March 31, 2009
The life of a parent is a tough job indeed. There are so many awkward and testing rites of passage that you must pass through in your child’s lifetime, that by the end of it, you’re just an empty shell. You are constantly asked questions like ... “why are trees tall?” ... “what’s the point in the sky?” both have which have been uttered by my niece in recent weeks, but the testing one has got to be “where do babies come from?” We’ve all had the birds and the bees chat that most parents dread (not more than the kids themselves though), however, mine had it easy. I learnt all my amazing womanizing skills from a character back in the late 80’s known as the Lounge Lizard, Leisure Suit Larry. Thanks to this old point and click adventure title from back in the day my parents didn’t have to suffer the dreaded question - which might be the reason I’m a self loving (or is that loathing) narcissist today. The latest in a long line of Leisure Suit Larry titles, Box Office Bust, is now upon us hoping to educate the youth of today in how not to speak to women.
Box Office Bust, developed by Team 17 (Worms) and published by Codemaster owned Funsta, actually takes the perspective of Larry Lovage - just like in Magna Cum Laude - who is Larry Laffer's nephew. Although the legendary Laffer does make an appearance, it’s more of a cameo role as he sets the stage for the "plot" of the game. You’ll take control of Larry as he’s called into Tinselwood to help his uncle determine who the mole is in his movie studio company and to stop them before he takes them down. In a similar vein to Magna Cum Laude, Box Office Bust is a somewhat free roaming adventure title with a sprinkling of various mini games and a hell of a lot of platforming. In between being the company whipping boy and running errands for a whole array of characters, you’ll spend the time partaking in Larry’s dream sequences with a Hollywood inspired twist on each one; with three to work through in all.
The Larry series is usually known for its double entendres and sexual innuendoes and at certain points the writers in Box Office Bust get it spot on, but these moments are all too few and far between. The ensuing dialogue ends up being crude and trite, and seems to try a little too hard to be funny. The Larry series has never really been about over-the-top swearing and vulgar puns but that’s what it’s been reduced to here, it’s at that point where you realise that you truly miss the subtlety of original creator Al Lowe.
So if it can’t rely on the writing, it is left to the gameplay to carry the whole experience through to the finish line; it’s just a pity that aspect also has nothing to offer. The fundamental game mechanics are pretty much broken whether you’re talking about the awkward camera angles or the jump mechanics that the game’s platforming relies on. The mini games on the other hand are so simple that even a small child could do them yet they have to justify an 18 rating, so I’m not sure who this was really aimed at. The mini games include the usual quick time events, some random simplistic third person shooting scenes or even a bit of fisticuffs with the most horrible fighting mechanics ever. Of course, the list above isn’t exhaustive but they’re making me weary just trying to think of any more.
Even the choice driven dialogue conversations are ridiculous simply because you can’t get the answers wrong; it spoon feeds you almost so you don’t even need to pay attention. Throw in some poorly placed checkpoints that crop up on numerous occasions that make you repeat a certain mini game numerous times should things go awry and you'll be cursing more than Larry himself.
Box Office Bust portrays itself as a sandbox adventure title but the sandbox aspect is severely lacking. Sure, you can go anywhere you want in the movie studio, jack people’s rides, climb wherever you want, but other than the story missions, 9 buggy races and a handful of Seduction missions, there is nothing more worthy of your time. It’s just a whole big cavern of nothingness.
At least the scenery is nice right? Well, not really. Box Office Bust is a bright and cheerful game but there are so many graphical glitches which just add to the confusion of it all. Whether you’re talking about the collision detection being off in mini games, the ridiculous amounts of clipping (with characters constantly walking through each other, even in the cut-scenes), vehicles sinking into various aspects of the map and an effect in the cut-scenes that can only be described as pixelated-character-syndrome where all the characters have a weird pixilation taking place on their face; the whole experience is a frustrating one on the eyes.
