Tuesday 8 September 2020

Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist: Strange Indigestion

By Alex

This game . . . lets you eat horse poop.

I wish I was kidding. I’m not.

I also wish I didn’t decide to click the horse poop on Freddy. But I did. Make of this what you will.

In fact, there are tons of weird things you can make Freddy eat that will kill him. So far, in addition to the horse poop, there has been:
  • The highly alcoholic “elixir”
  • A few hundred pounds of baking soda
  • A live snail
  • Freddy’s water purification concoction
  • Nitrous Oxide
And a few other items I can’t recall right now. Most of these have been ingested by accident, and others, like (sigh) the horse poop, due to morbid curiosity.

But in typical fashion, let’s start at the beginning of this session to see how and why Freddy is carrying around a gigantic piece of equine waste in the first place.

Last session ended with Freddy saving Srini from an anthill and subsequently hiring Srini to work at the pharmacy Freddy is hell-bent on reopening. Naturally, something else is plaguing the town: dysentery.

I found this out in a roundabout way, going first to Sheriff Useless’s office to see what was up. Through the dialogue, Freddy somehow knew something amiss with Coarsegold’s water supply and he asked the Sheriff what was going on. Further, Freddy thinks somebody deliberately poisoned the well. This is a small sequence break, but still a bit jarring.

And Freddy knew this . . . how?

This brings up a point about game design: Given the rather linear nature of most adventure games, how would designers plan for this? I suppose the makers of FPFP figured that players would go to the outhouse first, which is one screen to the right and then one screen up from Freddy’s pharmacy. However, the Sheriff’s office is on the same screen as the pharmacy, so I think it’s logical to assume players are just as likely to go there first. In any event, this is an adventure game and not an RPG, so perhaps there just wasn’t as much attention paid to dialogue flags and whatnot (e.g., the Sheriff would say some dialogue that has nothing to do with the poisoned water supply until Freddy goes to the outhouse, or something similar). It’s not a huge deal, but it does feel a bit inorganic.

Anyway, I do another thing typical of adventure gamers, and that is to revisit all the locations to see if anyone has anything useful to say, or any items Freddy can take. Before doing so, I notice that when I step out of the Sheriff’s office there are suddenly sacks of something on in front of the Pharmacy.

These are gigantic sacks of baking soda Freddy had ordered . . . sometime? Well, they’re here. And Freddy takes this gigantic pile of 50-pound sacks and crams them in his pocket.

Don’t eat them, though.

Nobody else in town offers any insight beyond “Go check out the water supply,” of course delivered with considerably more verve and élan than my relatively dry write-up. The town’s water tower is near the outhouse that now has a long line outside of it. None of the townspeople say much of anything, but the game delivers some truly awful, and therefore outstanding, Star Trek jokes when you look at the various citizens of Coarsegold. A sample:

Hey, it beats another fart joke, right?

For some reason, I open the water tap and put some water into an empty beer bottle. I then drink this for some other weird reason—a reason that gives me points—and Freddy runs to the John to do his business, pushing aside the current occupant, Billy, in a rather weird and uncomfortable sequence whereby Freddy removes his bowels while sitting next to another full-grown man.
But I mean, it is kind of funny.

That whole bit leads Freddy to the conclusion that, yes, the town’s water supply is indeed contaminated with something that causes dysentery. Prior to playing this game, all I knew of dysentery is that it’s what my whole family seemed to die of all the time while playing The Oregon Trail.


Now, I’m no doctor or pharmacist, but it seems kind of weird to have to drink something suspected of being contaminated in order to ascertain the full extent of the problem. That’s a bizarre way to go about diagnosing things, don’t you think? “Hm, everybody is getting sick after drinking this water—think I’ll take a gigantic swig!” I’d rather rely on the circumstantial evidence in a case like this, thank you very much.

A part of me wonders if I can bring the contaminated water to the doctor and see if he could do the diagnosis, but I’m not interested enough to waste any more time thinking about this. Time to make some medicine!

