Land of the Lounge Lizards x 3 (+1) (1987, 1991, 2013, 1981)

 At first, there was a text adventure. It was called Softporn Adventure, originally made by Chuck Benton for Apple II computer and released in 1981 by On-Line Systems, later known as Sierra. The game was a sordid tale of a man trying to get rid of his virginity in sinful Las Vegas.

It starts in a sleazy bar, where drinks are expensive (I mean 100 dollars for a whiskey!?!) and drunkards carrying remote controllers sleep off their drunken haze in a restroom corridor. Then there's the toilet with a graffiti-filled wall, of which one is a password to the pimp standing in front of a way to a prostitute. This all might sound very familiar to you despite you'd never even played the game.

And it should sound familiar, as Softporn Adventure was remade a couple of years later by Al Lowe and turned into a graphical adventure Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987 to be more precise). This time the game used Sierra's then state of the art AGI engine. Some might call Softporn a source of inspiration, as the writing is vastly different, but let's face it: most of the puzzles have been translated pretty much 1:1 from the text adventure to the graphical incarnation. And besides, Chuck Benton is stated as one of the designers of Leisure Suit Larry 1 alongside with Al Lowe and Mark Crowe.

Let me illustrate with this little walkthrough:

Buy whiskey from the bartender, then take it and go to the corridor leading to the bathroom. Give the whiskey to the man sitting there and you'll get a remote control. Take flowers from the desk there and enter the dirty toilet. Read the graffiti on the wall to get the right password to the pimp and examine the washbasin in order to find a ring there.

Go to the bar and knock on the door/press doorbell. Give the password and enter the room. Turn on the TV there with the remote controller and flip the channels until you'll find a channel interesting enough to the pimp. Go upstairs, but don't do anything with the lady of the night. Steal her box of chocolates instead and exit through the window to the balcony.

I could go on, but theoretically, you could play either Larry 1 or Softporn through by using the same walkthrough. There are some differences, like one room that wasn't used in Larry 1 and some puzzles which are done in a bit different manner, but all the main locations and the girls are in both games. And a lot of the puzzles are pretty much the same. You even have the same need to gamble now and then in order to pad up your wallet so you can get through the game.

Two decades, two different insides of the (in)famous Lefty's bar.

The biggest difference, if you don't count the graphics and much smarter parser in Larry 1, is in the writing. Softporn isn't funny. It tries, but it's just poorly written and the bit of a snarky tone it has just doesn't work. Larry 1 is, in fact, kind of a parody of Softporn and turns the main character into a hapless idiot, who is not only easily taken for a ride by women much smarter than he is, but he also is the butt of the joke almost all the time. That makes a huge difference to the tone of the story as well as the jokes. We really aren't laughing with him, we are supposed to laugh at him and what he presents.

If you haven't played Softporn Adventure you shouldn't feel bad about it. It's not a good game. The parser alone makes it infuriating, as you need to spell out everything exactly right, otherwise, you won't progress anywhere. You spend a lot more time trying to figure out the right sentence rather than doing anything else. Sierra's parser in Larry 1 isn't the best one around, and definitely not the greatest thing ever made even in the 80's, but it was a lot smarter than Softporn ever was.

But if you have played Softporn, you might find Larry 1 to be surprisingly easy game. Especially because you'll spend a lot less time cursing with the parser system. And to make the game even easier, you could always play the first official remake of Larry 1, the VGA version done by Sierra in 1991, which added a mouse-driven UI and dropped the text parser completely.  1991 version also added a brand new soundtrack to the game thanks to far better support for sound cards. Or  you could always play, in my humble opinion the best version of the game, the Kickstarted Replay remake (2013), that added higher resolution graphics, spiffy soundtrack and pretty decent voice acting, expanded script, as well as mixed the puzzles a bit, but retained most of the structure from the previous games.

From text to shinier graphics. It's still the same game though.

2013 remake, subtitled Reloaded, removes a lot of the design flaws of the original games. It removes dead ends by adding alternative puzzles as well as it takes away the need to save the game all the time in the wait for inevitable Sierra deaths. You can die in the game, but mercifully you are booted back to the game near the location of your death so you can do things differently. There's also some brand new jokes and even a new girl for Larry to conquer, which in addition gives new puzzles. But still, you need to gamble.

See, money is mandatory in Larry 1, just as it was in Softporn. In order to make money, you need to gamble at the casino, or in the case of Reloaded anywhere you can find a slot machine. Instead of a puzzle, you are just given a chance to play blackjack, video poker or slots, which you play again and again as long as you have the money you need.

Now granted, it's not difficult, as you can just save and reload constantly in order to get the money you need, but it is tedious. And to add insult to injury you need to do it multiple times, at least twice, maybe, even more, times if you're playing the game the first time and are learning the ropes and don't know where you need to go. The other issue about the gambling is, that it stops the game from being funny. There'humourhumor in playing those casino games, so during that time, if you don't enjoy the gambling, you are just forced to do something monotonous.

As I said, I do think Reloaded is the best version of the game, but as such, the base game hasn't aged very well. For it to have been better the changes should have been more radical. But I guess, as it was a Kickstarter project, Al Lowe & co. were a bit too wary of changing the game too much, as that might have been a bit too alienating for the fans of the original. But I do know I wouldn't have minded. And critics and the modern gamers wouldn't have minded either, as Reloaded was pretty much slaughtered when it came out because of the subject matter and clunky game design. It also didn't help that the head of Replay managed to cause a lot of turmoil with his statements and behaviour, which ended up driving Al Lowe back to retirement and the lead writer Josh Mandel to get off designing games for a while.

This lady of the night will be either the death of you or your first conquest.

In the end, Larry is, despite not even being even half as raunchy nor sexist as he's sometimes made out to be, hopelessly a prisoner of his own time. He's the kind of a game character that has a hard time fitting in with the modern society, as times have changed quite a bit. He's not around, moustachioed plumber, that works well as a mascot or in a game meant for adults and kids alike. Despite his mildness, he still is a character that is an easy target, as it is far too easy to take him far too seriously, especially because not only do people have huge differences in sense of humour, the style of humour has changed a bit since the late 90's when Larry's last, and best game, Love for Sail! came out.

And yes, I deliberately leave out those two latter Larry Lovage games, as they barely have Larry Laffer in them. Plus I think they have a bigger fault at making Larry games look worse than they are, as those Codemaster games were far more sexist, misogynist and rude than Al Lowe ever was.

So, should I play Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards, I hear you ask. Well, yes and no. I guess that depends on the versions. The 2013 remake is a good starting point, as it does remove some of the annoyances and with the exception of the character art, it is the version I prefer, despite I'd hoped it would have been a more radical departure from the original.

The extra girl of 2013 remake can be seen in the pool.

After you've played the 2013 version, playing the old games really depends on if you liked it or not and if you want to see how the game itself evolved from the 1980's to the 21st century. Softporn I can recommend only with the help of a walkthrough, as despite it is structurally the same game, it is very precise about the parser commands and at times trying to figure out the exact phrase the game wants is just annoying.

But if you want to play the game I consider to be the best of the series, you could always go directly to Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail!. As a game, it's funnier, far better constructed, with good puzzles and sweet, sweet soundtrack.

The games are available on GOG in a collection that includes Larry games from 1-6. Love for Sail! and Larry Reloaded are separate packages. Or if you prefer, Reloaded is also available through Steam as well as for Android and iPad.

BTW, if you're wondering what Al Lowe is up to, he has his own web page you can give a look: