LES MANLEY: SEARCH FOR THE KING / Accolade / PC
Les Manley is a cut-rate Leisure Suit Larry clone, minus the sex. And pretty much all the fun. The plot seems like a straight rip of LSL5, but I think this game may have come out first. Les is a stereotypical dork who works in the bowels of a crappy TV station rewinding tapes. He gets called into a board meeting to fix a TV and gets a preview of the station's new contest - $1 million to find The King (presumably Elvis, never actually mentioned by name due to possible estate lawsuits I guess.) How this seedy station has 1 mil to give away, or why they think people will want to search for a dead man is beyond me, but that's the plot of the game. Les decides to get a jump on the competition and go find The King on his lunch break.
Unfortunately pretty much every aspect of bad adventure game design is on display here. First of all, the game is obtuse as fuck. There's extremely little "flavor text" and you have to enter very specific commands to even examine things. You're also generally left on your own to just stumble around and do stuff because it's there, rather than there being any logical progression to things, or stated objectives. The game just literally tosses you into it with the vague goal of "Find the King" and zero idea how that's supposed to be accomplished.
The problems are exacerbated by "dream logic" awfulness in the puzzle design. I had to look up a FAQ literally in the first 5 minutes or so after blundering around the tiny New York starting area and seeing nothing at all reasonable to progress. One of the first things you have to do is get a key off your boss's desk without him seeing and shooting a hole in you (?!). You have to enter a very specific command to do this, however, that I still have no idea how you'd ever come across without reading a FAQ. Not 2 minutes later, you have to take the dream of a sleeping security guard. Literally. Wat the.
The game also has ridiculously elaborate red herrings. Literally half of the starting New York area serves no purpose whatsoever other than to confuse you. Once you figure out that the King is not to be found here and the goal is to get to Graceland or whatever, you start looking for ways to move on. There's actually an entire bus station with an obnoxious ticket maze and buses parked outside that looks like something you'll have to use to progress - but NONE of it is actually relevant to the game at all!
Finally, there's missable items in each area that you can't return for, and often don't even know you need later. Miss them and overwrite a save and you're screwed, start over bro.
Graphically the game is decently polished but in all other aspects it's like an amateur project. Les has no personality and the humor rarely works all that well - certainly not worth putting up with the vagaries of the game design for.
* Crap Shoot review
* Gameplay Video