. . . when my laptop died.This was a puzzle I was never expecting to stand between me and completion of FPFP. And it wasn’t as easy as restoring my game (life?) and acquiring a new laptop, or finding the correct inventory item in my kitchen or wherever to fix the old one. No, I had to go out, buy a new laptop, wait for the fine folks at Staples to finish transferring the contents of my old hard drive to my new one, and then fire up my brand new machine only to realize that none of my saved games survived the importation process from my ancient 12-year-old Toshiba fossil to my brand-new HP sweetness.
Despondent, I turned to resident TAG guru Ilmari, and suggest that, given the already long lapse between my last post and any new ones, and the fact that said lapse will get longer, maybe someone else should finish Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist in my place. Ilmari told me not to worry about schedule, and that I was almost done with the game so I should just play through to where I was at my leisure before completing the game.as an anonymous commentor revealed so I could read Sadie’s prescription. Turns out Doc wrote the wrong one—instead if increasing femininity he wrote one to increase masculinity. I made it for Sadie and she came back angry that one of her girls now had a goatee. I didn’t get screenshots, but it was a cute gag. Apparently, you’re supposed to go to back to Doc and show him the incorrect prescription, but I didn’t, and this explains the seven points I did not get.
I also did go back across the bridge after first seeing Cedric the owl from King’s Quest V as commentor ATMachine suggested, and very much enjoyed the sight of those buzzards tearing the little bastard to shreds.
|How King’s Quest V should’ve ended.|
|Also, I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a joke or not.|
Next, I hit the Sheriff’s office, and he did not recognize me although Sal clearly did.the one with the poisoned well. Somehow, even though the player doesn’t know that there’s a riverboat gambler at the saloon who is swindling the town, and Freddy’s on-screen persona doesn’t either, the dialogue with the Sheriff is as though he does. I know I harp on this a lot, but it’s happened in this game enough to make me wonder about its design. Given that the Sheriff and the Banker are the main suspects thus far, wouldn’t it make sense for a player, upon having Freddy decked out like a true cowboy ready to save Coarsegold, to first to either the Sheriff’s office or the bank? The bank is closed, for the record. What’s more, Freddy says that the poker player is cheating, to which the Sheriff responds that if Freddy can find proof, then the Sheriff will do something about it.
This could have been handled by having different dialogue until Freddy goes to the saloon, at which point some flag or other is triggered and the dialogue showing Freddy’s knowledge of the gambler happens. Given the fact that FPFP has a different, unique message for every single inventory object clicked on each other and on itself, I have a hard time believing this was too heavy a burden to program.
Also, Act IV does not start Freddy in front of his pharmacy, or in front of the saloon, but in front of the now boarded-up mercantile store and the barber. Why? The saloon and the Sheriff’s office are both one screen away in either direction. It’s eminently logical for a player to go right instead of left.we sometimes see in the outhouse at the bar. Why, it’s “Zircon” Jim Laffer, and as the game explains, he’s Leisure Suit Larry’s great-great-great-great-uncle, or something. All that matters is that he’s as annoying as Larry, and in this game, completely useless.
Aces responds by using that real hand under the table to point a gun at Freddy. All hell breaks loose! Pandemonium! The entire town is suddenly in the bar, and Freddy rushes to knock over a table to hide—not cower—behind.
This brings up a kind of weird puzzle I intuited the solution to and solved through trial and error. See, you have to bounce your bullet off of something on the left side of the table and hit Aces (or so I thought). The thing is, no matter where I shot, I kept killing some innocent bystander. The game then lets you rewind, showing you the bullet’s path in reverse so you can then plan a better trick shot.
The next problem to blight Coarsegold is a whole bunch of cowboys going berserk and standing on Main Street, shooting up the town. You cannot leave the Saloon by the front door, so have to duck out the back.
I had an idea: the laughing gas was still in my inventory, along with three useless keys. Maybe I could gas these guys into submission? Srini says as much when you talk to him, stating he finds humor to be the best weapon. So I can perch the canister of nitrous oxide atop the hotel’s balcony, as seen in the screenshot, but I couldn’t shoot it, couldn’t open it, and couldn’t knock it down. I thought maybe I could goad the cowboys into shooting it, but they can’t hear Freddy above the din.
So not being able to shoot it seemed weird. The answer was to shoot it from the brothel.
|Non-violence is the answer.|
This is Kenny the Kid—clearly modeled after Sierra head honcho Ken Williams—who is the varmint what shot Freddy’s ear off as recounted in the prologue! He doesn’t recognize Freddy, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to take Freddy down on behalf of whomever it is he’s working for.
