America - Front
America - Back
By Lee Mehr 14th Oct 2020 | 2,048 views
The venerated 'lounge lizard' that rose to fame during the 80s-90s couldn't keep away from potential dating prospects in the next century. After hopping around between different publishers, witnessing an abysmal performance by Larry's nephew, and seeing fans clamoring for his first outing on Kickstarter, Assemble Entertainment and developer CrazyBunch finally came around to reintroducing Larry Laffer in a new point-n-click adventure — Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don't Dry. The end result? Between the stale humor and obnoxiously derivative puzzles, it's the equivalent of sleeping on freshly soiled sheets.
Waking up to a dark room, you control the titular Larry Laffer, a forty-something rocking a white lounge suit. Upon leaving a strange underground lair, unbeknownst to how he arrived there, he's back in the game. Old habits die hard. While trying to win the first woman he sees at Lefty’s bar, his plans fail but he finds and returns a smartphone to Prune Inc. (Apple stand-in). Pining for one of the higher-ups at Prune, he assents to her demands of reaching a high score on Timber (Tinder stand-in) to win her affection.
If there's one thing I can credit Wet Dreams with capturing it's interesting stakes. There's something about Larry's dopey, half-witted charm in the new age that works in concept. He's like a fish out of water to dozens of events according to this canon and he simply goes with the flow. The way he just emerges to his old stomping ground, talks to Lefty, and figures he'll instantly get back into the dating market gives him a mellow vibe; it's like your middle-aged uncle trying to catch sorority girls with elementary magic tricks. He takes this new world and incorporates it into his double-entendres like it's going out of style.
The problem is it quickly does go out of style. Set-up can only get you so far in comedy and the same applies to this whole story. Whether it's various background details, questlines, or a plethora of Larry's dialogue, the humor heavily centers on sex without any concern for subtlety or utility. You can't go more than five minutes without seeing some new phallic or yonic symbolism smattered across your screen, save for the final location. I'm not trying to be prudish; in fact, I believe games liberally tackling sex shouldn't be considered a foul thing. No, the issue is the quality of the jokes and knowing when to filter out your best. What’s here is like a middle-schooler, or Tom Green (but I repeat myself), learning of this premise and taking control of the script.
Beyond the sex gags, the script has an understandable fascination with oddball characters and modern-day parodies. As with the sexual humor, I'm completely lost as to why slightly renaming Uber, Tinder, and various movie stars was a consistent fallback the writers thought was charming. I'll admit the matched ladies Larry secures have some unexpected personality traits and the tasks required to (unsuccessfully) bed them sometimes feel worthwhile. The issue comes back to that quality/quantity dilemma. If I see nothing but hipster vegans, drag queens, over-the-top CEOs, horny grandmas, and so on, with the vast majority of them feeling so uninteresting, then the exotic becomes the expected.
What's strange is how much of the best material is tucked behind the back-half of the game. This credit is, of all things, thanks to politics. The way some real-life issues are spun on their head here really clicked with me. And for all the badgering I can make on the plethora of stale jokes, I can't deny Wet Dreams has one of the most brilliant gaming moments of 2020 (for me). To avoid giving too much away I'll leave it with this: it's the equivalent of recent Wolfenstein titles including a playable Wolfenstein 3D as an Easter egg, but better.
Overall, this may be one of the most eclectic mixes of writing quality I've seen in a comedy-focused story. I'm still left shocked how a retro level/stage left me gobsmacked at its subversive structure, along with a modest sprinkling of quality moments for Larry near the finale; that said, perhaps my appreciation for its better moments is because of all the bland shit you have to trudge through. It's like admiring a flat soda in The Sahara.
Gameplay follows an expected routine for point-n-click adventures. Gone is the open-world structure from the Larry Lovage games for something as classic as Laffer's suit. The concept is pretty simple: by either scanning the environment with the right thumbstick or using trigger buttons to quickly swap between highlighted items, Larry's able to look or grab them. Those that can be taken are set in his bottomless inventory, to either be used somewhere else or combined with another bauble. Making the correct combinations, carefully listening to Larry's monologues for hints, and scanning the environment are crucial to your success.
