In any good Western, the setting is more than just a place where stuff happens—it becomes a character in and of itself. Whether it’s the sun-blasted landscapes of a Spaghetti Western, a shining frontier hamlet menaced by bandits, or a run-down dump that the new sheriff needs to clean up, the rugged landscape, colorful characters, and ever-present danger of the Wild West provides ample storytelling opportunities.
It also provides ample opportunities for fart jokes.
Westerns often feature cattle rustlers, Indian tribes (both friendly and not), Chinese immigrants, Mexican banditos, poncy lawyers from back East, smooth-talking gunfighters, card-sharks, prostitutes, piano players, corrupt officials, virtuous lawmen, sweet schoolmarms, frontier kids, miners and gold prospectors, and anyone wanting to strike out away from civilized society to make their way in the wide, wide world.
Coarsegold, California, the setting of FPFP, is most definitely a dump. But it’s an interesting one, and good sized. I spent the vast majority of this session wandering the town, mapping it out, picking up what I can, and generally testing the limits of the game world before I did what the game intended me to do at this early juncture: head to Freddy’s pharmacy and open for the day.
Freddy begins on the central-western section of Main Street, home to the Golden Balls Saloon, Mom’s Café, and the Dirty Sheets Hotel. Billy the town handyman is boarding up the latter, and when Freddy inquires, Billy confesses he doesn’t know why.
I don’t find anything else to do on this screen, and Billy doesn’t provide any useful information, so I decided to check out the two establishments that are still open.
Mom’s is a down-home diner run by Helen Back (get it?) a pretty nasty piece of work. She’s quick with a cutting comment and a threat to Freddy’s life if he dares touch things he shouldn’t.
|She’s also quick with an Airplane! reference.|
Mom berates Freddy for calling her “Mom,” for not being at his pharmacy, for trying to walk where he shouldn’t, and basically just for existing. Geez, don’t you think some players get enough of this from their actual moms?
Mom is assisted by her cook Hopalong Singh “from the Far East.” Based on his look and his name, he’s a Chinese-Indian, but not a Native American Indian.
He doesn’t provide any useful information at this moment, and seems to exist solely as a racial caricature of the typical denizens of an Old West town as popularized by Hollywood . . . but let’s take a moment to discuss this, shall we?
In the Year of our Lord 2020, Hopalong’s character portrait sure looks offensive. And maybe it did in 1993 as well (I was 12, so had I played this game, concepts like this would likely have eluded me). But let’s look at a few things here:
- The Nature of Comedy: This is a comedy adventure game, and I see caricatures of plenty of the white people in this game. Freddy is a stereotypically goofy white guy, and we haven’t even gotten to the barber or the sheriff (oh, the barber . . . a walking, talking Irish/Italian stereotype if there ever was one). I get the sense that Al Lowe, Josh Mandel, and their team of artists just wanted to make everybody look ridiculous, regardless of their race. And since I have both played other Al Lowe games, have heard from Al’s former colleague Corey Cole in the comments that Al is not a racist, and am also not in the business of judging other people’s hearts and souls without actually knowing them or having evidence to do so, I’m going to just roll with the caricatures here.
- Context: This game is a spoof of Westerns, and from what I can tell, a loving spoof at that. Even during my so-far short playtime, I already get the sense that this game is spoofing everybody and everything ever associated with the Western genre. And so, like classic spoofs of the past and presumably Blazing Saddles, a movie I have not seen but which seems to be this game’s main inspiration, everything here is done for the good-natured laughs.
- Times Change: It’s inevitable. Yesterday’s comedy becomes today’s heresy, and vice versa. The team behind FPFP could never have predicted the future, and I for one refuse to judge the content of a work’s creators by the social mores and taboos of the present. I am nearly 100 percent certain that everybody who worked on this game was a good, decent, kind-hearted soul who just wanted to make players laugh and not at certain ethnic groups or what have you. I’m giving the FPFP team the benefit of the doubt and I sincerely hope that anybody reading my posts or playing along with me does the same.
- And if you are offended?: Then my apologies only in the sense that me sharing this screenshot or blogging about this game bothered you. My intent is to write about my experiences playing FPFP, what works, what doesn’t, and maybe dig deep into what makes adventure games tick and why we love them.
See the two cans in the foreground of the screenshot? Looking at the can of corn reveals that it’s P&W brand corn, “The firm, crisp kernels that look as good coming out as they do going in.” The can of P&W beans—“The firm, crisp beans that smell as savory on the way out as they do on the way in” (Fart joke no. 1!)—is empty, and can be taken. As commenters on the introduction post have noted, actions which give Freddy points are accompanied by a sample of an old Western guy yelling “Score!” which is quite hilarious.
Helen does have some more intel about why the Hotel shut down: “Sheriff Shift and Phineas were there, talking about it being a fire hazard and something about there being back rent owed.” But she’s totally not a gossip, guys.
Golden Balls Saloon
Next door to Mom’s is the Golden Balls Saloon, an eating and drinking—well, drinking establishment run by one Sam Andreas.
