What gamer in his twenties or thirties doesn’t have fond memories of Al Lowe’s Leisure Suit Larry series? Perverted and harmless, Larry was rejected by woman after woman as he sleazed his way into any number of insane or awkward locations in search of a woman desperate enough to give in to his ridiculous advances. This was the charm of the series when it was under the control of Al Lowe. Magna Cum Laude, however, is neither under the control of Al Lowe nor really all that charming.
In this game, the player assumes of the role of Larry Lovage, the original Larry’s nephew who is currently in college and trying as hard as he can to get some action. At the beginning of the game, the crew of a hip game show named Swingles arrives on campus to find some contestants in time for Spring Break, and it’s Larry’s job to get on that show so he can get lucky with the finalists. This is where the game begins, if you can really call what happens afterwards a game.
What was once a franchise based upon clever jokes and point-and-click pixel hunting is now nothing more than an expensive version of Simon with nudity. There really isn’t any sort of mind work involved in Magna Cum Laude other than trying to figure out where to go next to seduce whichever girl necessary to make it on to the next round, or trying to find the guy that sells the unlock available to make the girls strip in the numerous sub-games. The sub-games themselves are amazingly simplistic and quite often very irritating.
Numerous times while playing this game I found myself wondering if I hadn’t accidentally visited a website full of Flash games instead of starting Leisure Suit Larry. There’s nothing wrong with Flash games, nothing at all, but you usually don’t have to pay forty plus dollars for them. This is, to say, that the games in Magna Cum Laude are rather shallow and require only the use of the four arrow keys and the enter key on your keyboard, or a couple of buttons on your controller. The only games that venture outside of the “hit a button, win a cookie” category are the extremely irritating “run around and do something stupid while being timed” games. Great fun. As I said before, it’s mostly an expensive Simon with nudity. The big difference is that while playing Simon, my wife has never shouted out “I WANT TO DIE” like she did while watching me play Magna Cum Laude.
The difficulty and length of Magna Cum Laude leave quite a bit to be desired. The game itself doesn’t take too long to finish and there really isn’t much of a reason to go back and play it again. In fact, why go replay it when you can just replay any moment in the game you like by going to the options menu? As far as the difficulty is concerned, there are only two types of games: the incredibly easy or hard. With the game’s default setting of “adaptive” difficulty, every three failure and retires of a game will give you the option to make it easier. On top of that, for the price of a few secret tokes, the game’s currency used to unlock nudity and bonus features, you can skip any game you like.
Now, on to something a little bit more positive: the dialog. Though it’s very juvenile most of the time, the actual writing for the game can be quite hilarious. There’s more than one occasion that will have most people smirking if not laughing while listening to the young Larry spout out terribly embarrassing or inappropriate statements. The one true area this game really does shine is the conversations Larry has with the many different characters, mostly female, throughout the game. Coupled with one of the less irritating mini-games, conversations are pretty fun overall. In order to converse in the game, the player must lead a smiling sperm through a maze of cocktails, bodily noises and wrong choices to choose the right thing to say in each situation. The actual parts of a conversation that Larry can say are represented by various symbols lined up in a row that will have two red choices and one green. The green is the proper choice while the others are wrong and usually pretty amusing.
One of the other more entertaining features of the game is the cut-scenes between levels, which feature the Swingles Guy who has quite a repertoire of non-sequitur lines. The load screens are also filled with amusing advertisements for several of the game’s fake products or alternately filled with in-game and real life shots of the girls. Fortunately, the load screens are jazzed up because, for a graphic adventure, this game features a ton of load time.
Other than the overall sense of humor, the graphics are fairly decent as well. Forgoing the earlier Larry games’ looks for the most part, the new game has a cartoonier feel than the earlier incarnations. The locales are fairly interesting and colored vividly, and most of the character models are pretty crisp and attractive, if not a tad outrageously proportioned. Sound is pretty good as well, with fairly decent voice acting.
Simplistic gameplay aside, the game is honestly funny when it’s not being too lowbrow. Well, even when it’s lowbrow there are still quite a few amusing moments. One of the more humorous parts of the game, in fact, is executed via song while Larry is working in a gay bar. There are snide little jokes here and there in the way of background dialog and visual gags. There are even one or two nods to the older Larry games.
When all is said and done, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude isn’t that good of a game, that’s saved from being completely abysmal by a rather good, if not lowbrow sense of humor. In all honesty, people will still want to play it for one reason or another. Well, the two reasons are either nostalgia or the promise of seeing pixilated nudity, or both. Good for a few laughs, but not really worth the cost of admission.