The biggest problem that's thoroughly cemented in Wet Dreams is something endemic to this genre: "moon logic". There are a few otherworldly deductions that have to be made in order to solve said puzzle. Whether it's inane item combos or brute-forcing every inventory item to the surrounding environment, there are major missteps found here. The greatest offenders are actually found at the beginning too. After getting a few Timber matches, meeting the girls (and a guy!), and hearing their respective stories, CrazyBunch went out of their way in flooding your inventory. It gets absurd to see how much junk you'll have to sift through while juggling each task in your head.
To make the gameplay even more lop-sided, the final half-hour in a new locale feels more concise. The hints and visual clarity there are more succinct, even if more limited and simplified. It seems like CrazyBunch was trying to make New Lost Wages feel more interconnected by scattering critical items in one place and making them useful in another ad infinitum. Occasionally this web works at feeling intricate; typically it feels like a way for fast travel to pad out the runtime.
Overall, CrazyBunch's approach dawdles too often into misapplying difficulty. Cluttered and contrived are misconstrued as "challenging" and "complex"; conversely, another chunk of puzzles has the countervailing attitude towards feeling like mundane busywork. Despite that, I still think some credit is due to the better examples. There are times a comically salacious sex toy is used to complete a task that compliments the silly logic of the world to a tee. But those sparse gems aren't enough to erect and maintain the gameplay entirely.
Presentation is another quality that's a mixed bag. Although I can't find it formally listed, there are a lot of subtle visual cues suggesting Wet Dreams was built in Unity engine, or a custom one that's an offshoot of it. From a technical perspective, there's not much that'll wow you: basic textures, a lot of pre-canned character movements, basic lip-syncing, and so on. Virtually every cutscene is a collection of slides shown through the lens of a 'PiPhone', so there aren't many dynamic movements on that front.
It fares moderately better in terms of art design. Some of the visual staples like Larry's dumb behavior or the nubile ladies he drools over are apropos to this world. Like the gameplay early on, overabundance weeds its way into visual design as well, with copious amounts of the same old repetitive innuendos and visual gags being littered over and over with diminishing returns. The only place I could connect with was the dinginess of Lefty's compared to elsewhere. The grimy, rundown aesthetic between it and the final location feel more authentic versus the "bludgeon your eyes with every visual cliché" approach.
The moans sounds across New Lost Wages do a decent job of setting it apart. Though there are no real standouts, the soundtrack captures the environment appropriately. I appreciated how the menu music will swing to a grand orchestral score, as if Larry's musical monologue is fooling him into believing he's the next Sinatra. Although there are a small amount of aural-related issues (like dialogue being drowned out at random), sound design is often functional - if too expected. As for the voice cast, outside of Jan Rabson nailing Larry Laffer I can't say I was overly impressed; then again, what they all put up with in the script still earns them respect.
In regards to value, anyone worried about a premature finish can breathe a sigh of relief. Depending on your puzzle-solving aptitude, you're looking at a 6-8 hour adventure for a game retailing at $30. But if you're hoping for more than a one-night stand? Larry’s of no use. Aside from witnessing various death animations you might've missed, I can't think of anything else that bolsters replay value.
Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Don't Dry is not the heralded return the fabled Larry Laffer deserved. Sure, reclaiming the original's point-n-click template and recouping the letterhead from his noxious nephew suggests better prospects for the series' future. It seems like these traits alone fooled CrazyBunch into thinking one of gaming's greatest swingers was already in top shape. But between the writing that's too often puerile and gameplay too often unengaging, Larry's going to be spending many a lonely night lest he up his game.
Despite being one of newest writers on VGChartz, Lee has been a part of the community for over a decade. His gaming history spans several console generations: N64 & NES at home while enjoying some Playstation, SEGA, and PC titles elsewhere. Being an Independent Contractor by trade (electric, plumbing, etc.) affords him more gaming luxuries today though. Reader warning: each click given to his articles only helps to inflate his Texas-sized ego. Proceed with caution.