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SummaryFrom New York to California -- Getting there is half the fun!
The GoodIn 1987, California patrol officer Jim Walls was hired by Sierra to create an realistic adventure game, encouraging players to use real police procedures to deal with the dangerous situations they faced. A year later, realism was also incorporated into a game that was created by Ken and Doug MacNeill, the brothers who were part of the King's Quest development team. This time, the game is based on the California gold rush in 1848.
Aptly named Gold Rush!, the game is set in Brooklyn Heights 1848 and we are introduced to Jerrod Wilson, a New York resident who wants to go to California and strike it rich. After the introduction, we are given a look at what players will experience during the game (via four windows). I think this is neat, as not many games around its time do that. Before Jerrod heads to California, he has to sell his house, quit his day job, and get ready for the journey ahead. Like Police Quest before it, it is based on real events. (The gold rush really took place in 1848, and there was indeed a President Polk that served at the time.)
Gold Rush! introduces many firsts as far as Sierra adventure games go. Although it was one of the last games to feature the aging AGI interface, it is the first to play a melody when you score a point, and this changes halfway through the game into a much longer one. It also features sprite-enlargement. In some scenes, for instance, Jerrod will become larger as he gets closer to the bottom of the screen, and an example of this is in his house.
What makes this game shine is that it was the first Sierra game to feature multiple paths. If you feel like it, you can get to California by sea (via Cape Horn or Panama) or by land (by signing up to the Joint Stock Mining Company). Due to the variety of routes, Gold Rush! is worth playing more than once. Regardless of the route you're taking, you have to do certain things beforehand, mainly by purchasing stuff that will help you get to Cali safely. During your trek, the game will point out certain locations and tell you about them, although you have the option to turn them off.
The graphics in the game are the best I ever seen in an AGI game. Everything (including the buildings and the characters) is drawn to reflect what they look like in the 1800's. Most of the music is blend in with the music common in that era and it actually sounds pretty good, especially if users already have a Tandy computer since the machine is capable of producing three voices instead of just one.
Another neat feature of Gold Rush! is the copy protection itself, which kicks in as soon as you start the game. Like most games, not just Sierra's, you are required to enter a specific word from the manual. If you type in the wrong word, the word "Gotcha!" is displayed and you are required to hang yourself. The same thing happens if you try to steel gold away from your fellow diggers. Nowhere in games from other companies have I seen this technique!
There are not a lot of puzzles in the game, just adventuring. The only one I faced was the cemetery puzzle, where you have to find out which room you have to go to in the hotel. If there are more puzzles, it shouldn't take you more than five minutes to complete.
The BadI hate the way that the game runs on a timer as soon as you start the game, and as soon as it expires you really can't do anything but load a previously saved game. This gets more frustrating if you make a few mistakes that cost you some time.
The Bottom LineIn conclusion, Gold Rush is an adventure game based on a series of events that happened during the California gold rush, and it is a game that allows you to travel to California using one of three different routes. Whichever way you go, you are offered a nice, big lecture about the area, or the history of it, as you pass through it. The nice graphics and sound effects just shows how Sierra's AGI interpreter has improved, leading up to the beginning of a new era for SCI0 games.
The MacNeills left Sierra a long time ago to form The Software Farm, and as part of its 10th anniversary, they decided to make Gold Rush! available on their web site. It is not a remake, but the original floppy disks shipped with a user manual and a large poster showing the three routes, all sealed in a wooden pencil box that I used to have at school. Their web site also encourages small companies to publish their software through them, but they were unsuccessful so far.