Monday, 7 May 2012

Game 17: Gold Rush! - Won!

Jerrod Wilson Journal Entry 4: “What an incredible day! Not only have a finally found Jake, the two of us have just discovered an enormous quantity of gold! As has been the case every step of the way on this journey, finding Jake’s cabin (after being led there by his mule) was merely a stepping stone on the way to actually discovering his whereabouts. The only thing of use I picked up in there was a box of matches and while I found a trapdoor beneath a large rug in the centre of the room, there didn’t appear to be any way of opening it from within the cabin itself. I made my way to the cabin outhouse and discovered that it was no ordinary hole in the ground. I had no option but to climb in and see where it led! It turned out that Jake had been digging tunnels beneath both the outhouse and the cabin, and that there was a lot of gold down there. Eventually I found him and immediately after celebrating our reunion, we got down to digging for gold. Shortly after I started, I broke into a large underground cavern, literally filled with gold! We’re now disgustingly rich!”

James' House: I've finally found him right? Right?!?!

Well, I’ve finished Gold Rush! It took me just over an hour to get from finding Jake’s cabin to celebrating the discovery of a huge cache of gold with him. There were only two real challenges remaining and unfortunately, they were both examples of the game taking advantage of the engine’s shortcomings (one of my pet hates). As I mentioned in the journal entry, the cabin didn’t actually offer much other than a box of matches, and there appeared to be no way to open the trapdoor I found under the rug from within the room (the game specifically tells you that there’s no way). The obvious place to go next was the outhouse, which was just a few metres away from the house. Getting to the outhouse though turned out to be far more challenging than I could ever have guessed!

No Jake and no note. All bets are off people!!!

When I said “look at outhouse”, the game responded with “there’s a path running from the front door to the outhouse”, but said path seemed to be blocked by what I can only describe as shrubbery. I walked along the wall of bush, but there was no gap to walk through. I tried to go round the obstacle by going a screen west, then south and then east, in an attempt to enter the cabin screen from the south, but not only was I constantly accosted by bandits, entering from the south simply placed me at the northern part of the screen again. Clearly I was going to have to find a way to get past the bush, but I was struggling to think of one. I couldn’t climb over it, nor could I light it on fire using the matches. Finally, I just tried walking through it again and noticed one spot where I couldn’t walk west when I was hard up against it. I walked east and then south and then basically mashed the south, east and west keys until I ended up standing on the southern side of the bushes!

Perhaps it was common to have a maze seperating miners from their toilets in the gold rush era

Honestly, if you’re going to place a maze in a game, surely you need to let the player know that it’s even there, and then give them a perspective that might allow them to navigate through it in a sensible fashion. This sort of puzzle seems intentionally placed to do nothing more than slow the player down, and unfortunately it wasn’t the last or worst case of it. Anyway, once I got to the outhouse, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the way forward was to actually hop into the filthy hole! I did enjoy the breaking down the fourth wall humour that they went for here as Jerrod asks the player whether he really has to get into it. Once in the mine, I lit my lantern and started to look around. There's a door blocking your path, but I was able to use the remaining unused items in my inventory to get past it (tie the string to the magnet and lower it through the hole in the door to get the key on the other side). Once through I eventually found a pick and started hacking at the walls randomly. After I’d been everywhere that I could, I’d found a couple of chunks of gold, but still no Jake!

This puzzle took some thinking, but it's pretty obvious which items to use, just not necessarily how to use them

It’s here that I had a stroke of luck, and I have to wonder how anyone might progress past this point without a similar thing happening. While I was attempting to find some sort of path I hadn’t yet explored, I accidentally fell off a ladder. Due to the rather annoying sensitivity of the ladders in the mine, I’d already fallen to my death several times, so I prepared to restore once again. Only this time while I was falling, the light of my torch showed me that there was a path off to the left of the ladder. Basically this path was only accessible by blindly stepping off a ladder halfway up in exactly the right spot! There’s absolutely no way of knowing that it’s there from what I can tell, and I can only guess that this is the part of the game that Fenrus got stuck on for two years. I, through sheer luck, only got stuck there for about twenty minutes, but I can see how easily someone could get stuck here permanently.

Oh I know...I'll just randomly step off this ladder onto the path that I don't know is there!

