Leisure Suit Larry 5 – What’s New in Baltimore?

Written by Alex

Avoiding the groping from her limo driver, Patti alights in Baltimore, outside of the majestic Shaft building, home of des Rever Records and the FBI’s next target, record producer Reverse Biaz.

Inside the funky lobby, there’s a sleeping guard, an elevator Patti can’t open, and a directory. Before I continue, I’d like to give an example of a problem I have with the puzzle design of this game. Here are three ways to get into the elevator:
  1. Look at the directory to find out that des Rever Records is in room 900 (3 points), and then talk to the guard to wake him up so he can call the elevator;
  2. Talk to the guard to wake him up and then show him the DataMan with the Reverse Biaz cartridge inserted (6 points), so he will call the elevator; or
  3. Just keep talking to the guard until he calls the elevator for room 900; no mucking around with the directory or the DataMan necessary.
Sure, option 3 results in no points, but you get to where you need to go regardless. Conversely, you can look at the directory AND show the DataMan to the guard for the maximum amount of points, but the point remains the same: Alternate solutions to puzzles are pretty pointless when they are all redundant and there are no stakes attached to any of the solutions. Just click, click, and click, and get to where you need to go.

The elevator brings Patti to this mess of a reception room. Glass partitions guide Patti past des Rever memorabilia, including a gold record displayed atop a turntable and stereo speakers. Reverse Biaz is behind the glass in the back-right; clicking “Talk” on him reveals that he cannot hear Patti but, seeing her lips move, he announces over the loudspeaker that he’s waiting for her to begin her recording session (remember: Patti’s cover is that she’s a studio musician hired to play keyboards on some of Reverse’s tracks).

The gold record couldn’t have been a stronger beacon had it been festooned with neon lights and hundred dollar bills. Patti naturally makes a beeline to it and removes it from its plaque (12 points).

Well, the game has given me a gold record right near a record player. Should I play it? Does this really qualify as a puzzle?

Clicking “Eye” on the record player provides us with a close-up of the soundsystem. Further clicking reveals five buttons: Three for direction—forward, reverse, stop—and two for speed settings, 33 RPM and 78 RPM. Patti remarks that the 78 RPM setting is unusual for a turntable to “still” have. Now, I don’t know much about record players off-hand, being born in 1981 and firmly ensconced in the tape, CD, and digital eras, so I had to check on-line as to why this is so unusual. It turns out that the earliest records—we’re talking late nineteenth-century ones—used this setting, but then 33 RPM became the speed of choice as the materials used to make the records changed and became thinner. Interesting.

Playing the record forward at 33 RPM (3 points) plays a track by a 1950s-sounding rock n’ roll group.

But we’re here to bust Reverse for including subliminal messages in his recordings, right? Let’s play this baby backwards! I do so at 33 RPM, and after a while a sultry female voice says “Just say yes!” (3 points).

You know, it’s almost expected to rag on Nancy Reagan, but drugs ARE bad.

Evidence, huh? Here’s another teachable moment in game design: Despite the message in the above screenshot, Patti can waltz right into the studio and suffer no ill consequence—the good guys will still win! I suppose this is better than creating a walking-dead scenario like what would probably happen in a King’s Quest or Space Quest game, but by taking the extreme reverse position, the designers here sucked all of the tension out of the experience.

Anyway, if you want to get all of the evidence, Patti has to play the record backwards at 78 RPM to get the same voice saying “Porn is best at a quarter a whack” (3 points) and forward at 78 RPM to hear the secret message “Digital audio tape causes impotence” (3 points). Again, I appreciate the gags, especially as someone who is a fan of Pink Floyd and The Beatles—two bands accused of putting “dirty” hidden messages into their recordings—but from a game-design standpoint, these aren’t really puzzles as much as jokes you can find.

Yay! But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

Back to the game. With sufficient evidence in tow, Patti strolls into the studio to lay down some sweet synth for Reverse Biaz’s latest masterpiece!

An award-winning soundtrack, I’m sure. Lost forever . . .

Reverse Biaz explains that he’s not sure what happened to his regular synth player, but that the instrument is locked and loaded and the charts are all set up. All Patti has to do is get in the groove and let her fingers do the rocking!

