Developer: High Voltage
Release Date: October 5, 2004
To make use of the smoking hot computer that I had acquired in the early '90s (complete with "Turbo" button), I ventured into gaming, playing titles such as Police Quest and King's Quest. It was also at this tender age that I was introduced to the hot pixelated babes of Leisure Suit Larry. As an indicator of the hardware improvements over the years, games have evolved from pixelated 2D titles to amazingly detailed 3D environments and character models. Vivendi's latest offering, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, capitalizes on these hardware and graphical advances, but how does this installment compare to the previous titles in the series?
The main focus of the game is around "Swingles," a dating show similar to the intellectual fare that we see on television nowadays, Blind Date, Fifth Wheel, and Elimi-date. Three girls duke it out for one guy, no other than Larry Lovage, the nephew of the original LSL character. Larry is nowhere near stunning, but he sure thinks he is perfect for the show, so he must obtain tokens of affection from the ladies to prove the "Swingles" cast that he is really a ladies' man. The only way to achieve this is to score on the girls so let the Swingling begin!
There are a total of four Swingle missions, which each having a set amount of mandatory objectives which must be met in order to progress. There are also a whole slew of extra goals, which usually consist of successfully courting two out of three pre-selected women. The final mission requires you to court all three women in order to confirm that you have the necessary womanizing skills to be a contestant on the show. To verify that you have actually courted the women, you must bring back tokens of their affection. You can avoid the last girl and bring back only two tokens, but if you want to achieve the 100% completion rate, it's suggested that you court them all.
Larry's womanizing skills are represented by minigames, the most common one being Talking. This game is something similar to a maze, where you navigate a little swimmer through a sea of red and green dots, trying your best to avoid the bad comments (red) and hitting the good comments (green). It's similar to Karaoke Revolution, but rather than using a voice to hit the note, you must use your controller to hit the correct region (high, middle, low). This is probably the easiest minigame, but it's a pain when you fail because you will have to redo the entire thing and hear the same lines of dialogue again. The second most popular minigame is Quarters, a common college drinking game which consists of: attempting to bounce a quarter into a glass, drinking with each failed attempt, and repeating until one side is too drunk to continue. You can tell how drunk either party is by looking at the bodies in the bottom left and right corners of the HUD. Quarters is probably one of the hardest games to master, but the tactic that worked for me is to move the left analog stick about halfway back and then swing it up in one smooth motion. You really want to win here because this is usually the last game you play before you get some sweet lovin'. Other minigames you will need in order to woo the ladies are: Rhythm, Slaps, Whack-a-mole, Bartending, Pose, Avoidance, Photos, and lastly, Water Sports. Since these minigames are the premise of the game, I will be going into detail for each.
The Rhythm games are the trampoline/dancing ones which play similarly to Space Channel 5. What you have to do is follow the button/thumbstick sequences that are voiced and displayed at bottom of the screen. Timing is crucial but it should be easy for Dance Dance Revolution players, if it weren't for the fact that the button lag in this game is horrid.
Slaps is the game that I commonly played with my sister on trips when we are bored. This is where two people have their hands on top of one another, one with palms facing up and the other with palms facing down. The one with palms up tries to slap the other before they can pull their hands away. You fake out the opponent until you can hit them, but if you miss, the two will switch positions, and the game ends only when one can no longer endure the pain. Because it brought back fond childhood memories, I personally liked this, but once again, button lag kills the greatness of it.
Whack-a-mole is the drink-making game which plays much like DDR and Mad Maestro. This game relies heavily on hand-eye coordination; the instant you see a button on the screen you must hit it before time runs out. It seems easy, but you will hate it when you get to the final mission, and the speed is insanely fast (never knew coffee was so difficult to make)! You can have up to five mistakes, but once you hit that fifth one, the game's over.
