Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (1991)

Let's make one thing clear right off the bat: there is no game called Leisure Suit Larry 4. Despite Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work is numbered as Larry 5, there has not been a game before it that has carried a number 4 on the title. But I'm sure you all know that all ready.

What you might not know is, why. Back in the early 90's, after completing Larry 3, Al Lowe was working on a joint Sierra and AT&T project in order to create a platform for online gaming during a time, when there still was no standards around. You might have heard of the project, called The Sierra Network. Well, technology being what it was, there was a ton of difficulties in that project and while Al Lowe had some plans of making Larry 4 a multiplayer adventure of sorts, that failed to happen, as the time just wasn't ripe. There's a long story of it at Al Lowe's own site.

Anyhow, Al was tinkering with Larry 4 and one day a co-worker asked him, what was he up to, Larry 4? To that Al said, that no, he was making Larry 5. And it hit him: why not? Larry 4 could be handled as a joke, so why not add another layer to the plot of Larry 5. And so, Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work was born.

Again, just like in Larry 3, you get to play with both, Patti and Larry. Larry is again fully oblivious of the larger plot around him. He's lost his memory, having no idea what has happened in Larry 4. He finds himself working for a sleazy porn movie company in Hollywood, with a glorious task of being a tape rewinder.

A meeting where Larry's future endeavours will be decided. This particular scene isn't the strongest comedic material despite, unlike this caption, it does try.
The company just happens to be looking for an idiot, whom they could use to test potential female hosts for their new show ”America's Sexisrs Home Videos” and they've come to a conclusion, that if the women can't resist sleeping with a dolt like Larry, they'd be so overly sexed, that one of them must be what the show needs. Little does Larry know, that there's mafia behind all this and it's Patti, who knows more of these matters, as she's hired by the FBI to infiltrate the ranks of the music industry in order to find out the secret of subliminal messages in music records. Yeah, the plot is pretty glorious nonsense all in all, but that's nothing new for a Larry game.

The game itself is pretty clearly divided: as a Larry your goal is to get it on with the three chosen candidates and Patti is the active part in doing the sleuthing. Both parties are fully unaware of each other, as Larry has forgotten all about Patti and Patti just doesn't know where Larry has gone to. What separates LSL5 from the previous games is, that this time around it really is more of a plot-driven game. It has far more narration and cutscenes than any previous Larry game.

Patti is hired by the FBI to infiltrate music industry. What follows is a kind of a James Bond spoof, but surprisingly enough with less sex.
The structure of the game also allows missing some stuff during the progress. You need to do certain things in order to advance, but there's also a lot of puzzles that provide towards the final score but aren't necessary. Especially with Patti, it's easy to miss some extra activities. LSL5 also is the easiest game in the series and Al Lowe himself acknowledges it to the fact, that it was the first mouse-driven game he designed, so he wasn't fully aware of how much easier the puzzles would turn when you can just click everywhere instead of trying to figure out a correct phrase for the parser. Also, this time around neither Larry or Patti can die in the game and there's really no terrible dead ends either.
Anyhow, after Larry has done his thing and Patti hers, they'll finally reunite in the end at a celebration dinner at the Whitehouse. Patti is there because the FBI detective Desmond promised her a gig there, playing for the brass of the country and Larry is there, because the dinner is held in his honor, as he managed, somehow, to rescue a plane full of people by landing it after the pilot noticed his contract was over and as a good union man wouldn't fly anymore.

Together again, but not for long, as Patti won't be in any of the future games.
Only a small scrap of Larry's plot has anything to do with the overarching story, that is largely on Patti's shoulders. In the end, they'll find out that America's Sexiest Home Videos was a mafia ploy to increase decreasing porn sales and whatnot, but other than that, Larry's side brought in nothing more but a small amount of pretty mild titillation.

But yeah, Larry and Patti are together again. At least for a weekend, as the game states, and as we know from the next two games, she was out of Larry's life after this one, as she isn't in either of the sequels. That's partly because Al Lowe never did figure out what to do with her: she was kinda like female Larry, but smarter and sexier. And I guess Al didn't really want to make her the butt of a joke like he likes to do with Larry, so that's that for their romance.

Graphically Larry 5 is one of my favourites in the series. It has a similar style to the VGA remake of LSL1, but the art direction feels stronger and the design if overall more pleasing. All the backgrounds are, at least they seem to be, traditionally painted and they look gorgeous. It's a shame really, that there's no higher resolution version of the game around, as the background art alone would be worth it. This game also fully shows Larry as a cartoon character he always was on the box covers of the series. In LSL1, as he was just a few pixels, it wasn't fully evident if he was meant to be cartoonish or not, though there was the now infamous suicide death scene, where he was depicted as a long-nosed toon. In 2 and 3, especially in the second game, Larry is shown in more realistic manner, but in here he's short, balding long-nosed dork that he's better known as.

Another day, another dollar at the PPC for Larry
Sadly enough the game came out in a time period when voice acting wasn't yet a thing, so with a few expectations in sound effects, the game has no voice acting. Music is pretty solid though. Overall the game keeps the strong musical touch that LSL3 already had going on, and which carries through the rest of the series, turning more and jazzier by the title.

All things said, LSL5 isn't a great game as such. While it's designed to be fairer than it's predecessor, it also feels a bit lazy in script and design. The jokes feel old and tired and, just like in Larry2, the spy spoof isn't really handled in its all potential. It actually made me wonder had the game worked better if it had been a solo adventure for Patti and circled fully around the mob plot and her trying to find Larry, whereas Larry would have been mostly absent of the game, just to turn up at the end.

Also, I do need to say, that while the humour in LSL5 is pretty much what you'd expect of a Larry game, there's one specific joke that might not fit in that well in modern ages. Actually I don't think it meshed well back in the day it was released and that's blackface Patti: on one scene a copier explodes on her, blacking up her face and pretty soon she throws on a cheesy  MC Hammer suit, saying something in vein of "being able to mesh in better with the rest of the people in the studio". Not necessarily a joke, that would fly in games today.

Patti finding her way in the music biz. I wonder if the today's declined album sales have forced the business to go towards less lavish offices.
In any case, that's Larry 5. It's a title that was born as an interesting idea of how to jump over a bow-tied ending of the third game. It looks pretty nice, but looks don't make a great game. I don't want to call it a bad game, but it does feel a bit tired in the end.

Larry collection is available through GOG.