Leisure Suit Larry: Pocket Party
Image: Nokia

Created by Al Lowe in 1987, the Leisure Suit Larry series – in its early years, at least – managed to mix adult themes with laugh-out-loud comedy to excellent effect, spawning a franchise that, by 2011, had sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

The series continues to this day, with 2020's Leisure Suit Larry: Wet Dreams Dry Twice being the most recent entry – albeit one which no longer has any input from Lowe himself.

Another entry Lowe had no involvement with was the proposed 2004 N-Gage title Leisure Suit Larry: Pocket Party (previously known as Leisure Suit Larry: Call of Booty). There's a fantastic write-up about the game by Michael Fitzmayer here, but it's fair to say it was a somewhat troubled project.

Initially in development at TKO studio in Santa Cruz, the game would be practically finished only to be rebooted at TKO's Dallas office – resulting in two very different versions of the game.

The 'Santa Cruz version' was created by a team of just six people and would fall foul of pressure from Nokia to make it funnier and cruder. When TKO's Nokia division was relocated to Dallas, this pressure reached the stage where the project's tone swung wildly in the opposite direction; in short, Nokia made TKO return to the drawing board and produce a game that was so raunchy that it couldn't release it. The project reportedly cost the Finnish company $1.4 million USD in investment.

Speaking to Fitzmayer, former TKO Santa Cruz Jody Hicks says:

I'm not proud of the game, it's juvenile, sophomoric, and deeply tone-deaf with regards to racial stereotypes and overt sexualization of women. I won't ever share the design document I wrote as it does not reflect my personal views from the time when it was written or my personal standards and views of today. I was forced to write the game the way the publisher wanted it written, which was in a crass and "BroCentric" mentality, and while there are moments of the development cycle that brought me joy, the entire experience was demoralizing and embarrassing as a professional game designer.

Fitzmayer's site has a full breakdown of the sorry saga, along with loads of screenshots – many of which aren't safe for work. It's well worth a read.

As hinted by Hicks, the version of the game made by TKO's Dallas studio is preserved, along with the source code, assets and design documentation – but it hasn't been made available to the public yet.

Maybe one day, it will, and another piece of N-Gage's (and Larry's) history will be safe for future generations to (ahem) enjoy.

[source mupf.dev]