Pop Quiz! This is:

A. A puzzle sequence
B. An arcade sequence
C. A sequence that is impossible to lose
D. The prelude to another snarky comment
E. C and D

The correct answer is, of course, F: Completely pointless, except for the 8 points you get for . . . doing what, exactly?

This is what happens: Reverse counts Patti in, the track begins, and you can use the mouse on the keys or your computer keyboard to try and play along. The track ends, and Reverse tells Patti he wasn’t quite feeling it. Take 2 is the same thing. Still not satisfied, Reverse cues the track up one more time, and then the game takes over and automatically plays the “correct” synthesizer solo. No puzzle, nothing to solve, nothing for the player to really DO but dig the hot licks coming from their PC speakers, take the free points, and move on to the next part of the game. I hate to sound like I’m not having fun with this game. I am! It’s just that I feel its flaws still need to be addressed.

After finishing the recording, Reverse invites Patti back into the booth to listen to the playback. Here’s where the game, I feel, handles its more prurient moments right. In my last gameplay post I wrote about my misgivings with Larry filming Michelle Milken performing a sex act on him without her apparently knowing she was on camera:

“I don’t know about anyone else, but this is REALLY CREEPY. Although, thinking back to the introduction, Michelle, along with the other potential hosts of ‘America’s Sexiest Videos’ have already sent in ‘audition’ tapes to PornProd Corp., which one has to assume are sex tapes. So maybe this isn’t creepy, since all three of the girls Larry is checking out are clearly comfortable with baring all on camera. But here, they don’t know that they’re being filmed . . . I think? It’s such a stupid plot, I’m not going to worry about it.”

Yes, the plot to this game is EXCEEDINGLY STUPID, and I know it’s going for that sort of Revenge of the Nerds/Porky’s/Mel Brooks-ian type of humor, but the filming thing does bug me. I believe that it’s because I’m looking at a 1991 game through 2015 eyes, where technology has vastly challenged preconceived notions of privacy and what is right, which in turn can change what we find funny (and boy, does the second Patti section have a DOOZY of a joke to analyze through this lens . . .). I think, though, that everything ultimately works because, despite the adult themes and innuendos, it’s still all relatively innocent in that it’s REALLY DUMB and not mean-spirited.

Anyway, the reason I feel that this situation is less creepy than Larry’s tryst with Michelle is that, here, Patti has more of a choice about how to get evidence from Reverse. Patti can take the “easy” way (i.e. that gives less points) by clicking talk on reverse several times until they start to get it on. While doing so, Patti is able to obtain a cassette with a bunch of Reverse’s subliminal messages on it (40 points). She also inadvertently turns on the recording equipment, recording the two of them doing their thing. Reverse later adds drums and bass to it and releases it as a single, which hits the top of the charts (16 points). This is ALSO kind of creepy, come to think of it, since Reverse never asked Patti for her approval. Are Al Low and company just a bunch of creeps after all?

Patti can also give Reverse the bottle of champagne she found in the limousine, getting him drunk and causing him to spill the beans, giving Patti the tape (40 points) and explaining all about the subliminal messages (18 points). Again, another alternate solution to a puzzle that provides different gags—here, a reversal of the “man getting woman drunk to take advantage of her”—but which is ultimately of no consequence, as the player will get through the game anyway.

Patti, triumphant, finishes the champagne herself next to the passed-out Reverse, gets into her limo, shows the driver the P.C. Hammer DataMan cartridge, and sits back for her ride to Philadelphia, where she will have to contend with the world of rap music. But first, Larry’s got some creepy business to attend to in Atlantic City.

Total Points: 424 out of 1,000

  • Larry: Hidden camera, charger, three blank tapes, three resumes, napkin from Hard Disk Café in New York City, AeroDork Gold Card, AeroDork’s in-flight magazine, matches from Tramp Casino in Atlantic City, business card for Doc Pulliam in Miami
  • Patti: DataMan, Reverse Biaz cartridge, P.C. Hammer cartridge, brasserie cannon, gold record, Reverse Biaz tape

Session Time: 45 minutes.
Total Time: 2 hours and 25 minutes.

But I kind of wish I was sometimes . . .

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of .. Oh screw it! This game is so easy that no one can spoil it.

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