He awakens in the basement of the schoolhouse, tied to a chair, near a whole bunch of oozing oil. Penelope explains that she came from Meadville, Pennsylvania—a town I coincidentally lived in for a year when I was two as my father finished up his medical residency—and immediately recognized that Coarsegold was sitting on a whole mess of oil! Seems the citizenry was too stupid to realize that the swamp to the east of town was actually a gigantic pit of black gold!
She then decides to set the schoolhouse on fire . . . with Freddy in it!
Ear in hand (that’s a weird sentence), I accidentally solved this puzzle—I tried clicking the ear on Freddy to see if he could cut the ropes, but I clicked on the ground instead. This causes Freddy to rub the silver ear into a razor-sharp point (is silver really that easy to grind down?) which I then used to cut Freddy’s bonds. After, he zooms up the stairs in a cartoony puff of smoke.
Freddy confronts Penelope again, but instead of talking she grabs one of the Civil War-era swords from above the chalkboard and has at Freddy. You have to grab the other sword to get your en garde on in another arcade mini-game.
Freddy then gets a bit of petty revenge on Penelope . . .
I did not like the puzzles in Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist. The game started out okay, and I actually liked concocting medicines in the pharmacy. My first hint that something was amiss though came when getting the Preparation H turned into a pixel hunt. My second indication that things were amiss was the quite obtuse “make your own gasmask” puzzle when essential objects that weren’t previously outside of the blacksmith’s shop were suddenly there when needed, and were really tiny.
This is not fun.
There was a lot of pixel-hunting in Freddy Pharkas (I’m looking at you, water tower and church key stuck in door), finicky solutions (like putting out the fire at the Assay Office), or stuff happening for plot reasons and not logic reasons (like showing the wax to Willie, then leaving the store, then going back to see he left his knife, or Srini’s silver medal suddenly appearing exactly when you need it).
Even puzzles that made the most logical sense, like having to place the nitrous oxide on the hotel balcony and then shoot it were made annoying by the relative obscurity—why couldn’t Freddy just shoot the canister from atop the hotel and then run down the stairs and back to Bluff Street? That is arguably as far away from the laughing gas as Freddy was down by the brothel.
Other puzzles were just brute-force style, and I don’t find those fun. I’m thinking of shooting just the right spot to knock the chandelier onto Aces, or clicking everything on everyone to get items such as the nitrous oxide, the clay, or Willie’s knife. Nobody likes these kinds of puzzles. And while I’m sure many solutions seemed crystal clear in the designers’ heads, they did not translate well to the finished product.
Interface and Inventory: 5
The inventory was fine, standard Sierra point-and-click of SCI engine of the era. If you want to use an item, click the icon with the Arrow cursor, click “OK,” and you can click the inventory object on the game world to your heart’s content (which you will need to do a lot, this being an adventure game and all). Also, like in Leisure Suit Larry V, every single inventory object has a joke when clicked on another inventory object, or itself. I love this attention to detail, squeezing little gags in spaces that would otherwise be considered filler.
The interface, however, irked me. The icons were really big, both the standard icons and the inventory object icons, and while each did have a “hot spot” that looked similar to a little red spark or something which was where you had to click the object to be used, these were sometimes in odd spots. This resulted in some puzzles where I had the solution—like buying beer from the saloon using Freddy’s money—but getting nowhere because I didn’t click in the exact spot. Collecting the horse farts was also a pain, as was Freddy unintentionally eating or drinking all sorts of disgusting stuff like the entirety of the anti-diarrhea medicine, the nitrous oxide, or the baking soda. Other times, all I wanted was to open a door, but getting the “Hand” icon to click on the door and not Freddy was impossible without having Freddy walk way far away from the door.
Other times, as with the swing/see-saw puzzle, figuring out how to get Freddy to go where I wanted him to was a disaster. I don’t appreciate this, and generally don’t appreciate situations where I had the right answer but was thwarted by the interface. I almost want to give this a 4, but 5 seems more fair, as some of this trouble might be due to user error.
Story and Setting: 5
The story of Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is typical Western fare, the trope of wealthy tycoon from back east trying to buy up a Wild West town from under the local yokels’ noses to exploit the riches the dumb hicks don’t’ even know about. It falls apart in terms of character arcs, and character generally, but hey! It’s a comedy game!
