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SummaryFreddy Pharkas rules... all other games BURN IN HELL!
The GoodAfter creating six Leisure Suit Larry games, Al Lowe decided to turn his back on the LSL series and focus on creating an adventure set in the West. This game is called Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, and it was a spoof on westerns inspired by the Zucker Brother movies, such as Airplane!
As the prologue called “The Ballet of Freddy Pharkas” states, Freddy Pharkas grew up in St. Louie (sic), and his dream was to become a gunslinger. Unfortunately, due to a nasty confrontation with Kenny the Kid, which caused his right ear to be blown off, Pharkas is forced to move to Coarsegold and quit his gunslinging days, and get a career as a pharmacist. Shortly after, he finds out about a series of events that will change Coarsegold forever – events such as the immediate shutdown of businesses in order of the town's sheriff, and the disasters that strike the town in a single day.
Freddy Pharkas is split up into four acts, and each one of them has Whittlin' Willy, one of the characters in the game, tell the story so far, both at the beginning or at the end of the act, but there are usually times when he pipes up halfway and when you die in the game.
Soon after you begin Freddy Pharkas, you find yourself entering your pharmacy and filling out prescriptions for a few customers (one by one) – a task requiring you to consult The Modern Day Book of Health and Hygiene that comes with the game (with a design that reflects how books and manuals used to look like back in the 1800's). According to the reviews that I have read so far, this is indeed a form of copy protection, but instead of Sierra asking you to find the word in paragraph x on page y, you refer to this book so that you can follow the correct procedure on how to fill out the prescriptions properly, but this is a little bit tricky, since you have to do some math to find out the exact amount of substances. If you give the prescription to the customer with the wrong substance or amount, you will have to start all over again.
Since Freddy Pharkas is set in the west, everything that you expect from the era is there, from the usual places to be there, such as the saloon, the bank, the schoolhouse, sheriff's office, and a couple of other businesses, to the characters that you have to interact with, both mean and nice. These characters wear clothes that were popular in the late 1800's, not those fancy outfits that you can get your hands on today. Just seeing the graphics make you feel that you are walking around town in a Western movie, where everybody interacts with people walking around main street, as well as in buildings. The icon interface is laid out with icons that reflect that era: old cowboy boots for the “Walk” icon, old-style glasses for the “Eye” icon, etc. As usual, you can save, restore, restart, and quit your game using the in-built control panel. This has a nice touch. You see, the rectanglar sliders that you move up and down to adjust the game's detail, volume, speed, and text in other Sierra games have been replaced with four dudes wearing a noose, which you can move up and down. It looks great.
The music is very good. All throughout Freddy Pharkas, you will hear the tunes that reflect those in Western movies, and the music sometimes reflect the situation well. The sound effects are what you expect from the LSL games, as well as various comedy adventures from LucasArts. And the tunes don't get annoying.
The original version of the game proved popular among gamers that Sierra decided to release a CD-ROM version of Freddy Pharkas, which comes with full speech done by professional actors. Some of the voices are really funny to listen to, including the narrator's. You see, nearly every action that you perform emits some funny response from him. When you click the “Hand” icon on yourself, for example, I enjoyed hearing him say “Ahhh. Scratching right there sure feels good, eh, Freddy?”, and the narrator's humor is carried throughout the game. Other characters that I loved hearing the voices to include the sheriff's, Srini, and Chastity. Even using the “Hand” on almost all character turns out to be funny.
Speaking of funny, there is a lot more humor added in the game. For example, at the start of the game, you receive five-hundred points just for opening up the pharmacy. The best parts come from Act II, where you have to make a medicine that will cure the horses' flatulence, as well as the ridiculous idea of putting out a major fire with baking soda. Al made fun of his boss, Ken Williams, by adding him as a comeo in the LSL games, and he did it again in Freddy Pharkas. Like LSL3, you see some credits while you are doing shit at the beginning of the game, and if you interact with these credits, like clicking the “Hand” or “Talk” icons on them, you get a very funny response like “Shhh. That person's already working on another game.” or “What's the matter? You don't like your own name, so you decide to take theirs?”
There are puzzles in the game, but I don't think that they are quite hard to master. Most of them involve you filling out prescriptions that I mentioned earlier. Fillng out a single prescription takes some time, as you have to pick shit up and put it down where you find them instead off just dumping them on the bench, causing the bench to be crowded. Furthermore, you can carry only one thing at a time. Besides from puzzles, however, you can participate in a couple of arcade sequences, which involves you shooting several targets in order to win. There are three difficulty settings in the form of funny quotes, representing “Easy”, “Medium”, and “Hard”. The second arcade sequence is the one that I enjoyed playing the most, mainly due to its simple objective, along with what happens in it, and the zany music and sound effects that reflect what you are doing.
The ending is rather long and funny, and focuses on bloopers from different scenes.
The BadAlthough the puzzles are quite easy once you learn what you have to do, the first puzzle in Act II, where you have to make a cure for flatulence, requires you to interpret volumes to find out the specified amount of a substance. The game expects you to be a rocket scientist and figure this out just by reading spectrum lines. I thought that each spectrum line represent a color that represents 5 gms, and that the lines that sit on a color is actually the amount that you had to add. How wrong I was.
If you have the CD-ROM version of Freddy Pharkas, and wish to karaoke the ballet, you will be disappointed. The CD-ROM version has it sung out for you, so that you don't have to. Furthermore, there is no option that lets you turn the singing off, either inside or outside the game. So if you really want to karaoke, then I suggest that you obtain the disk version somewhere.
The Bottom LineBoth Sierra and Al Lowe made sure that Freddy Pharkas look and feels like old Western movies, including the old-style graphics, music, and sound effects. The game has more humor than any LSL game, as performing almost every task will generally produce a funny response from the narrator or other characters.
So if you like Al Lowe and his LSL games, make sure that you get this game, but before you do, download a copy of the disk-based demo, and then play it to get a feel of what to expect in the game. The objective of this demo is to make Pharkas deal with the thief who has trapped himself in the Ol' Abandoned Gold Mine. This objective of the demo isn't one of the situations in the main game, and since it is a demo, you won't die.