LES MANLEY: LOST IN L.A. / Accolade / PC
Like the other adventure games that it wishes it was, the sequel to Les Manley: Search for the King moves on in 1992 to a 256-color VGA engine with a mouse-based interface. This time Les is in L.A., at the behest of Helmut Bean, who apparently went from being a weirdo puzzle solution in the first game to a best bud of Les. Helmut is rich and famous, but he and his girlfriend get kidnapped along with a bunch of other celebrities, Les is out to find them with nothing to his name, etc. etc. etc. It's like a boring Gabriel Knight meets an unfunny Leisure Suit Larry.
One major problem with the first Les Manley game was an obstinate parser, lack of descriptive text and outright dream logic puzzle solutions converging to make the game nearly unplayable without a guide sitting right at hand. The best thing I can say about Lost in L.A. is that that's no longer true. If anything, the game has canted too far in the other direction, with a "context-cursor" mouse interface that simplifies the game's puzzles to a long chain of fetch quests where you hunt around for obscured items.
To distract you from the lack of challenge and content, the design team hired a shit ton of B-grade models to pose in bikinis and lingerie. The T&A never gets above Larry levels, with some bare bum here and there being the most risque thing ever seen.
While the interface is technically improved from the original, that's not much of an accomplishment, and it's still clunky and unfriendly. The game gets off to an awful start with the drawn-out introduction; you get once chance to click on the "I've seen this before, load a game" button, and if you accidentally miss it, or press the ESC key again, you're forced to sit through the ENTIRE thing before being given a chance to start play or load. These days its a simple matter of X-ing out DOSBox and re-starting for you, most likely, but imagine playing this back in the day; your only choice at this point to sit through this tedious bullshit or hard-reset the whole computer.
There's similar little un-user-friendly touches all through. Once Les has an item in his inventory, you can't actually examine it in any way, and the scrunched pixels are frequently not at all clear as to what the hell they are supposed to be. Conversing with people is a matter of trying not to scroll the mouse too fast and overshoot the right response; for bonus excellence, there's conversations where if you pick the wrong response, you're unknowingly screwed for the rest of the game. The game also seems to take a ridiculous time to load when switching screens, even on a DOSBox'd modern system, indicating low-grade programming.
But is anything about the adventure worthwhile? Honestly, no. This game just barely avoids the Ugly Face rating, saved only by being moderately humorous and entertaining at times and moderately well-polished enough to play fairly smoothly. It's really the same problem as the first game; underneath the new layer of cheesecake, you still have humor that's a lot more "miss" than "hit", very little charm, and a bland main character with little personality. And frankly, the new digitized graphics are often appalling, looking like terrible Photoshops.
Really, this is like the Troma movie of adventure games. And not one of the "so ridiculous it's pretty good" ones like Sgt. Kabukiman or Cannibal the Musical, but the bad-even-for-Troma ones like Princess Warrior.
* Gameplay Video