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SummaryA classic, humorous Wild West adventure that has a few flaws
The GoodFreddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist was released by Sierra in 1993, a time when their adventure games were beginning to get fucking awesome, both in terms of quality and enjoyment. Introduced the same year is this rather amusing game set in the Wild West. It was created by Al Lowe and Josh Mandel; and if you thought the game is up to the same standard as the Leisure Suit Larry games, then you are right. The first thing that I enjoyed was “The Ballet of Freddy Pharkas”, the prologue that explains Pharkas' unfortunate defeat by Kenny the Kid and his relocation to Coarsegold (yes, the same place where Sierra had their headquarters at the time). The ballet itself slightly differs between the CD-ROM and disk versions of the game, with the latter sung by Lowe himself and the former being the karaoke version. Each version of the ballet comes complete with a bouncing ball that appears over each word.
Freddy Pharkas is spread across four acts, and the first two involve filling out prescriptions for characters that you have to meet at a later point, as well as overcoming the dangers in Act II. “The Modern Book of Health and Hygiene” that comes with the game helps you achieve this. It is also a form of copy protection. It is right up there with the likes of King's Quest VI and EcoQuest 2, since it kicks in the middle of the game. I like how it is designed to reflect what books and manuals looked like in the 1800's.
The hand-painted backgrounds are very good, and the character portraits are quite colorful. Nearly everything gives the game a western feel, including the icon interface. There are some nice touches to the dialog boxes. A word can appear in a different color other than black; and not only does this make it stand out against the orange background, but it also adds some emphasis. Pictures have also been included in the upper left and right corners, and these change depending on the setting.
The music is very good, especially if you have a General MIDI device such as the Roland SC-88. The music blends in with what you are doing, and it reflects the tunes that were popular in the 1800's. As for the sound effects, they are on par with any humorous, cartoonish adventure game such as any LSL game from number five onwards, as well as various comedy adventures from LucasArts. That “Score” sound whenever your score is increased is a nice touch.
Before he became a Sierra employee, Mandel was involved in theater, and there are a lot of film references to “Billy the Kid” and “Pee-Wee's Playhouse”. Having said that, it was fun to see if I could spot any references as I played through the game. Freddy Pharkas also pays homage to the LSL series. Credits appear and disappear again as you play through Act I (LSL3), you can select what music plays at a certain location (LSL1 and LSL5), and Sheriff Shift pronounces Pharkas's name incorrectly (LSL5). Even Larry makes an appearance, but wearing a cowboy hat.
The game is laced with humor. For example, at the start of the game, you receive five-hundred points just for opening up the pharmacy. Then, there is the freedom of clicking different icons on characters or objects (mainly the hand and talk icons), or using certain inventory items on them, to generate a witty response. My favorite is clicking the Hand and Talk icons on yourself. Since the CD version of the game features full speech, the humor is emphasized by both the characters and the narrator. Even the puzzles in the game are quite funny, with the problem of the farting horses a classic.
There is a stand-alone demo that allows players to get a feel of the actual game. I think that you have to blow up a mine where a bandit is hiding. The demo, too, is packed with humor, with the high point being that you don't get any points for the entire demo, just for completing it; and even then, you don't get the full 50 points, but one off.
The BadIt seems the CD version of Freddy Pharkas has slightly less humor. In the disk version, you can go into your inventory and click one item on another, and that will give you a funny response. In the CD version, however, the result is a red X with a “Huh?”. I would have liked to hear the narrator instead of a sound effect.
Another problem is something that the other reviewers already mentioned. In Act II, each puzzle has a time limit, meaning that the game ends after about five minutes if you don't deal with it beforehand. You hardly have any time to work things out.
The game is supposed to be for all audiences, but I'm not even sure whether Act IV should have contained adult content. There are at least two violent scenes, including one where Pharkas is seen lying in the middle of Main Street covered in blood. Like LSL3 before it – a game that contains several sex scenes - there is no “This game contains adult subject matter” sticker on the box to warn parents that it is not suitable for their children.