The manual features a medicine called Bisalicylate Antitoxidene, “an effective, albeit highly powerful, compound in the correction of diarrhea.” It calls for 25 ml. of Bismuth Subsalicylate to be combined with 5 ml. of Orphenamethihydride in a test tube. This is then heated over a flame until the mixture begins to boil, when it’s put into a bottle and corked. Finally, “[r]emove from flame and dilute with one thousand gallons of water (approximately). Makes enough Bisalicylate Antitoxidene for four thousand doses.”

That’s . . . a lot of water! Presumably it needs to get dumped into the water tower. I follow the formula with no problems, but can’t figure out why it’s not making the medicine.

I’ll tell you why: If you don’t measure in the test-tube, you won’t be successful. Stupid me used the graduated cylinder to, you know, measure the stuff, and then tried dumping it into the test tube, but that didn’t work. So I put it into a beaker, and heated it, but my concoction was unsuccessful. So I tried it again (after a timing-related death) and stuck to the test tube and the test tube only, and finally made the water purification medicine that the town so desperately needs.

Now to dump it in the water tower!

Note: I didn’t hate this particular bit of “test tube” fussiness on the part of the interface. After all, the formula in the manual did call for a test tube. The water tower part, however, did test my patience for reasons I’ve been complaining about the entire game.

Back at the water tower, I figure that Freddy has to get to the top of it and pour the water purification solution/dysentery medicine inside of the giant structure. How I get the solution into the water tower is a different story, but first things first. I sure wish I had a ladder, but Freddy didn’t take the ladder back after rescuing Srini from the anthill, and so it was gone.

I check my inventory, and the only thing that makes sense is the rope from Smithie that I had turned into a lasso. The game seems to think this makes sense too, as Freddy twirls the lasso, only to throw it lamely in the air where it falls back to the ground, lassoing nothing. I try various spots, as you can see in the screenshot above, but to no avail.

I’ll admit I was stumped here, and really wished I had that stupid ladder. Then I had a thought: was it gone?

Nope! The ladder was right where I had left it. There were also two buzzards near the old train tracks, and—what’s this?

Why, it’s Cedric the Owl, everybody’s character from King’s Quest V! Yes, there are a whole bunch of references to that game. Yes, I tried to kill him. No, it didn’t work.

And no, there were no references to POISONous snakes. I was rather disappointed by that. I was also rather disappointed by the fact that I couldn’t trick him into getting close to the buzzards so they could eat him. What I am not disappointed by is the high amount of King’s Quest jokes in this game.

With the ladder in tow, I’m ready to climb the water tower in two stages: Use the ladder on a very specific pixel, climb, pick it up, use it to climb higher, and then it’s here I can use the lasso on the little metal part sticking out of the roof to crawl around up there like a dummy.

I’m not upset about the ladder puzzle. I’m really not. Freddy left it there, end of story. However, it does seem like an unnecessary way to prolong this particular water-tower sequence. I mean, if I already had the ladder—an item I previously used, albeit in a rather oblique way—this whole puzzle would be way too easy, wouldn’t it? Because any player’s first instinct upon seeing a structure they need to climb would be, “Man, I wish I had a ladder,” right? So by artificially removing the ladder the player already used, it adds another layer of abstraction to this puzzle, a layer that didn’t need to be there. Why not make the lasso work? Why not make it clear that the ladder is gone and that there needs to be another way to get up?

I don’t know. This is a minor thing though. What really made my own bowels clench as though I had dysentery occurred after this rather humorous sequence:

Well, I laughed.

Anyway, what made my blood boil here was trying to figure out how to get the water purification stuff into the town’s water supply. Look at the roof of the water tower in those screenshots. Look at them! Do you see a small hatch? Or do you, like I did, see only black shingles surrounded by other black shingles that are slightly later or slightly darker shades of black?

After many deaths where I accidentally clicked the dysentery cure on Freddy, thanks to the gigantic icons with wonky hot-spots, drinking it like a fool and dying, I had to once again consult a walkthrough similarly to how I did with the Preparation G puzzle because—you guessed it!—this is another pixel hunt!

