Written by: Rik

Date posted: October 25, 2014

Hello there and welcome to another discussion review. The game in question is Leisure Suit Larry: Love for Sail! – the seventh (technically, the sixth, given that the fourth game, The Missing Floppies, didn’t ever really exist) in the long-running adventure series. It all started in the late 80s with Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, in which the eponymous Larry, a middle-aged loser, visits the city of “Lost Wages” in an attempt to finally score with some women.

Several chapters later, we find our hero, recently dumped, embarking on a cruise in an attempt to once again find love (or lovin’). Sure enough, it transpires that the female captain of the ship runs a competition that allows the winner to both spend an extra week on the ship and share her cabin (ahem). Unable to win any of the competition’s various games and contests by legitimate means, Larry must find a way to cheat his way to the prize.

 

Stoo explains himself

Yes, this is an actual thing that happens.

Yes, this is an actual thing that happens.

Rik: Ok, well. Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail! (The exclamation mark tells you it’s funny). It was your choice – any particular reasons for it?

Stoo: Well, we’ve played a lot of Sierra adventures over the years, but we’ve kind of eschewed Leisure Suit Larry. I think it’s fair to say neither of us regarded ourselves as fans. I always thought it was a rather smutty, cringeworthy kind of humour. And kind of sexist too. But, I’d never actually sat down and played a game all the way through, so I thought we should at least give Larry a fair chance.

Rik: Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, eh?

Stoo: Exactly.

Rik: That’s fair enough. I kind of felt the same. I always criticised the series but in truth I’d only ever played a bit of an old LSL (can’t remember which one) on the Atari ST, for about ten minutes.

Stoo: I played one of them, briefly…might have been 5 or 6? And I was only playing because I was a teenager and there was the promise of nudity.

Rik: What made you pick the seventh game?

Stoo: Older Sierra games can be quite unforgiving – lots of ways to get killed, or screwing up such that you’re unable to complete the game. And we’ve covered a lot of the VGA-era stuff, so I felt like something from their latter days might be good for the sake of variety.

Rik: Ok. I kind of figured the more benevolent nature of newer adventures might have been part of it. Plus the fact this one is well liked by fans, so we give ourselves the best chance of getting on well with one of the games from the series. So in terms of past experience, basically, neither of us really have any. But Larry clearly has a big fanbase, if a $650k Kickstarter for a remake of the first game is anything to go by.

Stoo: Yeah, he was probably one of PC gaming’s most recognizable mascots back in the day. Clearly that sort of humour works for a lot of people.

 

Not hanging around

Rik: Hm. So, well, let’s not hang around: what did you think, in general? Change your preconceptions at all?

Stoo: I still don’t find the boner and beaver cheese jokes funny. The innuendo and sexual references are generally pretty lame. I realise of course that humour is very subjective…

Rik: I groaned about 1000 times during the course of the game. And if I was in the game, the narrator would have said, “Well, it’s not the first time you’ve been found groaning alone in front of your computer” or something similar.

Stoo: The narrator is actually probably what I found the most amusing. Just because he’s fairly sardonic, and there’s a bit of fourth wall breaking since he and Larry interact.

Rik: I think I laughed a couple of times. Once at the foul-mouthed Peggy – just because I find bleeped out swears really funny…

Stoo: Me too, although that reminds me of an “unneccessary censorship” video where they just bleeped out random words from NPCs in Skyrim, like “that dragon will come back to our town and !#&% us all”. And I laughed at that more than this entire game.

Rik: Possibly the second laugh was when Larry farts and then there’s some horrified screaming. But otherwise, it wasn’t really to my tastes. I’m looking down my notes and it’s just a list: “Beaver Cheese”, “Where’s Dildo?”, the condom icon, dick-shaped mushrooms…

The map. Not pictured: boobs and willies.

The map. Not pictured: boobs and willies.

Stoo: “I already have something long and hard and filled with sea-men”

Rik: Indeed. It might have been funny when I was 14. But probably not even then. It all seems terribly laboured.

Stoo: Right, plus there’s too much of it. Puns and innuendo have their place but I don’t want a game built out of them!

Rik: I find it very difficult to try and divorce the mechanics from the subject matter. I think I can kind of appreciate the open-ended structure – the fact you’re on a cruise ship and have fairly free movement to try and tackle the puzzles in whatever order you want, plus the fact can’t get hopelessly stuck or go down a blind alley.