Once I got myself on the path (which took many attempts without falling even when I figured there was one), it wasn’t long before I was talking to my long lost brother. We both started digging in the underground cavern that he’d been working in, and a few pick-swings later, we were celebrating an extremely impressive find. Watching both Jerrod and Jake dance around is pretty hysterical, and I have to say the ending is well handled, which is fortunate after such an ordeal in getting there. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the game as a whole just yet. I want to make sure when I rate it that I don’t let the poor second half completely negate what was a pretty enjoyable first half. There are lots of interesting ideas in the game and the setting is fresh and still to this day pretty unique. I’ll sleep on it and give a final rating tomorrow. Then it’s time for King’s Quest IV. Who wants to accompany me?!

I'm pretty satisfied with 213 out of 250, considering how many things I fudged my way through

Session Time: 1 hour 00 minutes
Total Time: 9 hours 00 minutes


  1. Congratulations!

    Gold Rush! isn't really well known, and it seems like it could be for some really obvious reasons. It has some unique features, but the way many of them are used makes the game harder than it ought to be.

    That being said, so does KQIV... Onwards, Princess!

    1. I'm just deciding whether I need to work my way through the other two paths from Brooklyn to Sacramento to be able to give the game a fair rating.

      I might pay a visit to YouTube before I decide.

    2. Eh, I'm guessing it won't affect your total score. The other paths mirror the entire game both good and bad. You could do one of them though, just to check it out.

    3. As said, that other paths are also really short, and playing them through should not take much time, if you save your game in Brooklyn just before buying the tickets and equipment. However I doubt it's worth it, and probably there is no effect to the rating.

      As the same game rules apply also there: random deaths during travel, dead-ends for not having the correct equipment, "maze" type puzzles that you like a lot and also some parser challenges (at least I had).

      The best part in taking the alternative routes imo is how the mood is set when you arrive to California. If you take the short route through Panama, the air is filled with big expectations as you are among the first arrivals. But if you sail all the way through Cape, the mood is depressed for arriving too late. I just wonder if it also has the same impact that Ilmari commented about - how there are more gold diggers around and its more difficult to find gold after time passes. This is another good example of a good idea the designers had, which they were unable to utilize to the benefit of the game.

    4. I actually didn't find anything to verify my recollection that the gold digging became harder the more time you spent on your travel, but I remember reading about it from some gaming magazine in 90s. It certainly would have been a logical addition to the game.

      If you really want to see one of the alternative routes, I'd suggest the Panama route, where you'll get to see something else beyond the ship. Then again, I also doubt that it would really affect your opinion of the game.

  2. GOLD! (or at least a lot of pale yellow dots, which is the nearest the game can represent it!)

    Many congratulations. Does the game have a different ending if you got maximum points though?

    Looking forward to KQIV, it's quite a good one, but has a few tricky puzzles.

  3. Congratulations!

    I played Gold Rush a long time ago, and I remember getting absolutely stuck at the cabin. I think I eventually read a walkthrough or got the solution from a friend, as I couldn't remember the end anymore. I do have fond memories of the game, and in general recall enjoying the middle of the game more then you did.

  4. I, for one, cannot wait for King's Quest IV.

  5. One thing you might like as you're starting to enter the sound era of Sierra:

    Sierra wrote their games for the roland 32, and it makes a huge difference. It changes the sound from the sounddblaster's crappy sound to an amazing musical experience. You'll have to set DosBOX up to use it. It wasn't hard from what I remember. Download the Vista MIDI mapper and install it. Install Munt. (you're gonna have to find some MT-32 ROMS, but that's not hard) Once you've done that, you just have to set your computer's MIDI to be the Roland emulator, and setup the game through its usual setup program to use the Roland, and you'll have great sound.

  6. @The Trickster: Are you going to play the AGI version of KQ4, or the SCI version, or both? Would be nice to see the comparison.

    @The Mad Gamer: The pre-built Munt driver on sourceforge is well over 5 years old now, yet it looks like Munt is still being developed. It might be better to get a DOSBox SVN build that has Munt built in, as that will probably use a newer version while also eliminating the hassle of setting up the Windows MIDI driver.

    Personally I bought an MT-32 from eBay around 6 years ago and never looked back. The only problem is it isn't convenient to connect to my laptop where I prefer to play old games.

  7. You might want to start using scummVM from here onwards - you'll still be playing the DOS versions, but can easily set up the best configurations. For example recent builds will automatically emulate MT32 if you have the roms in the right directory. I recently played Future Wars in DosBox and the sound and graphics were both very glitchy, both were much better in ScummVM.

    KQIV is my personal most-hated Sierra game, although I loved it at the time because it was the most advanced thing I could play on my AT with a Hercules monochrome adaptor. Good luck! I'm looking forward to your playthrough.