There is, apparently, a really small hatch atop the water tower.

Did you see it? If so, I want you to be on my Where’s Waldo? team this season.

Anyway, Freddy pours the solution in and boom: the town is cured.

Whittlin’ Willy provides a little interstitial narration bringing us to that night, where Srini awakens Freddy with some rather dire news.

The old Assay Office next to the pharmacy is on fire, and none of the useless denizens of Coarsegold are out there trying to put it out. There is likewise no fire department, so it’s once again up to a pharmacist to fix everything.

Before you ask, no, Srini doesn’t help either.

So this was an interesting puzzle, because I recalled reading the entry in the manual about “Sodium Bicarbonate,” which read:

“Baking Soda. Used to correct flatulence & diarrhea; useful on fires (by producing carbon dioxide in large quantities, thus suffocating the flames). Also amusing when added to acetic acid (vinegar).”

Thank goodness Freddy just got a whole mess of 50-pound sacks of baking soda! Should be an easy puzzle, right?


Using them on the fire just causes Freddy to chuck them uselessly in front of the building.

It makes a pile of baking soda, and you can keep throwing more and making more piles, but they don’t do anything and they disappear when you go off-screen and come back on. The game tells me Freddy can’t get close to the intense heat to put the baking soda on the fire . . . yet I can walk right up to the building with no repercussions. It’s only when I try to use the sacks of baking soda on the fire that Freddy takes twenty paces back to chuck them at the fire.

This is pretty stupid.

I wander town, thinking I can get vinegar from Mom’s to pour on these piles, but nothing doing: everything is closed except the bar and the brothel—Sam Andreas at the former is useless, and I’m not allowed to go into the latter. I do notice, however, that the gravedigger has left his shovel near the grave of Freddy’s friend Phil D. Graves.

There’s a burning building next to my pharmacy that’s threatening to spread, but what the hell! I dig up Phil’s grave and get the key to Freddy’s safe deposit box. I do remember to fill it back up when I’m done; I don’t know if I’d get in trouble for not doing this, but why bother to find out?

So . . . that fire.

On the screen with the old Assay Office and the schoolhouse, I notice that the see-saw is highlighted. I wonder if I can put a sack there and launch it at the burning building?

You can put the sacks on either side of the see-saw, but only get points for putting them on the right side. This also makes sense, physics-wise (I think), because I want to send them flying in a leftward arc. Except Freddy can’t just jump on the other side of the see-saw to launch them. Oh no, that would be way too easy.

I think, then, that I need to maybe jump on the other side of the see-saw from a great height, but how? Then I see the swing on the tree.

Note that in this screenshot I have the sacks of baking soda on the wrong side of the see-saw.

Yes! You can click the Hand icon behind Freddy to push him progressively higher, but no matter what, it won’t let Freddy jump off the swing and onto the see-saw. He claims he’s not “skilled” enough to do so without breaking his legs or whatever . . . but he can jump onto the friggin’ roof of the schoolhouse and jump from there.


Having saved the day, I go to the brothel, because why not? It is there I make an incredibly unsurprising discovery:

The Sheriff and the Banker are bad guys!

No, seriously! I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming! But here they are, sitting on the porch of the brothel, smoking cigars and taking about their evil plans to try and get rid of Freddy at the behest of somebody called “The Boss”!

They are very evasive when Freddy tries to talk to them, but our hero knows what’s up. He knows he’s a marked man . . . and has a crisis of conscience: Does he stay in Coarsegold and try to make things right, refusing to run like a coward . . . or does he turn tail and skedaddle, saving his hide while wounding his pride?

I guess we’ll find out next post, because this has gone on long enough, but first, Freddy does actually go in to the brothel.

It’s a pretty happening place. I snoop around, reading the many humorous messages, and yes that’s a sheep dressed all sexy in there (don’t ask). I pick up some dirty French postcards from the table, and yes they lead to some more jokes about wanking, but when I try to talk to anybody, Sadie comes out, and well . . .