Stoo: Yes, it is well structured. You can quickly jump from one location to another, so if you’re fed up with one puzzle, just go and look at another.

Rik: And I like the way things all fit together. In the course of trying to win one of the competitions, you unwittingly come across the solution to another.

Stoo: That happened a few times. I had no idea where to get mushrooms from then… fungus appeared in the mouldy shower after one of the ladies used it.

Rik: Yes, you have to leave the room and come back later. The example I noted was when you nick a couple of dice and cause a sculpture to come down, and then later you realise that helps you out with the horseshoe throwing competition. But acknowledging some of the skill in the design isn’t the same as enjoyment I don’t think. Or it isn’t enough, on its own. You can’t just go, “but is it a good adventure game?” Because if you don’t want to play as Larry and be bombarded with a certain type of humour, no clever puzzles are going to change your mind.

Stoo: Right, it’s difficult to be that detached about it. Adventures are as much about story, characters and atmosphere as puzzle solving.

Rik: You’ve got to be able to enjoy the journey, the company of the characters, the incidental details.

Stoo: And here the journey is…some dork tries to get laid amidst a barrage of knob jokes.

Rik: He’s got *such* an annoying voice, which doesn’t help.

Stoo: I’m glad we had the narrator too, just to have a regular voice that isn’t Larry. It can be kind of fun when he gives a dry response to Larry, or sets him up to look stupid.

Rik: I’m not sure that I enjoy the presence of a narrator. Sierra seemed to go in for them. I didn’t like it in Gabriel Knight, either.

Stoo: It worked for some Sierra adventures. Like King’s Quest, because they’re basically meant to be like a book of fairytale stories, come to life. So the narrator is like someone reading the book to you.

Rik: I remember trying to get into Space Quest, using a similar strategy to the one we’ve used here with LSL and starting with SQ6. And there was some sarky narrator on that which just annoyed me. I like the idea of a double act, but obviously it won’t work if you don’t like either part of it.

Stoo: I guess you don’t want them to be too clever or sarky. The LSL7 guy is just kind of faintly fed up with Larry, which works out okay. Although I guess he still takes some of the blame for the lousy gags.

 

Technique

Hmm....

Hmm…

Rik: Ok, well, moving onto the technical side of things, I found the interface better than old Sierra games, but still a bit annoying in places. It’s standard point and click, with some idiosyncrasies.

Stoo: Like the return of the text parser?

Rik: Well, there is that. I suppose it’s used fairly creatively…

Stoo: You don’t actually have to use it all that often.

Rik: “Fart”

Stoo: Ha, yeah, that, and one time in the opening stages. Oh and milking the beavers.

Rik: It’s not needed to do the core stuff, like you say, it’s more of a fun gimmick. I like the way it remembers the ones you’ve used before. So, if you’ve farted once, it’s added to your list of actions! Actually, though, I was thinking more of the way you can’t use things in your inventory, in that you have to click on the item in the game world and then select what you want to use it with. The inventory’s just for looking at stuff, or combining items in it together. I kept trying to click and drag the items into the game world.

Stoo: Yeah, it took me a while to get used to that.

Rik: The opening sequence had me floundering around, clicking madly. But I eventually got used to it.

Stoo: I think that’s when you first have to type in a verb yourself…”smash” window?

Rik: You get hints from the firemen, if you take too long. They tell you what to do via their megaphone.

Stoo: I think I got to that point, I was being kind of dim. “JUST SMASH IT LARRY”…”SMASH”…cue d’oh moment.

Rik: The visuals still look ok I think, although a bit blocky now. I like the cartoon style.

Stoo: Honestly I found some of the artwork a bit MSPaint.

Rik: Oh really?

Stoo: Yeah, I mean Day of the Tentacle did cartoony, in a more appealing style, several years earlier. I recall thinking those Dolly Parton-alikes were particularly badly drawn.

Rik: Actually, you’re right, I’m not sure I do actually like the style. But I guess we’re noting that they updated it significantly from previous games to make sure it looked more acceptable.

Stoo: Well it was a sensible move at the time.

Rik: I suppose the graphics kind of reminded me of Monkey Island 3/Broken Sword, but without the same kind of polish.

Stoo: Right, that’s exactly it.

