Along with pals Zak McKracken and Guybrush Threepwood, Leisure Suit Larry stands erect as one of the early alpha males of the adventure game genre. And though the scene has just about just about dried up at this point, hope lives on through his younger, snarkier nephew in Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust. They say that the apple never falls too far from the tree, but sometimes you have to wonder just how steep some hills can be.
Larry Loveage has got it bad. Unemployed and suffering from a severe case of blue balls, prospects for the 20-something loser have begun to look slim, until his familiar face rings him up with the opportunity of a lifetime. Now an entry level grunt for his famous uncle's film studio, Larry finally has the chance of making it big, but he'll have to prove himself first.
It's your typical rags to riches story, dusted in with shallow attempts of the series' raunchy comedy. Problem is that most of the gags fall flat, and the game's attempts at being funny often result in jokes that are more offensively shocking than chuckle-worthy. The writing is crude, the characters unlikable, and there's just a general griminess to the whole deal. We suppose you can't expect much when the script credits come from "that dude" in all those Adam Sandler movies (Allen Covert).
Box Office Bust takes a steady departure from past Leisure Suit Larry games. In place of the old Sierra-style adventure format, the game drops the lovable lothario into the open world sandbox of Laffer Studios: the bees' knees of movie magic, nestled in the hills of Tinselwood. Here, you'll have to take on a number of menial tasks as a bottom-tier lot worker. And by menial, we mean the incessant regurgitation of the same timed fetch quests over and over. It's so bad that even the game takes a crack at it. Variety is not its strongest suit, and come to think of it, not much is.
When you're not scampering around the studio like a gopher, which is basically never, you'll indulge in a few side games. You can race around the lot, if you can navigate the confusingly-placed waypoints placed conveniently behind walls. Then there's the shooting, yes, shooting, segment, which is like the bastard lovechild of Eat Lead and Mad Dog McCree. Or, you can always go for the branching dialogue-styled seduction game. But no one in their right mind would even want to hook up with these girls.
Players can take comfort in knowing that everything in Box Office Bust is universally busted. The design, the women, everything. The game's sandbox approach is merely a band aid to cover up its poorly implemented individual ideas. Save for the mildly interesting directing mini-game, there's nothing fun or funny to take part in.
If there's one thing worse than the repetitive tasks in Box Office Bust, it's attempting to navigate them with the game's clunky handling. For whatever reason, the creators decided to give Larry a double jump and wall leap maneuver. You know, for when studio interns need to scale tall buildings. This is all fine and dandy, until you really start to dig into the game's poor platforming sections. Turns out that Larry is just about as nimble as Ryu Hayabusa on the juice. Expect to take plenty of hard plunges. It's an incredibly frustrating affair, and one that's exacerbated by shoddy controls, your progress resetting every time you take an untimely fall, and a camera that bucks harder than a bronco.
Larry doesn't fare all that well on solid ground, either. Every once in a while you'll butt heads with surly film extras in combat bits so laughably unresponsive and bad that you might garner some unintended levels of amusement from it. In a game like this, you'd do well to take any form of hoopla you can get, but unfortunately those moments don't come around nearly enough.
When you think of Leisure Suit Larry, you think of scintillating vixens oozing sexy pixels on the screen. One glance at Box Office Bust and you'll be wondering what went horribly wrong. It borders on irrational, but the game's hideous art style will incite a strange, inexplicable feeling of disgust. It's just that ugly. Seriously, look at Larry's mug on the box cover. The girls use the same art style, and they're simply not attractive.
Unsettling lighting effects make the character models resemble horrific rejects from the Howdy Doody show, and primitive shader technology makes it seem as if the team touched up the graphics with a hasty wash of the MS Paint airbrush tool. Eyes and teeth glisten with a ghastly glow, and you'll probably, sadly, get more of a kick from the game's array of glitches than its actual attempts at comedy.
Box Office Bust does feature a decent spread of voice talent that you'd think would pull through. But with material so abominable, you'll spend more time wincing than laughing.
A horrible joke in and of itself, if you buy Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust the joke will be on you. We can think of a good number of other uses for your two hands; and we're using our to give this stinker two thumbs way down.