Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust
The Leisure Suit Larry games have been around for more than two decades, but for much of that they’ve represented the epitome of much that is wrong with videogames – objectification of women and puerile toilet humour being chief amongst the issues. After the series has gradually fallen out of favour with gamers and publishing brand Sierra was disbanded due to the the Vivendi/Activision merger, British publisher Codemasters picked it up, with Worms developers Team 17 on development duty.
It’s not easy to quantify just how offensively bad Box Office Bust is – I’ve never played a game this poor so don’t really have an appropriate point of reference. Some games you can almost understand being awful, coming from a D-grade developer, or being developed on a tiny budget, but that’s not the case here, with use of the Unreal Engine 3 and some fairly well-known voice talent on board (Jeffrey Tambor aka George Bluth Sr. and Shannon Elizabeth as two examples) indicating a fair-scale production. How a formerly respected developer like Team 17 came up with this rubbish is a mystery indeed, and let’s hope it is but a blip on an otherwise mostly solid resume.
Box Office Bust stars not original protagonist Larry Laffer, but his layabout bum nephew Larry Lovage. Laffer now runs his own pornographic film studio and hires Lovage to run errands and seek out a suspected mole from a rival studio. You’ll find it hard to care about the plot though, since characters are paper thin and do little more than make jokes about masturabation or insult each other. The script is so poor it makes Killzone 2 and Haze seem positively sophisticated by comparison. Music – what little there is of it – is completely useless, failing to create any kind of atmosphere and occasionally a little ditty will kick in, last a few seconds then fade out.
It takes place in a sandbox world (the film studio compound) but just getting around is a tiresome chore due to a frame rate which struggles with simple tasks like staying above 20 fps and copious screen tearing even when you’re not doing anything vaguely intensive. The world is poorly designed, with tasks requiring you to drive from place to place, before watching (or skipping) an insultingly unfunny and ugly cutscene. Tasks are never more interesting than meeting a particular person or climbing up somewhere for a random reason, and this is coupled with controls that make Lovage do what you want barely half the time. Doing a simple task like climbing a ladder, jumping up a ledge and running across some rooftops takes minutes because it’s all so unresponsive and sub-par. The platforming sections are so bad I wanted to go grovelling back to Sonic and say all is forgiven.
Technically you’ll have a hard time finding a worse game. As mentioned, it uses the Unreal Engine 3; not that you’d know it since it all looks like a PS2 game, with ghastly character models and horrific art work. Textures are slow-loading, in every indoor area the game adopts a completely inappropriate fixed position, instigating actions such as opening doors often takes seconds to actually work, almost every mission is inexplicably given an abitrary time limit, the vehicles handle like crap and boast extreme oversteer and instant breaking… basically you’d be hard pressed to find something about this game which isn’t completely pathetic, on either a technical or design level.
A few times in the past, at Thunderbolt HQ we have discussed zero out of ten ratings, and whether they can and should be applied. There is a general consensus that if a game works in any capacity then it shouldn’t really be given what is technically a nonexistant score. Well, Box Office Bust works, but you wouldn’t want to play it because it really has nothing to offer except a template to show how games should not be made. In short, BOB has no redeeming qualities at all and I would not wish this on my worst enemy.