Now this, I do find funny.

Now this, I do find funny.

Rik: We mentioned the acting. It isn’t my cup of tea.

Stoo: The voice acting for Larry is competent enough, just not a style that appeals to me. I mean with these 90s games you can tell sometimes when it’s one of the programmers trying to do the voice work, but here it sounds pretty professional.

Rik: Yep, it’s certainly not amateurish in its delivery.

Stoo: I’m not sure what’s going on with the ambiguously ethnic guy hidden away in the staff room. Is he meant to be Indian?

Rik: I have no idea.

Stoo: We might be verging onto more Serious Topics here but I had no idea what the hell he was about.

Rik: Well, we may as well get into it.

Stoo: You have 2 non-white people in the entire game. That guy…Xqwzts, he’s basically blackmailing you if I recall right? He has the dodgy photos?

Rik: “You here for dirty pictures?”

Stoo: Vaguely eastern music plays, and he does a yoga pose…

Rik: He sits on a bed of nails, and wears what looks like a fez.

Stoo: And…lederhosen?

Rik: Looks like it.

Stoo: I’m not sure even what point I’m trying to make with the character. He’s one of the few non-white guys, he’s very shifty and he’s also enormously confusing.

Rik: A hotch-potch of ‘foreign’ mixed together. Maybe that’s a joke, of some kind. I dunno, if it is it passed me by. There’s also the Chinese guy called ‘Wang’…except it turn out he’s Irish, or something. Anyway, while we’re on Serious Topics, we may as well talk about the gender politics.

Stoo: Right, seeing as depiction of women in games is a controversial issue these days.

 

Serious Topics

It's actually a drink. A COCK-tail, if you will(y).

It’s actually a drink. A COCK-tail, if you will(y).

Rik: I think it’s fair to say it isn’t a strong point of this game. There’s an argument that the joke is on Larry, because he’s a loser.

Stoo: Yes, to some extent. He’s not some kind of male power fantasy.

Rik: And because he’s unsuccessful, it’s sort of ok.

Stoo: Still, all women in this game exist as sex objects. They’re all scantily clad and voluptuous, and their reason for existing is so Larry can try and score with them. Which he does, a few times at least, despite being a loser.

Rik: Some would also point to the fact that that there actually isn’t an awful lot of nudity, either.

Stoo: Well, the female characters don’t need to be totally naked to be treated as objects. Also, notice how the one woman Larry isn’t trying his luck with is drawn as overtly hideous? She’s actually one of the more amusing characters, herself, but it’s like, in Larry land, women are either Jessica Rabbit, or old and ugly.

Rik: I was troubled a bit by the Victorian Principles character. Well, I say ‘a bit’…I mean, she’s an uptight librarian, then you give her a book on sex tips and suddenly she wants you. There’s another character who’s a gold digger and wants you to kill her husband, who is portrayed as old, ill and undesirable in the extreme.

Stoo: There’s that uninhibited nudist, although she’s actually less objectionable as she doesn’t actually have sex with Larry, so the “joke’s on him!” defence works a bit better, but her appearance in the game is still meant to provide titillation for the player.

Rik: Also, does the one gay character fancy you? Yes, of course, he does. Inevitably.

Stoo: Oh, I managed to miss that re: the gay character.

Rik: It’s the purser. He comes onto you, and then delights in seeing you naked when you go back to your room.

Stoo: Oh man, yes, I recall now.

Rik: And the ship is called the ‘PMS Bouncy’. Is it a referral to actual PMS ? You know, as in “a collection of emotional symptoms, with or without physical symptoms, related to a woman’s menstrual cycle”?

Stoo: I don’t get it.

Rik: Or is PMS just funny. And the word bouncy is funny. So together it’s really funny? I dunno. It’s not even a knob or boob gag. So, um, yeah, there are people who enjoy the game and will defend it from claims of sexism. But I’d have to disagree.

Stoo: It’s not like it’s outright hateful or something.

Rik: It’s smut.

Stoo: Yeah it’s meant to be all, just a laugh. But, I mean, I know several women who enjoy a bit of gaming, enough so that they might enjoy old adventures anyway, but would they have a laugh with this game? Would they be comfortable with how women are drawn?