 Remember how she owed Freddy money? Well . . .

You know the business Sadie is in, right?

That escalated quickly.

So yes, THEY DO IT, but Sadie tells Freddie he should go because she doesn’t want to see his “cute little behind” or something get hurt.

I find this willingness of Freddy’s to hop in the sack so readily when his heart belongs to Penelope not a very heroic thing to do, something Freddy sort of mentions in this sequence . . .

. . . but I don’t design adventure game, so what do I know?

I’ll leave off here because this has already taken up 36 pages in Microsoft Word. We’ll pick it up again with the start of Chapter 3. I promise you, I’ll get to the horse poop.

Session Time: 1 hours, 10 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours, 5 minutes
Inventory: Boots, melted candle, church key/bottle opener, good guy outfit, desk key, safety deposit box key, pharmacy key, empty beer bottles, shovel
Score: I forgot to take a screenshot of 999
Fart Jokes: 3
Indians: 2
Strange Things Eaten: Far too many to count.


  1. I wonder if you got the score sound when you scored with Sadie

    1. I don't recall . . . but it really should.

  2. This review has a disappointing lack of Jim Walls thus far Alex ;)

    1. That is by design, Kus. Jim Walls didn't exactly receive a warm welcome in those other reviews.

  3. AFAIK that bit with drinking the dysentery water is totally optional; the points are just a reward for you finding the joke. Rather like how in some Leisure Suit Larry games lbh trg cbvagf sbe yvfgravat gb nyy gur wbxrf Ny Ybjr jebgr sbe va-tnzr fgnaq-hc pbzrqvnaf.

    Also, I strongly recommend tbvat onpx naq ivfvgvat Prqevp n frpbaq gvzr vs lbh unira'g nyernql. Vg'f qrsvavgryl jbegu vg.

    1. That the drinking dysentery water is option makes perfect sense, because it's really a stupid thing to do when one already knows the water is poisoned, and already knows the effects.

      And I guess I didn't go back to the owl at the right time, because nothing was there. Oh well, next time.

  4. In any event, this is an adventure game and not an RPG, so perhaps there just wasn’t as much attention paid to dialogue flags and whatnot (e.g., the Sheriff would say some dialogue that has nothing to do with the poisoned water supply until Freddy goes to the outhouse, or something similar). It’s not a huge deal, but it does feel a bit inorganic.

    I noticed a similar spot when Srini wakes Freddy up pleading urgently for help about the Assay Office being on fire -- and then when you leave the pharmacy you just get the regular "well, I'm going out to uphold justice" "okey the dokey" exchange, and not something more tailored to what's supposedly happening at the moment.

    The manual features a medicine called Bisalicylate Antitoxidene, “an effective, albeit highly powerful, compound in the correction of diarrhea.” It calls for 25 ml. of Bismuth Subsalicylate

    AKA the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol!

    Stupid me used the graduated cylinder to, you know, measure the stuff, and then tried dumping it into the test tube, but that didn’t work.

    Huh... I'm pretty sure I used the graduated cylinder and it worked... did you measure and transfer the ingredients to the test tube one at a time, or did you effectively mix in the cylinder and then dump the mixture in the test tube? Maybe it's picky about that.

    1. - Yes, Srini ALWAYS has that exchange with Freddy, no matter what the situation is.

      - Ah, I knew that stuff sounded familiar!

      - Maybe it was some other user error when I used the graduated cylinder rather than the test tube. Either way, I didn't find that puzzle unfair.

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  6. If you make a concoction out of nothing but water and drink it, you die! This just proves the lethality of dihydrogen monoxide - after all, all people who have ingested it either have died or will die.

    1. It's incredibly lethal. A moment of silence for all victims of dihydrogen monoxide. A plague upon our world.

    2. It's also a major component of the liquid that the townspeople drank and got dysentery from. Ban dihydrogen monoxide!

    3. There's an old Finnish project of turning all large areas of dihydrogen monoxide into ethanol, undoubtedly for safety reasons. So far they've managed to do only one promotional song.