Sam doesn’t have anything useful, or even friendly, to say and has no Ovaltine to give Freddy. Too bad, because I really want that secret decoder ring (yeah, that’s two A Christmas Story references so far in my playthrough—maybe there’ll be as many of these as there are fart jokes!). Anyway, this place is a dump. There’s a piano player named Neville Shute who doesn’t talk but who will play requests from the game music (I pick that hoary old chestnut “Revolucion Numero 9,”), some bandito-looking dudes who won’t talk to you, and old Doc “Dizzy” Gillespie, who is drunk off his ass.
|And thinks he’s Lionel Barrymore.|
Freddy comments to the good doctor that his prescriptions have been getting sloppier and sloppier, and wonders if the doctor has been writing them drunk. To which the doctor has some drunken ramblings peppered with various denials. I imagine that this becomes a plot point later on in the game. For now, there’s nothing to do in the casino save for click on everything (including the moose) and appreciate all the little jokes.
And before I forget, yes, the inventory is also a source of jokes, bad puns, and gags. As in Leisure Suit Larry V, you can click any object on any other—including itself—and get some sort of funny little message.
There’s a door in the back of the Golden Balls that takes you out back.
|Behind the Golden Balls.|
The area behind the Saloon looks out to bluff street to the North (here, the bottom of the screen). The Old Abandoned Synagogue lies to the west (the right) and the top of Reverend Sy Hallelujah’s house is visible to the northeast (lower-left of the screen). Local medicinal quack Dad Gumm’s wagon is back here, and a bottle of his elixir lies on the counter. There’s a staircase that leads to the Hotel balcony, but Freddy can do nothing but peer through the locked windows into the empty rooms—I have a sneaking suspicion born of countless years playing adventure games that this will be important later. The back window to Mom’s is open, and every once in a while Hopalong Singh walks by, but all he does is tell Freddy to get lost. Lastly, there’s an icepick stuck in a barrel.
I do the only sensible thing an adventure gamer would do, and grab the elixir and the icepick. The game comments how Freddy almost circumcises himself when he puts the icepick in his pocket, but that it’s no skin off of his nose (how droll). The elixir is basically super-powerful alcohol, and Freddy dies if he drinks it.
|What could possibly go wrong?|
|Oh. But it was only 190 proof!|
In clicking things on other things in my inventory, Freddy uses the icepick to poke a bunch of holes in the empty can—which gives me points—and then throws the icepick away, so I guess that was something I was supposed to do.
Let’s keep walking along Main Street. West of the first screen we come to a stretch of road with a blacksmith and a bank. The road continues south. I see a small child walking (or running, in this case)—one of the many denizens of Coarsegold out and about. It adds a lot of flavor and life to the town. You can talk to them, but so far none have said anything useful. The street continues west and south.
The smith, Smithie, doesn’t have much to say except that he’d sell his shop in a second if he had a buyer, and that he really doesn’t like it when you click the Hand icon on him.
Otherwise, there’s nothing going on here, though Smithie does explain his rather odd-looking horse is missing most of its lower legs because neighborhood vandals stole them in the middle of the night. Looks like even sleepy Coarsegold, California, isn’t immune to petty crime.
The Bank of Bob
The Bank of Bob is a rather sad place run by a rather sad guy named P. H. Balance. There’s nothing to do here—Freddy can’t write in the register and he can’t go into the back area—but there are funny asides with nearly every interaction Freddy has with Mr. Balance and his bad hearing.
P.H. is always trying to get Freddy to open an account with a special holiday day, but Freddy wisely passes. There is a wanted poster that gives a close-up when I click the Eye icon on it; I’ll bet anything at some point Freddy’s skills as a gunslinger are going to come into play. This one is for some goofball named Bill the Barber.
West of the smithy I come to Robertson Cliffs and the mighty Blackwater Creek spanned by the Old Bridge and leading to the deserts beyond. What a view!
How old is this bridge? So old that when I walk across, a floorboard falls away and Freddy comments that he only has three more trips across the bridge left. I’m getting flashbacks to King’s Quest II and the suspension bridge leading to the three doors King Graham needs to find the keys for. If you remember correctly, you only have so many trips before the bridge gives way, so if you’ve walked across it too many times before finding the final key, you’re out of luck, chump.
I explore the desert beyond and see nothing but ants I can’t do anything with and a desert I can’t delve further into, so here I restored and continued my exploration of Coarsegold.
|This one was so bad it didn’t even deserve a groan.|
South of the smithy and the bank lay the brothel, run by one Madame Sadie Ovaree. I try to go in because, you know, research, but the game tells me it’s only open at night.
There are lots of specifically named plants around here, such as foxtail. There are other parts of town where the local flora is similarly called out, and I wonder if Freddy will need to gather some to make medicine.
East of both the smith and the bank and the hotel, we find an eastern stretch of main street with several buildings. The Post Office is closed, but Chester Field’s Mercantile Co. and O’Hanahan’s Barber Shop are both open.
