It's an illustrated point-and-click graphic adventure based on the first Leisure Suit Larry game. Dave E goes on the pull.
Does anybody really enjoy the antics of Leisure Suit Larry? The middle-aged, pot-bellied farty who just wants to get laid was always an unlikely hero but, some four decades after his first appearance, it fair boggles my mind that anyone sees fit to make games about him. I mean, perhaps it's just me. The chance to play a 40 year old sad singleton who always falls flat on his face (except for those occasions when he doesn't) perhaps feels a little bit too real these days...
Well, I suppose Larry must have his fair share of fans "somewhere" because hot on the heels of Larry: The Long Look For A Luscious Lover (the remake of Leisure Suit Larry for the NES) comes ZX Larry, a demake of the same game for the good old Spectrum 48K/128K. This new incarnation of the original point and click adventure is a polished production and author Rafal Miazga already has quite a portfolio of releases under his belt. In fact I remember reviewing Chicks With Dicks [You mean Chicks And Bricks - Ed] which was a bit risqué, so I suppose little Larry is the logical next step. I'm not all that familiar with the original game (really!) so the first problem I found was with the complete lack of instructions. If Rafal Miazga thinks the concept of a simple point and click graphic adventure so familiar that instructions aren't really needed, he may well be right... but the Larry games are as much about the character of the chap in question. Which means a few lines about who you are, what your mission is and how you might go about achieving it are pretty much mandatory.
That's even more so in this particular incarnation because, unlike any of the other versions of Leisure Suit Larry, there is no Larry sprite pictured in most of the scenes here. This is a version of Leisure Suit Larry that is almost an illustrated text adventure rather than a reactive point and click. Almost, but not quite, because you do still point and click, it's just that you point and click verbs and objects rather than entering them by keyboard. That significantly lowers the chance that you'll get into those classic situations where you waste a year typing OPEN TRAPDOOR only to find that the computer would only respond to LIFT TRAPDOOR, but also throws up some surprising combinations. In one early scene, you click 'Use', 'Trash Bin' to search it. Which feels clunky and not natural.
Unfortunately, this clunkiness comes secondary to a much bigger problem with ZX Larry which is that the game is incredibly difficult to control. Progress is made by moving a cursor around the screen (like a square crosshair) and pressing the fire key on the verb you desire and then moving to the illustrated object you want to manipulate. Once a verb is selected, it cannot be cancelled - so if you select 'Go' when you wanted to select 'Take' you'll be forced to 'Go' somewhere just to cancel the verb, and you'll have to 'Go' back again. This is incredibly tedious in two respects. Firstly, when you make a mistake it eats up your precious time. Secondly, if you want to 'Go' through more than one location, you have to keep selecting the verb over and over again. Blah, give me N, S, E and W over this any day.
The control might be just about bearable if the cursor reacted normally to your keypresses, but it doesn't. It flies around the screen area at supersonic speed, frequently scooting right past the item or verb you want to select. Just positioning it correctly takes ages - you spend so much time bobbing up and down around the thing you want to select that it ultimately becomes not worth the effort to select it. I found an old forum post that noted holding down CAPS SHIFT will slow down the cursor, and this does alleviate the problem a bit. But will most people bother to investigate the Internet after encountering such frustration? I doubt it. Hence: Supply some instructions with the game!
The 128K version of the game has some music. Usually, I love music, especially a bouncy little tune like ZX Larry boasts. But usually that's because I'm playing a platform game or something that doesn't really need the analytical side of my brain. When you get loud, jolly tunes accompanying a head-scratching text adventure, it becomes so distracting that you just want to turn it off.
I persevered with the game for a while, called the iconic taxi and took Larry off to the disco via an established route to buy some wine. Unfortunately, after forgetting to pay for it, I was promptly drilled full of lead by the shopkeeper. If this happens in the original, obviously it's something that Rafal Miazga couldn't really get away from, but it's a tad tiresome all the same. Quick deaths followed by retracing all the steps I'd completed through the awful control system did not appeal to me at all. And so that ended my time with ZX Larry, and I doubt I'll ever come back to it unless I don't take my medication.
It's a shame really, because paused screenshots really make the game look like a lot of fun, and I always secretly award bonus points to any game which dares to be daring. Even though authors don't have to worry about satisfying a publisher's family-friendly policy, there aren't enough "darker" games for the Spectrum. No-one thinks to convert Urotsukidoji to it, for example. Although you may think there will be explicit sex in ZX Larry, there isn't. In an era without Porn-On-Demand, the chance of seeing some pixel nipples was really the only motivation for playing the "Larry" games ("Oh, I'm trying to solve the puzzles!" Yeah right) and these days, Larry's adventures aren't just tame but positively sad. And here he's coupled up with a control system that just makes it ridiculously tiresome. There never was a great deal of freedom in the first Larry game to begin with, but even a few hot-keys for the actions would have made his ZX Spectrum outing much easier to play.
So hmmm, ZX Larry, what's your sign? I'd say "Do not disturb."