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I'll be honest with you right off the bat: I don't own this game. Having read numerous reviews of it I hired the game for a few days purely out of curiosity, because I simply couldn't believe that any game could be quite as bad as the reviews made out. In order to write a fair review I played it for a good long time, and guess what? It is that bad. And the rest.
It's a shame because the original Leisure Suit Larry game was a fairly decent point-and-click adventure. Created by Al Lowe, it featured the character Larry Laffer, a slimy middle-aged virgin on a desperate mission to lose his virginity, and despite the subject matter managed to be gleefully seedy without becoming offensive. That was a long time ago, though, and this latest sequel was made without any involvement from Lowe - or, apparently, anyone with any idea whatsoever of how to make a fun game.
Box Office Bust features Larry Laffer's nephew, the odious Larry Lovage. A hopeless, charmless, joyless, feckless idiot, Lovage is summoned to help out at his Uncle's movie studio in the hope of discovering the identity of a spy from a rival film company. Along the way he is asked to perform numerous fetch quests, appears in "hilarious" sexually-themed movie spoof dream sequences, and even ends up directing his own adult movies. Unfortunately for the player, his character remains so hateful throughout all of these tasks that playing the game is like some kind of needless self-imposed torture, the gaming equivalent of shoving lit matches underneath your own fingernails.
Box Office Bust is supposed to be a comedy, but it's comedic ambition never reaches beyond the idea that swearing is funny just for the sake of it. The original games were seedy and packed full of double-entendre - this just throws swear words into sentences like it's stocking up in case of a global shortage, attempting to be mucky but usually ending up merely offensive. "I could use a drink," says Larry, before declaring himself drier than a nun's sexual organs. Charming. The cowboy movie spoof, Beefcake Mountain, features a group of enemy desperadoes called the Ass Bandits. And that's the funniest joke in the game, right there.
Even leaving aside Box Office Bust's attempts at humour - and it's notions about sexual politics, about which much could be written although the game is unworthy of such attention - there is not a single department in which this is not woefully defficient. The main body of the game is made up of tiresome and repetetive timed fetch quests set in and around the movie lot. The lot is an open-world space, but is poorly designed and horribly signposted, and when you're not wandering it on fetch quests - which you do for what seems like eternity - you're driving around it in poorly-handling buggies in timed checkpoint races where the checkpoints have been considerately placed behind walls and pieces of set dressing.
Then there's the platforming. Larry has a double-jump and the ability to wall jump, skills which games such as the Mario series have used to create a huge variety of skillful challenges. Box Office Bust's attempts at the same would have Mario weeping in disgust, with poorly-placed platforms combining with unresponsive controls to make these sections less fun than undergoing unanaesthetised dental surgery. The situation is not helped by a camera which lurches around drunkenly at unexpected junctures. I can only assume that it hates Larry as much as I do, and is doing its best to cause him to plummet off high walkways to his doom.
There are also those movie-themed dream sequences, which feature shooting-gallery style gun battles and combat sections, but again the controls are unresponsive and floaty, meaning that the shooting is hit-and-miss and the combat is a tragic mess of dashing around hoping that one of your blows will connect. These minigames are perhaps the most enjoyable sections of the game, but that's like saying that the buffet at the funeral is the most enjoyable part of your entire family dying in a road accident. There are also stealth sections, which by now are utterly passe and should be banned on pain of torture.
Once Larry has participated in these dream sequences, which represent the plot of a movie he's working on, you get to play another minigame where you direct the final scene. Your interaction is limited to switching between cameras at the appropriate moments, which might have made for an interesting challenge if only it didn't mean listening so closely to the turgid dialogue. The other avenue of supposed enjoyment is a dialogue-based minigame where Larry attempts to chat up some of the women on the movie lot in order to get them back to his trailer. These sections produce some of the very worst dialogue in the game, and help paint everyone as universally unlovable - sure, Larry's foul-mouthed attempts at charm make him seem hateful and crude, but the women come out of it no better due to the fact that they always fall for it. In the end it's insulting to everyone - particularly to the player, who is supposed to be finding this enjoyable.
And so, onto the graphics. The backdrops are bright and simple, creating a relatively attractive cartoon look. The characters, however, are some of the most downright ugly to ever feature in a videogame. This isn't about graphical fidelity, it's about character design, and the depiction is of men as lumpen and pug-nosed, while the women have eyes on the sides of their faces and tiny turned up noses giving the overall effect of E.T. after having work done by Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon. Uneven lighting effects leave clothing flat and cartoony whilst skin is waxen with an unpleasant sheen, while a special mention has to go to whoever decided to make everyone's teeth so shiny that they all appear to be wearing silver dentures. Nice going.
That this was released as a budget title is not a huge surprise. That it was picked up by Codemasters having been dropped by it's original publisher during a takeover is a surprise, but only because it's amazing that this wasn't consigned to the dustbin of history and everyone involved in it prevented from ever working in the games industry again. Box Office Bust is an almost unplayable game packed with stupidly offensive dialogue and utterly unlikeable characters, and if I could give it a zero stars review I would. So, as I stated at the top of this review, I don't own this game. And I never will. And, if you have any sense, neither will you.