What surprises me after all that though is the pretty impressive cast line-up that Team 17 managed to lure on to the project. They surely couldn’t have promised them big salaries as the game is being sold at less than a normal budget title, so what was the lure? It gets you thinking that in the whole Activision cast off of games (during the recent merger), Team 17’s ambitious title was rushed out the door at the last minute with no budget to finish it off. The all star line-up includes Jay Mohr, Shannon Elizabeth , Carmen Electra, and Josh Keaton - all of whom do a great job with what they have in front of them, but I don’t care how good an actor/actress you are, you can’t make a bad script good; just look at Oceans Twelve. The accompanying musical score is hit and miss as well as you’re either lulled with a matching harmonic jingle or you literally have to listen to nothingness which as you can imagine is pretty damn boring.
The achievements in Box Office Bust are pretty poor, but they fit the game nicely. On the one hand they do encourage you to get everything done in the game and branch out from the main story but, on the other hand, they force you to scavenge for collectibles and worst of all, rush through the game. The "Complete the game in under 8 hours" achievement pretty much forces you to skip all of the cutscenes as the game will otherwise take about 9 hours to run through - not an ideal message to send out to those that have to play your game. Not to mention that after you've played through it once, other than for that achievement, it's hard to motivate yourself to sit through it all again. The rest of the achievements are story related or related to mini games within the story - not very imaginitive at all and why they'd put a drive 400 miles achievement in a game you can complete by driving less than 100 is beyond me.
In closing, I was one of the few that didn’t think Magna Cum Laude was that bad ... it wasn’t good either, but the mini games although repetitive were quite catchy. Box Office Bust on the other hand doesn’t really have anything to offer but broken gameplay mechanics and some smutty humour. The low brow humour would actually be quite bearable if it wasn’t for the overly horrible platforming that is mixed in between. You can’t even recommend the game to those who only want to ogle some digital boobies because the game makes the women look like they’ve just been swimming in a bath of sulphuric acid. On the positive side you can’t grumble with the title on the aspect of price, as it comes in at less than a budget game, plus the achievements are fairly easy and the cast do a more than solid job, though they needed a much better script. That being said, I’m off to Amazon to purchase the old Leisure Suit Larry Collection to reinvigorate my childhood memories and put this awful mess behind me.
Definitely the strongest aspect of the game. The all-star cast does a great job, especially Josh Keaton who genuinely sounds like the pervert he tries so hard to portray; it's just a shame that the script they are given is full of crude and trite drivel.
The game's visuals are a glitch filled nightmare; whether you're falling in to scenery, looking at the horrible pixelated effect on the character's faces during cut-scenes, watching NPCs walk through your characters and so much more. Sure, it's bright and cheerful, but everything looks so poorly crafted.
Easily one of the worst jumping mechanics I have ever experienced in a game. Mix in some twitchy gameplay, a horrible fighting mechanic and a hugely constricting and annoying camera and Larry, for the most part, is hugely frustrating to control. Warning: Do not play Box Office Bust around dry wall ... unless you're ready to remove the controller from it when it gets lodged in it.
The delivery of Box Office Bust is very poor. You get the feeling that it's never quite sure who it wants to appeal to. On the one hand, the game is 18 rated and uses smutty humour to get cheap laughs, but on the other hand, it asks you to do monotonous platforming sections and simplistic mini games that even a child could do, although they'd be frustrated too.
The achievements are pretty damn poor and require you to search for a bunch of collectibles using the horrible platforming mechanics, rush the game, and replay it if you miss certain achievements (we're looking at you Shuffleboard achievements!). It does encourage you to experience everything ... which is nice, I suppose.
Box Office Bust is one of the poorest games I have played on the 360 to date and I've played X-Men! The broken jumping and fighting mechanics zap out any sort of enjoyment you start to get from the title and the subtle humour of the old Larry games is nowhere to be found. If you want to ogle at deformed pixelated bosoms and partake in some pretty crude humour, Box Office Bust is for you, but even then I would advise you to steer clear. It comes in at a cheap price and the achievements are fairly easy, but the old saying rings true here ... you get what you pay for.