classic in the adventure game genre, and deserves to be so. But if you really want to experience this game in all of its glory, be on the lookout for the VGA remake, created in the SCI engine with 256 colors and point & click interface, and find out why people are clamoring for the new entry in the series later this year.