Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust
Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: Out Now
Players: Just one, thankfully
Words By:

The Leisure Suit Larry series has often been a guilty pleasure for even discerning gamers, a cheeky, irreverent and bawdy effort at making misogynistic behaviour and sexist jokes funny. It may have succeeded once or twice but we still shiver at memories of the last outing we played (Magna Cum Laude on PS2).

The story behind Box Office Bust sees the new Larry (that’s Larry Loveage) taking a summer job working on his uncle Larry Laffer’s movie studio lot, doing odd jobs whilst slavering after anything female and trying to uncover the mole from another studio who threatens to uncover Laffer Studio’s secrets and sell them to the tabloids. Box Office Bust has turned its back on the Larry franchise’s traditional ‘point & click’ roots and instead plumped for a third person sandbox game. Think: Banjo Kazooie as coded by a bunch of dorky undersexed teenagers and you’ll have the idea. When it’s all opened up to you the Laffer Studios lot is huge, with Wild West, Horror Movie and Bytanic sets. The sandbox gameplay includes exploration, platforming, racing, stealth, shooting, fighting, QTEs (quick time events) and puzzle-solving to complete missions. It could have been great fun if it weren’t for the fact that every single aspect of the game feels thrown-together and untested, from its looks to the way it plays.

Written by Allen Covert (I'm reliably informed that he writes for Saturday Night Live) you have rightly expected some belly laughs, but all you get is the odd chuckle, and as these are broken up by gameplay so inane or frustrating, you’ll be cussing at the screen and wanting to throw your joypad through it. Because of the general awfulness of the game any good humour tends to get lost along the way, and I found myself skipping cut scenes after a while.

The game’s main problem rears its head very early on, with a camera that constantly makes you view Larry from the least helpful viewpoint, or even flips through 90 or 180° without warning, meaning that you might leave a room through a door and immediately head back the way you came. You can click the right stick to reset it behind Larry, but it’ll often just jump back to where it wants to be. Sometimes you might hop out of one of the studio’s golf cart-type buggies, only to run the wrong way – it’s a bizarre glitch, and one that you never get used to. This is particularly galling if you’ve cadged a lift from one of the many staff that circulate around the studio lot going about their daily jobs in buggies (one of the few nice ideas is the game), and after reaching your destination you hop out, move the wrong way because the camera flipped on you and get run over by the buggy that you’ve just vacated! – Annoying isn’t the word. Larry is also terribly unresponsive at times, and will stick on some scenery for no apparent reason or even carry on running when you want him to stop, sometimes resulting in a nasty fall from a rooftop or high ledge, or even in an annoying death, which will no doubt mean you have to replay a large section to get back where you were. Watching Larry also does some things incredibly slowly; like when he enters the sound stages or when he climbs a ladder - when you’re up against a time limit to complete a task it’s extremely frustrating to see him refuse to latch onto a ladder or alternatively (slowly) start to climb back down a ladder that you’ve just come up rather than climb the next ladder upwards on a fire escape that you were trying to point him towards… Aaaargh!

At other times when exploring most interior locations and in some of the platforming sections the view reverts to an ancient-feeling fixed camera, presumably because the normal third-person camera became so unmanageable and the game so unplayable that they had to do something to correct it. If this sounds bad then believe me it is, and I’d find it hard to believe that there’s nothing else you wouldn’t be better off playing. But if you do stick with the game (and to my eternal credit I did, to the bitter end) you’ll get fed up with being led like a mentally challenged buffoon at some points, whilst be left without a clue what to do or where to go at others. What I’ll laughingly call “the game’s fighting sections” (you press ‘A’ to punch and ‘X’ to block) are so frustratingly bad, and placed with such and unfair restart points that they had me yelling at the TV! Despite having some sort of spin kick and dragon punch combo Larry is so unresponsive and the collision detection so random that victory and progression to the next awful and probably identical fetch & carry mission seems to be more of a lottery than being down to any skill or timing. The “animation” during fights is also unintentionally amusing, and the combatants look like… well… umm… Have you seen Team America? And worst of all fighting seems SO out of place in a game of this type – Larry should be chasing scantily clad girls, not fighting a procession of cops.

It could be said that the entire game is one big platform section, and even the ‘platform specific’ sections are mostly simplistic double-jump and grab ledge to shimmy along Tomb Raider-lite sort of stuff, but there are a couple of points in the game that seem so vague (due in no small part to the crap camera and the poorly-implemented mini map) that I gave up and went looking for help online. Thankfully some poor soul had experienced the same frustrations and put some videos on YouTube, or I’d never have finished the game. The only real fun I had in the game was ironically one of those tiresome "collect ‘em all" tasks to find golden Larry statues dotted around the place – a bit like GTA’s secret packages, pigeons or seagulls. The fact that this task was the most interesting part of the game says a lot, and the only other bit of gameplay that I’d like to have had a second go at – the shuffleboard game on the Bytanic level – could not be revisited without playing the entire damned game through again! I mean, who tests these games? Anyone?

Okay so Box Office Bust’s graphics are powered by Unreal Technology. Now this has never been any guarantee of quality, but this game’s visuals are of a detail level more akin to Ape Escape or Spyro the Dragon (yes, and I mean on the PlayStation, not the PS2) than Unreal Tournament on 360 or PS3. The game also has an inexplicably stuttery frame-rate and horrible horizontal shearing that would be understandable if the graphics had any sort of detail. The styling of the character models is truly ugly, and worst of all the females are totally unsexy, which makes you wonder what and whom exactly the game is aimed at. The only bright spot in this wretched game is the voice talent, which includes Jay Mohr, Dave Attell, Shannon Elizabeth, Carmen Elektra, Patrick Warburton, Jeffrey Tambor, Nikki Cox, Peter Graves, Jane Lynch, and Josh Keaton who does the voice of Larry and was hopefully paid well for uttering all the unfunny and inane prattle that he had to for this game.

So what is intended to be a funny, sexy, bawdy, rollicking, double entendre-filled parody of Hollywood movie studios turns out to be a buggy, glitchy and barely playable mess of disastrous proportions. The game frequently features self-deprecating humour, as if it’s fully aware of just how bad it is. The last game I remember being this flawed resulted in the developer shutting down, so that’s bad news for Team 17, and good old Codemasters could also do without tat like this in their portfolio.

We don’t hand out low review scores here at Gamecell lightly and we pride ourselves on being experienced and reasonable reviewers, and try to see the good in even the worst games, and heaven knows a Larry game set in an open world should be right up our street... But sadly Box Office Bust has no redeeming qualities whatsoever and even the rare glimpses of humour or originality are ruined the game’s remarkable bad camera, awful, unresponsive controls, boring, repetitive missions, hideous character models, and juvenile, almost tragically unfunny dialogue. LSL: BOB (I can’t be arsed to type the full title yet again) is bad, so bad in fact that I dare you to try it if you see it cheap or on rental – why? – Because if nothing else it’ll give you a benchmark to make you appreciate how good, and how much fun most other games you’ll play are.

Best Bits

- I didn’t pay for it
- I never have to play it again
- Shuffleboard
- Horse Riding in the Western movie
Worst Bits

- I may have nightmares about it
- Terrible camera
- "Humour" that isn't funny
- Poor frame rate
- Horizontal sheeeeeeeearing
- Annoying checkpoints
- Mind-numbing missions, races & fighting sections
- Somebody tested it and said “yep, that’s okay”

by: Diddly

Copyright © Gamecell 2009