Sunday, November 1, 2009

Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust

Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust CoverLeisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust
Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Codemasters
Platform: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Released: March 27, 2009
Test Freaks' Freak Score: N/A
The original Leisure Suit Larry now owns a movie studio and he’s hired his nephew Larry (you) to uncover a mole who’s undermining Laffer Studios’ efforts to churn out quality T&A films. The first Leisure Suit Larry games were Sierra Adventures written by Al Lowe. Box Office Bust takes a GTA approach to gameplay. This says a lot about the history of gaming.

With Laffer Studios acting as the world map, Larry runs around doing missions for actors and executives, delivering packages, completing races and playing minigames. It’s GTA down to being able to carjack the golf carts driven around the studio lot. It’s just not fun. Controls are sluggish, the camera is wonky and the game chugs along from one sexual innuendo to another.

The best part of Box Office Bust is a minigame involving filming a scene with you picking the best camera angles. This is done realtime, so it requires quick decisions and fast reflexes while paying attention to the complete picture. It was smart and original and actually made good use of the game’s setting.

Out of some awareness that the studio missions vary between dull and frustrating, Box Office Bust has lengthy segues into dreamscapes based on western, horror, and other genre clich├ęs. I played the game up through the first dreamscape and, after spending too much time in an ill-conceived stealth mission, decided that trying to maneuver a video game character disguised as a cactus through a field of fart clouds was poor use of my free time.

Allegedly the game is powered by the Unreal 3 Engine, but the graphics don’t reflect it. Animations are choppy and collision detection is questionable. And I’m not sure how you can use Unreal to make lousy shooting levels, but it happens here.

Audio is much better, with a solid vocal cast featuring the likes of Artie Lange, Patrick Warburton, and Shannon Elizabeth. Sadly they’re given lines about people named Boo Khaki and mistake thespian for lesbian, but that’s the approach to sexuality Box Office Bust takes. For a game loaded with characters spilling over their tops and bragging about what’s in their jeans, there’s no nudity and no real sex. Just lots of innuendo and things shaped like penises.

I think I would have loved Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust when I was 12. Not that the game would have been any better, but in playing it I would have the sense that I was getting away with something — much like sneaking a look at my grandfather’s Playboys or laughing at the jokes my best friend brought home from his parent’s bar.