Not much going on in the mercantile shop. The proprietor, Chester, heads into the back and never comes out so I can’t buy anything, and all I can do is swipe a paper bag from the counter. But hey! Here’s ol’ Whittlin’ Willy from the intro! He’s whittlin’ away and has nothing vital to say, but it’s cool that he’s an actual character in town and not just a narrative device.
There are some notices around with in-jokes, mostly referencing other Sierra games, so I head over to the barber shop instead of wasting my time further.
Walking Italian/Irish stereotype Salvatore O’Hanahan is busy working on a customer named Eb Sorbeen, Jr., a reference I do not understand. You can’t interact with Sorbeen in any way, but O’Hanahan has a lot to say . . . especially if you poke around his shop. I can’t take anything, but I don’t yet know if I have to. At least the game makes a comment about Freddy—and adventure gamers generally—propensity to take anything that isn’t nailed down.
O’Hanahan is worried about the tourist trade, and is concerned by the fact that the Hotel has been closed. He wants Freddy to come back when he has news about . . . anything, I guess. I make a note to do so.
East of here is a bit of road containing the Sheriff’s office and Freddy’s pharmacy, as well as the Tall and Thin Shop and PP’s Playhouse, both of which are shut down. Freddy’s helper/human cigar store Indian Dominick I decide to check out the Sheriff Checkum P. Shift’s office first.
The Sheriff is a nasty piece of work. He seems lazy and vindictive too, and those are his good points. He also constantly mispronounces Freddy’s last name, which is kind of funny.
The Sheriff pooh-poohs Freddy’s complaints about the town’s dwindling prospects, explaining that he shut the Hotel down due to it attracting the wrong kind of business. The playhouse was likewise shut down for showing “smut” like Chaucer, Rabelais, and Balzac. The Tall and Thin Shop, however, was not shut down for any prurient reasons, but because tall and thin people are sneaky and can turn sideways and disappear (the Sheriff’s concerns, not mine! Any sane person knows it’s short people you have to worry about).
This guy is useless, but there’s a wanted poster here, advertising potential heroes to be on the look out for one Mike “Stinky” Pickhinkie.
Freddy’s associate Dominick is standing outside of the pharmacy. He seems like a friendly enough guy, and tells Freddy about what he’s been reading lately.
The schoolhouse and the old abandoned Assay Office are next to the pharmacy. There are kids playing Freddie can try to talk to, and if you wait long enough the schoolmistress and Freddy’s love interest Penelope Primm walks out. Freddy can engage in some sweet, good-natured flirting that is obviously reciprocated, but there’s nothing else to do so I continue east.
Right next to the schoolhouse is a gross old swamp. The Abandoned Mine is to the north and an old broken down train at the old broken down train station is to the east, but I can’t get to either. Freddy dies if you try to walk on the swamp also, so don’t do it.
This seems like quite the hazard to have right next to a school, but that was the Wild West for you—full of danger and stupid design choices.
So that’s Main Street. Taking any of the alleys north, or walking off the bottom of the screen behind the Golden Balls takes you to Bluff Street.
In the center of Bluff Street is an old church. All you can do is open the door and snag a votive candle, which turns into a glob of wax, but it’s an inventory item so I think I’ll keep it. You can mess around with the coffin poking out of the old broken-down hearse next to the church, but that’s it for this screen. Neither Sy’s house in the lower-middle or the Old Synagogue in the lower-left can be entered, so I go to the west, first to check out the graveyard and then the rest of Bluff Street.
You can’t do anything in the western part of Bluff Street or the graveyard, aka Reboot Hill, though the game has the customary humorous headstone inscriptions. The undertaker’s house is closed, and the outhouse to the left has a missing wall. Freddy comments on how this really improves the ventilation. I also see the upper part of a gallows and noose—with luck, Freddy will never find himself hanging on the other end of this.
Finally, we come to the eastern part of Bluff Street. There’s a water tower, an old Grist Mill and an old Bakery you can’t do anything with, another entrance to the Old Abandoned Mine, one of the town’s water towers, and another outhouse. Freddy can turn the water on or off, but otherwise do nothing with it. Clicking my can-with-holes does nothing, and doesn’t even bring a special message up. This is good because at first I was worried that I’d made a mistake by not having a fully intact can with me here, but so far that fear is unfounded. There’s also the old Mayor’s house in the upper-right, but the Mayor retired and his house is, for the time being, not able to be interacted with.
In the outhouse we find fart joke no. 2: A cornucopia of sounds that I thought were the delicate music of flatus turn out to be an electrical joy buzzer under the outhouse seat. So not really farts per se, but I’m counting it.
So that’s Coarsegold! Here’s my map, comprised of screenshots.
But finally, my wanderings take me back to Freddy’s pharmacy, where I suppose the good pharmacist should finally get to work for the day. The game informs me that the game is half-over after I unlock the front door—I have my doubts, but I’ll bet you anything it’s sure to get interesting. I can’t wait to start poking around in here.
Session Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Inventory: paper bag, elixir, melted candle, can with holes in it
Fart Jokes: 2