Rik: I can’t speak for others, but I wouldn’t have thought so. [Note: perhaps we should have got Jo on board for this, although she’s been pretty busy recently, and I honestly can’t imagine she’d have wanted to play it. I checked later, and she confirmed as much…]

Stoo: Yeah, I wouldn’t make assumptions, I’m just enormously sceptical.

Rik: It’s not particularly nasty, I don’t suppose, but sometimes casual sexism can be the worst kind.

Stoo: It’s meant to be good natured. For all I know Al Lowe could be a great guy! It’s just not particularly enlightened.

Rik: I don’t really want to court controversy but I don’t want to chicken out of saying what I actually think. It’s certainly not the only sexist game in the world.

Stoo: No and I’ve seen stuff I objected to more than this. And generally I don’t see a problem with games sometimes having hot women. They just shouldn’t all exist as sex objects. And some of them should wear actual clothes.

Rik: I also think it’s ok to be able to enjoy, for want of a better phrase, problematic art. Things with problematic elements can still be entertaining. The trouble for me with LSL is I don’t find the humour funny either.

Stoo: Yeah. I mean, in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, the female character is dressed like a stripper, but it’s still a classic game. LSL7 really has issues on two fronts, sexism and lame jokes. Take those away and it’s a competently made adventure game but I don’t know if that’s enough to make it worthwhile.

Rik: Yeah, as we discussed, it makes it very difficult to enjoy. You can’t just “talk about the puzzles” – it’s all part of the overall experience. I guess we might come off sounding a bit serious and humourless here. But the jokes are fairly relentless, and there were times when I just thought, why have you bothered to do this? Like a lava lamp with dick and boob shapes…or the aforementioned willy-shaped mushrooms.

Stoo: Well I mentioned above, humour is ultimately one of the most subjective factors in media, so if people like that sort of thing, we’re not going to try and talk them out of it.

Rik: Some people may like it. But, I’ve played it now, and I just don’t. It was the same with Space Quest, I didn’t find that funny at all. And hence playing the game was like pulling teeth. I was pretty soft on it in the review really.

Stoo: I guess humour was never Sierra’s strong spot.

Rik: Well, some would disagree. But that’s fine.

 

So much for my happy ending

Worth a try, Larry.

Worth a try, Larry.

Rik: So, let’s see if there’s anything else to mention…I guess I quite liked the “Where’s Dildo?” hidden object sub-game, and the music that plays when you find one. Even if I didn’t find the concept of a dildo dressed in a red stripy jumper itself particularly amusing.

Stoo: Apparently completing “Where’s Dildo?” gets you an alternative ending.

Rik: Oh right. I didn’t quite manage that.

Stoo: Me either.

Rik: I noted with some amusement that the GOG version includes a PDF of the scratch and sniff card, ‘Cybersniff’, which seems a little pointless. Clearly there are some things that digital distribution can’t do.

Stoo: Yeah, there are a few other gimmicks. You can insert your own voice clips, and put your face in the game too.

Rik: You’d have to have a certain level of enthusiasm for the game to go down that road though.

Stoo: You probably also need a certain level of enthusiasm to properly play the Strip Dice game.

Rik: Oh God yes. For some reason I just couldn’t get it at first. It’s not that hard when you figure it out (the rules I mean, not winning).

Stoo: I just cheated, and I’m not sure how to convincingly say that wasn’t just to make the woman get naked faster, honest, please believe me! I just wanted it to be over faster. Same as I how I didn’t want to sit down and play poker in Police Quest.

Rik: Well, I sort of had a feeling Larry wouldn’t get what he wanted anyway. Anything else you wanted to mention?

Stoo: Did you manage to get into the bridge? The wheel-room, I mean. There’s a dog guarding it, I never got past it, then finished the game, so clearly there’s nothing essential in there. Was wondering if it had some Where’s Dildos in there or something.

Rik: I don’t think you can get in. You just need to raise the sails, which you can do another way. Anything else?

Stoo: Nope! I think we’ve covered it.

Rik: Are you tempted to try another game in the series?

Stoo: Not in the near future. I can think of several other Sierra titles I’m more keen on.

Rik: In summary then: it’s not for us. But we’ve tried it at least.

Stoo: We gave it a fair hearing.

[Final note: we didn’t actually discuss the score here. We went with 3 in the end, but Stoo would have been a bit more generous than me I think. He can overrule me next time we disagree!]