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SummaryRemember those times when adventure games were fun?
The GoodI love Sierra's adventures for several reasons: they are usually funny, they have great production values, and they offer generous interaction systems that encourage experimentation. Freddy Pharkas is, for better and for worse, a typical Sierra adventure.
If you ask me (and if you don't, I'll still write it): the better outweighs the worse by a large margin. Freddy Pharkas is, above all, a game of exploration. You can follow the plot and just solve the necessary puzzles - or you can walk around the town and try things. Actually, you'll probably want to do it anyway, because some of the puzzles make little sense and you'll feel compelled to explore every corner, exhaust every dialogue tree, and use everything on everything until you finally get it. The exploration aspect, however, is so well-integrated that you can spend hours in the very beginning of the game just walking around, talking to people, and poking at stuff, since only a very specific action is needed to trigger the plot. This kind of player-controlled pace is something I appreciate very much in games.
Much of the dialogue is hilarious, and there is a lot of it. The game's verbosity doesn't hurt it in the least - on the contrary, it's like participating in a hyperactive comedy show. Naturally, there is also the omniscient narrator who comments on everything you do. The thing is, an adventure game world lives and breathes with those funny remarks and descriptions. Touching everything, talking to everyone, trying improbable actions are what adventure games are supposed to be about. Freddy Pharkas has plenty of that, and it's not in the least stingy with witty responses, rewarding even the silliest attempt with a joke.
Two very funny guys, Josh Mandel and Al Lowe, teamed up to spearhead this project. The result is, as expected, a powerful combination of amusing gags and clever puns. The jokes are more numerous and more biting than in Larry games, where they mostly revolved around sexual innuendos. By the way, you should read the hilarious manual - those descriptions of diseases are funny as hell. You'll have to read it anyway to solve the puzzles of the first part. It also looks great, so don't settle for a text file this time.
Freddy Pharkas is also one of the last adventures with that warm Sierra-style hand-painted graphics, before they switched to cartoons. I like the disproportional, but detailed faces, the amusing animation that nevertheless doesn't disrupt the charming atmosphere of a quiet Old West town. Even the music manages to be funny in this game: the opening country song is pure comedic gold. I listened to it every time I booted up the game.
The puzzles may be a mixed bag, but they follow their own crazy logic, and some of them are downright hilarious. I mean, what other game requires you to assemble a gas mask so that you won't be killed by farting horses?..
The BadOn the other hand, certain puzzles are nonsensical no matter how you look at them. Those "what the..." moments do not stack up high enough to ruin the game, but they don't exactly enhance it, either.
The pacing is a bit odd, and I can't say I liked the time limit imposed on some parts. Sure, it adds a sense of urgency, but reloading an earlier save and replaying a segment after having found the solution makes it feel like an unnecessary impediment. Also, while the manual instructions are brilliant, the game overuses them in the first quarter or so of the game.
There are two versions: floppy and CD. Floppy has text, CD has voices. No, seriously: CD has either voices or text. You can't have 'em both. Now I really want to say "What the...". I tried everything and still couldn't have voices with subtitles.