In the glory days of PC gaming Leisure Suit Larry was the kind of game you hid from your parents, and played when no one else was around because it was “dirty”. The original game created by Al Lowe was a huge hit when it first released because it was one of the first games to offer gamers a chance to interact with virtual women, and appeal to the horn dog crowd, while still being moderately fun and enjoyable. The quirky humor and likeable characters attributed to much of the game’s success, and for years the series thrived. Once Al Lowe left the project things became sour with the first console outing, turning the game into more of a mini-game marathon as opposed to the traditional puzzle style. Team 17 and Codemasters have resurrected the series once more for an appearance on consoles and PC. Sadly there are a number of things that make this experience not as nostalgic as this reviewer would have liked.
Much like the previous console version Box Office Bust features Larry Lovage; nephew of the original game’s protagonist Larry Laffer. This time around you have been summoned to come and work for your uncle (which is just a hop, skip and a jump from your trailer) at his new movie studio. In the spirit of the series you can probably imagine what kinds of movies are being made on this lot, and they sure are not Oscar caliber performances. This is the landscape for the entire game. You will be tasked with completing various odd-jobs around the studio, all while trying to sniff out a saboteur among your daily routine of hackneyed mini-games and mundane travelling.
The most obvious selling point for the game is the overly vulgar dialogue. If there is one thing I can guarantee you about Box Office Bust, it is that you will not likely hear anything this offensive in any game on the market. There is no question that Larry and everyone he encounters is an adult, well at least in the fact that they can talk about sexually explicit things without fear of being reprimanded. As far as what is said, it sometimes (ok most of the time) comes across as strictly juvenile and not very entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, I love adult comedy and can find humor in some of the raunchiest type of dialogue, but when it feels more like the developers were aiming for shock factor as opposed to humor, I tend to lose interest. Some of the things said in this game are downright offensive and unnecessary for the context of the game.
In a game where the dialogue and humor are obviously front and center, you hope it has some solid gameplay to back it up. Unfortunately there are a lot issues with Box Office Bust that make the game feel more like a chore than enjoyment. For starters the game is built as a sort of open-world game where you have this large area chock full of missions ranging from traditional platforming, to combat scenarios. On paper this sounds great, but in execution the miniscule details have to work first. Let’s start with platforming. Larry can jump, double jump and hang from edges like any other character ever created, and the problem is that the inputs are so laggy that you will spend a majority of your time falling to your death. Combat doesn’t fare much better with Larry feeling more like a drunken boxer than an established brawler.
You can kick, punch and perform a spinning death move that knocks enemies down, but all of them end up being an exercise in frustration when more than one enemy surrounds you. Blocking is also an option, but I highly recommend avoiding it at all costs as it is much more effective to run around and take pot-shots when available. All of these actions are even more infuriating thanks to the camera system, which seems to have a mind of its own. There are segments where you will be lining up a jump, knowing full well that you have to account for laggy control, just to have them foiled by the fact that mid-jump the camera whips around 180 degrees completely disorienting your view, thus causing you to fall to your death.
Amazingly not all is lost though as Box Office Bust does have some saving graces. For starters the dream sequences that Larry encounters are a touch more bearable than the exasperating mini-games. The best part about these is when you are filming the scenes in the movie you actually get to direct the final scene. This requires you to maneuver the camera into different positions to get the best shot. You almost get the sense that you are directing the actual movie as you must switch depending on dialogue and the action taking place. Perhaps this is the direction the entire game should have gone.
There are also a series of seduction mini-games that you can perform in between menial tasks that allow you to score with the ladies. Let’s face it; this would not be a Leisure Suit Larry game if our protagonist was not out trying to score. These dialogue sequences require you to answer a series of questions in an effort to coerce the lady back to your trailer. The biggest shocker; you simply cannot fail. No matter which choices you make or how much you answer poorly, the game will not let you be unsuccessful. This means that instead of offering a challenge you are forced to sit through painful dialogue until you find the right sequences of answers, so you can then watch Larry take the girl back to his trailer and watch it rock back and forth. Sorry kiddies there is simply no nudity to be found, not that you would want to see it if there was.
Visually the game doesn’t look terrible, but the character models have been designed with an odd direction. Most of the women in the game look stunted and drugged up. Character’s faces are overly rounded with gigantic eyes and sour expressions. The studio itself is not bad looking, but the framerate issues that pop-up when driving around are simply unacceptable for a game that doesn’t challenge the hardware. The audio is a mixed bag of excellent voice actors delivering questionable dialogue. The music is truly forgettable, and the sound effects are certainly nothing worth writing home about.
Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust is one of my most disappointing outing this year. Not only does it take away from what the original games did so well, it fails to execute even the simplest of gameplay necessities. The platform jumping is horrendous, the combat mechanics are atrocious and sitting through some of the dialogue is just plain painful. I was really looking forward to taking Larry for another journey down an adult road, but most of the comedy here is just plain infantile and not very funny. While there is certainly nothing else like it, there is very little reason to recommend Box Office Bust to anyone. There is a reason the game released at $19.99.