The only minigame I can consistently win is the Bartending one. If you remember the old school game Rootbeer Tapper, then you already have a head's up on how this minigame plays. The game forces you to throw paper or food at oncoming people or animals to keep them from reaching your point and ensuring that they do not litter. You will grow to hate having to clean up after them especially on the last stage of these missions because it gets chaotic (yet another victim of button lag).
At the top of my minigame hate list is Pose. Essentially, you need to make sure that a certain number of people get word about an event. This is simple when there are no restrictions, but in some situations, you can only advertise to certain people. For example, one of the DIO fraternity's initiations is that you must invite a set amount of girls to the party, but the show's over if you end up inviting a guy. Here's a pointer to take into consideration: messages are spread through a circular route, not necessarily to an immediate chat partner. For example, if you see a girl who should get the message but is talking to the guy next to her, you should make sure that she is at the outskirts of the circle before issuing an invitation (the "circle" is invisible, and you need to figure out for yourself just how large it is).
In the minigame Avoidance, Larry picks up a set amount of items and makes a run for the exit, trying his best to not get caught by the guards. You are usually equipped with five cheese decoys, which can buy you some time. At times, the arrow points you in the wrong direction, but I've found that it's not necessary to use them most the time.
Photos is pretty self-explanatory, the game forces Larry to take pictures of the specified target trying to produce the "perfect" picture. To get the perfect picture, you must get the perfect distance, timing, and angle or you may end up with a picture clearly not worth the film. This requires practice, but you will have several chances so don't worry.
The game that I've only played once is the Water Sports, such as "Wet T-shirt Contest." Rather than have a judge grade who is wettest or hottest looking, the goal here is just to soak as many girls as possible.
So how do these minigames come into play for courting a girl? Each character has a different sequence of minigames, but they start to feel repetitive over the course of the game. The only real difference I felt is that certain characters had prerequisites before you could even talk to them, but most the time, money is enough to appease the significant other.
Money is hard to come by. The best ways to make some is to find it in objects lying around the 3D world or to play Whack-a-pole or Bartending, which pays out when you complete the minigame. Whack-a-pole is pretty much a Pong game, where you are playing both sides and just try to keep the rally going until Larry's ready to … This is usually used to raise your confidence, but at the sperm bank, you can use this to earn money.
Money isn't only used for the girls, there are many other reasons money are used in this game. For example they are used to play minigames, buy new accessories or clothing, purchase cheats, and lastly, just to get drunk. This may be the main system for this game but there is another form of currency which unlocks much more.
The other system would be the tokens, which are used to unlock the deep secrets of the game such as nude models, loading screens and other items of interest. I have not bothered with this much, but rumor has it that you can unlock a full nude version of the characters, with the appropriate bits censored out.
Aside from the censorship, the graphics are neither bad nor spectacular. The game provides the cartoony feel similar to the old LSL games, improving from its last installment on visuals such as the surroundings and character models. To me, the characters in the game did not resemble the supposed "real-life models" that you see during the loading screens. The load time for each mission and minigame is simply unbearable; while this problem may have been addressed in other versions, it is definitely an issue on the PS2.
Music in the game isn't all that noticeable, but when you do notice it, it fits the situation well. I love it when I heard Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" while competing in one of the Rhythm games. The sound that you may probably hear the most is Larry talking about the objects you see, his conversations with the ladies, and lastly, his farting (he farts whenever you hit X). This sound isn't nearly as bad as hearing him pee in public, which is recommended for becoming sober. With these weird noises, I'm glad they had good voice actors, as they generally fit the characters quite well. In the end, all characters get annoying, especially when you fail a conversation and have to listen to the same old lines again.
In Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, it seemed like High Voltage gathered many good ideas that had been used by other companies and placed them into one game instead of coming up with hot new ideas of their own. It also seems that the game isn't really much of an adventure but a collection of minigames. One thing that it does keep from its predecessors is the nudity and profanity, which is why the game is rated "M," and it's strongly suggested that you are at least 17 to play. This title might appeal to some, due to Larry's comical lines and the sheer number of half-naked girls so I'd recommend renting before purchasing.
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