Les Manley in: Search for the King

Review by Joshua "Brakywaki" Stewart

I wasn't even originally planning to take part in this, at least not this year, as inspiration had not even remotely struck. I even went so far as to beat Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the NES last week, and that went better than expected. I've been alternating a lot between finishing either NES games or old PC adventure games I'd never finished, and last night, particularly after the almost-too-real-to-the-point-of-dullness first 3 Police Quest games, I wanted to take a break into zaniness, knowing that ahead of me was Police Quest 4: Open Season, generally considered the worst in the series by a long shot.

I took the absolute wrong trip into zaniness.

Les Manley (HAR HAR GET IT) in: Search for the King is a game I've had for around twelve years or so now, borrowing it from my friend Harry in middle school then never getting the chance to give it back when he all-of-a-sudden moved away. He had my copy of Day of the Tentacle though, so I think it's safe to say who got the better end of this deal. Around that time I had a mouseless Windows 3.1 beast in my room that I played pretty often until it crapped out, and every once in a while I kept popping in this game to see if I could figure out what I was missing.

Fast-forward to 2014, where I finally just said to hell with it and pulled up a walkthrough after considerable fruitless attempts for years and years. As it turns out, this game really just makes absolutely no sense, presumably because the suits at Accolade saw how much money Sierra was raking in off their hint books, and decided to make a game so illogical that you would have no choice but to pay hard-earned money to see the end! I suppose I shouldn't have been too shocked at this with what little I'd accomplished so far, but it definitely went even farther than I thought it would in the realm of stupidity.The game starts simply enough, with you as Les Manley, chief dork at a failing New York TV station, clad complete with a red bow-tie. The network decides to run a million-dollar competition to find "The King" (obviously Elvis, who is never mentioned by name), and Les whispers to the hot blonde secretary Stella that he could probably find The King if he really tried. That's the plot. The whole setup. That's all the direction you get. You get a few things from the office, swipe some keys, steal a press card, and it all seems fine until you leave the office and come across a napping security guard at the front desk.

I suppose I should go greater into detail about the fact that this is a parser-based graphic adventure. It has mouse support for moving around and manipulating menus, but it's more easily controlled with the keyboard, and all functions are typed in by the player. It makes me sad that I have to explain that, but I guess we are rather far-removed from those days. I mention this because you would NEVER think to type half the commands needed in the game, particularly starting with this one: "LOOK AT DREAM".As you view the dream that was clearly included simply to be able to market the game as "Adults Only!", There are plenty of suggestive images in there (train entering a tunnel, woman eating banana), finished with a quick, tiny thumbnail shot of (HIDE THE CHILDREN) 16-color EGA breasts. Then, as if looking at someone's dream isn't confounding enough, you have to take the dream, as if that makes even the slightest bit of sense to a rational person. From there you wander around town, go to a circus and shovel elephant poop (at least calling this a crappy game isn't a figure of speech), talk to a psychic (lots of jokes about "ball-reading", har har), feed popcorn to a ravenous lion, give the world's tiniest man that same dream, then kidnap him and put him in a mailbox for no forseeable reason other than the idea of trying everything on everything because ADVENTCHURE GAIEMZ. And boy oh boy, you'd better do everything in this section of the game that you need to do, because if you're missing one item (like The King's handkerchief a local collector has, which you get by spilling soda on then stealing off of her clothesline), because once you end up in Vegas, almost as a pure accident (the game has a bus station purely as an evil trick, it serves no purpose and will never take you anywhere) wherein you stand on a Test-Your-Strength machine and get rocketed to Vegas.

Once you're there, you can walk over to the desert simply to answer the ringing payphone, which purely exists so that the designers can show another close-up shot of Stella (now clad in lingerie), which is very directly stated to the player, and indeed, they clearly put more work into making the few close-ups of women look realistic than they did into anything else in this game, and when you get to the hotel you can immediately get another close-up at the pool, this time complete with nipple poke-thru because this game is really classy. I don't even have a problem with sleaze for the sake of sleaze, but the only reason this woman even exists in the game is so you can steal her sunglasses when she goes in the pool. Well, and to presumably show shots of all the "hot babes" on the back of the box in these days before the internet.

From there you wander around the hotel's very few screens, having picked up Helmut from the Vegas post office box (despite the fact that usually those are only for sending, not receiving, and you never addressed it in the first place!), and you'd better be happy you ever thought in a million years to do that, because you have to sneak into the penthouse or whatever it is, then completely without indication and again entirely on a whim, tie Helmut to a piece of floss and lower him into the drain of the hot tub in that room to find a dry cleaning ticket that's ages old for a real Elvis outfit. From there, you leave the hotel, then hope you're smart enough to know to randomly decide to "USE THUMB" (when there are no vehicles even visible) to hitch a ride to THE KINGDOM, which also has about two locations total, one of which has more than one room!There's a bar in this area named Red's bar that I guess is having a talent show. Your awful dancing (while dressed in the Elvis suit, which you wear for the rest of the game) gets you dead last despite being the first entrant, so as consolation you can enter The Kingdom. You find a secret room, and if you're an absolute genius (and you would have to be, since the necessary bread is invisible) you'll snag a guitar, a microphone, and make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which will give you the necessary gut to be The King in this talent show you didn't know you needed to win because wait why are we dressing up as Elvis what the hell is happening in this asasldkjfh;asdklfalsjkhgpuiaovjn;naskjdfn

Okay. Sorry. Let me regroup.

Now you're fat Elvis. Go back to Red's, sing a song, and you've won the game. Why? Because you get trampled by a ton of people who...I don't know, do they think Les is the real Elvis? I'm not entirely sure, but they trample him half to death, and as he nearly expires he sees a heavenly spirit that sure looks like The King, and he gets a picture of him right before being brought back to life by the nurse, who again of course exists to have more close-ups of attractive EGA women. From there, you win the contest and from that point...I guess Les is running the station now, complete with the implication that the hot secretary from before is now servicing him regularly in the sexual department (which, admittedly, is not as gross as when it was implied earlier in the game about the even-more-disgusting boss).

This game is one of the most pointless cash-grabs at the success of a much better game I've ever seen. This is like if Asylum Films made a knockoff of Leisure Suit Larry. All the pieces are there, but with the exception of a few chuckles (mostly non-sequiturs), none of it works. The only thing this game has going is aesthetic value. The music is pretty decent, and on a graphical level it honestly looks better than the games made on Sierra's SCI0 engine that clearly inspired this one (and was used again in Accolade's next adventure, Altered Destiny, which...Well, I hope it's better), but that is literally all it has going for it.

Few games are this nonsensical, sleazy, and exploitative, particularly without actually delivering on any front (and I'm a guy who knows and loves sleazy exploitational nonsense!), And there's a very good reason that for the most part, Les Manley in: Search for the King has been so lost to time that it doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry. Unfortunately, it must have done well back when it was new, because...*gulp*...There's a sequel. Les Manley: Lost in L.A., and from what I hear it's leagues worse. In that case...Well, I'll see you guys next year. I'm gonna start drinking well ahead of time for that one.

Until then, you can find me around the web. I'm @Brakywaki on Twitter, I've got a podcast that rarely gets updated (MENtertainment Weekly) for a website that needs to be completely redone (www.MENtertainmentTonight.net), and a Youtube page (The MENtertainment Room) that I'll be updating regularly soon enough. Thanks for taking the time to read about this pile of elephant poo.

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