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As a big fan of adventure games, I loved the Leisure Suit Larry series. It was funny, entertaining and it was always filled with. . .let’s say. . .male pleasures. One day I heard about a game that seemed to emulate Larry’s glamour. That game was, of course, Les Manley 2 - Lost In LA.
This is the second and last part of the Les Manley series which had been published for DOS by Accolade in 1992, and I will try to check if it can keep up with good old Larry Laffer.
Strange things are happening in Los Angeles! More and more of Hollywood’s celebrities keep on disappearing and the population is deeply concerned about this. Only Les Manley’s old friend Helmut the Human Bean - the new star in Hollywood, being the smallest man in the world - is not really worried about these mysteries. He feels quite secured by his alarm system and the dog, which is guarding the house. One evening, after a hot hanky-panky with his girlfriend, LaFonda Turner, Helmut invites Les to come over to L.A. and spend a couple of days enjoying the Californian sun. In the meantime LaFonda heads over to the pool in order to chill her heated body, when suddenly a shady figure appears!
As you might already have guessed, Helmut and his girl have obviously underestimated the lurking threat and overestimated the security of their home, for when Les arrives, both have vanished! Of course, Les feels compelled to search and rescue his trusted friend and, last but not least, to solve the case of the stars that are lost in L.A.
At the beginning you will be introduced to the story by a nicely made introduction movie. You can either choose to watch it, to skip it or to load a game. After that, Les finds himself standing on a boulevard near the beach and the show begins…
The controls are easy. You move the mouse over the screen, and when you hit a hotspot, the mouse cursor turns into a specific icon. If you want to move, you have to aim for a direction and wait until the cursor turns into the shape of footprints. If you select a person or an object, it changes into a questionmark, which indicates that you can talk to that person and/or get some further information, or eventually manipulate the object, by taking, reading or using it, etc. The inventory can be accessed by moving the mouse cursor to the bottom of the screen. There you can also find the option to save and load a game. In case you need it, several saving slots are available for this. When you enter a dialogue screen, you can choose your comments from a given list of topics. In some cases a close-up portrait of the one you’re talking to is displayed, so you get a better impression of who you are having conversation with, but that’s merely an aesthetical aspect.
The structure of the game is fairly flat. You have to move around between several locations, talk to people, who will occasionally provide you with some (important) information or items and, now and then, solve puzzles (which are distributed quite sparely throughout the game). There are maps which give you an overview of the places you can go to and by clicking directly on certain parts of the map, your character will visit the indicated location. You start with a single map, but you will be given more maps by talking to certain people as the plot progresses. From time to time, cut-scenes will show up and keep you updated about the story. But most of the time you will be busy going through the dialogues, which is quite boring, as you barely hit real action or brain-challenging tasks. You simply follow the pattern of talking to person A, who gives you a clue about person B. Then you acquire an item that you have to take to place C, where you receive a hint about circumstance D and so forth.
The game is not about cleverly combining clues which you will have to work out carefully, but rather about patiently visiting several spots in order to keep the story going on. In comparison to some other adventures, similar to this as far as the basics are concerned - for example the productions of Lucas Arts or the Larry series - this game’s not very challenging or innovative, if you ask me.
There are only a handful of locations to explore, and even the term ‘explore’ is slightly exaggerated, because all you actually do is wander around and click on anything on the screen, which could by any chance be interactive. The characters you run across are either not very talkative or they talk too much, and furthermore they lack what makes up an important part for any quality adventure game: an interesting and unique personality. The texts in general try to be funny, but they barely managed to give me a good laugh. But perhaps, this specific kind of humor is simply not my cup of tea.
The story itself is by no means very spectacular. There are no big surprises as the plot unfolds, and while it crosses a narrow range of clichés, its main technique is to deliver a burlesque picture of the virtues which are typical for what we know about Hollywood - fame and beauty – mixed with a detective story. And actually a rather short one, as you will notice when you have made it to the end of the game.
But there are also some more delightful aspects worth mentioning about this game, namely VGA graphics and sound/music. The backgrounds and the characters are quite well drawn and colourful. Some parts of the game, in particular the cut-scenes, feature digitized persons and objects, which are nice to look at, whereas the animations are only basical. The music is suiting the scenery and is not bad, either, but not very diversified so it gets boring after a while. As for the sound effects, there are only very few of those, yet sufficient.
I think it is not difficult to interpret my opinion about Les Manley: Lost in L.A. from what I’ve already expressed up to now: I’m somewhat disappointed! Not that I have expected a game that completely manages to excel the glory that has been acquired by the famous Leisure Suit Larry series, because that would be a hard match, indeed. But nevertheless, I was hoping for some solid adventure entertainment. I can’t help it, I felt constantly tempted to compare this game to Larry, and this might be understandable for Les Manley is definitely intended to be a clone of Sierra’s successful offspring. And as far as the very basics are concerned, Les Manley is quite similar to Larry: both feature a playboy-like protagonist who feels attracted by female sex appeal, an aspect which constitutes a more or less elementary part of the game. Sadly, that’s all these two productions have in common.
From my point of view, Les Manley lacks the magic that keeps gamers spellbound and it takes more than a few half-naked girls to entertain a true adventure fan. Maybe the problem about Les Manley is that it has been developed in the shadow of an epical series like Larry, therefore it’s very difficult to compete under such circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, Les Manley can be entertaining and it is well designed, graphics- and sound wise, but due to its long-winded, flat gameplay and the average story, it is hard to keep up interest on what’s going on, for too long. That’s why I rate it a 3. But don’t let my criticism discourage you from giving it a shot. You have to bear in mind that opinions can widely differ, and it won’t do any harm if you try it out for yourself. Who knows, maybe you’ll like Les Manley? At least there are some handsome girls to gaze on.
Before playing you have to run “setup.exe” (and probably “vesafix.exe”). After having set your preferred input device and display mode, just type in “les2”, and the game will run flawlessly in DOSBox.