And yet, even in comedies you need to care about the character’s it’s a delicate balance, but the only character who really matters, who has anything resembling an arc, is Freddy. Everyone else is just a prop. Srini kind of comes close, yet after saving him he’s just there as a place filler for bad Indian jokes. Penelope gets her turn as a villain, which kind of works, but everyone else is one-dimensional and one-note. We never see what happens to Hop Singh after Freddy gets Mom’s Café shut down by tossing the horse plop on the floor. Hell, we never find out what fate befalls Mom. That’s kind of mean, isn’t it?
Maybe I’ve been spoiled after playing a great game like Quest for Glory III, but in that one, even minor characters like Harami the thief and Manu the freaking monkey had arcs. Think about other comedy games as well—Leisure Suit Larry III just felt like it had more fully developed characters, and Leisure Suit Larry V was . . . a game I played.
My last point on story is that it felt rushed. After getting Freddy’s confidence as a gunslinger back, I expected a whole lot more game. Instead it was just outlaw fight after outlaw fight, boom boom boom, with nary a breath in between. It was unsatisfying, although I can’t say it was boring: surviving Penelope in the schoolhouse, escaping the burning basement, and then having a sword fight with her before chucking the sharpened silver ear at Kenny was a cool, and surprisingly gory, sequence. Still, the overarching villain—the one behind Penelope—was hinted at but never revealed or really discussed, and the Penelope reveal, as well as these random outlaws, did come out of nowhere, which made it hard to feel any real emotion for the bad guys. Why weren’t some of the outlaws from the wanted posters strewn about town used at all? It’s a mystery, and yet despite all this, the game also felt too short.
The setting was fun: it’s the Old West! I don’t think we’ve seen that in many adventure games thus far, certainly no Sierra games. My problem with the setting is twofold:
- You never leave Coarsegold, and Coarsegold is kind of small—even in one-city games like Quest for Glory II, there’s TONS to do in Shapeir.
- I look for every screen in an adventure game having a purpose, and this was not the case in Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist. I can forgive interstitial scenes, like a winding plaza, a trackless savannah, or a deep forest, but here we’re in a tiny frontier town. The swamp screen was utterly useless. The westernmost section of Bluff Street was there to shoot bottles and that’s it, and other scenes were very detailed with little to do.
Sound and Graphics: 7
I have no real complaints here. Aubrey Hodges, who would later score Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness, created a really cool Old West soundtrack with many memorable themes. The sound effects are snappy, and I did like the “Score!” vocalization every time Freddy got some points. And the graphics were par for the era, which is to say mostly hand-painted and very pleasant. You can tell what most everything is. There are unique perspectives, such as the interior of most buildings, e.g., looking through the bars of the Sheriff’s office, being sort of “behind the shelves” in Mom’s Café,” the mirror in Sal’s barber shop that let’s you see the alternate back exit, and so on.
The close-ups are good too, and all character designs and portraits have an attractive cartoony style that really fits the Western send-up vibe they were going for. That said, and maybe it’s because of the setting in a dusty Old West settlement, the graphics do have sort of a washed-out look that’s not all that colorful. The whole package works, and yet it’s not a beautiful package, especially compared to other Sierra offerings of the same era like King’s Quest V, Space Quest IV, Quest for Glory III, Conquests of the Longbow, and even Police Quest III (a game with good presentation, even if the game isn’t that good).
Actually, the Police Quest III comparison is pretty fair in this category. I think the games deserve identical scores here.
Environment and Atmosphere: 6
Maybe I’m being harsh with this rating considering FPFP is a comedy game, but I don’t think comedy games should be held to different standards than serious ones. I mean, Space Quest games are essentially comedy games and they seem to do a lot of things right that Freddy Pharkas does not. Come to think of it, so do the Leisure Suit Larry games (except V).
The environment of Coarsegold is fun and unique, and the atmosphere of a remote frontier town in the middle of nowhere is created, yet it all feels so superficial. Even the game’s denizens don’t help add the kind of verisimilitude we see in other adventure games. I never felt like a cowboy, but I did feel like a pharmacist. FPFP has that going for it, I guess.
As such, a 6 seems eminently fair, and maybe a little too high, but only because a 5 feels too low. PISSED is an art, not a science, after all.
Dialogue and Acting: 7
This is a strong category for Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist. I did not play the CD-ROM version, so I can’t comment on the acting, but the dialogue, as well as the descriptive text, is all quite good. Most characters have very distinct speech patterns and personalities. I got a kick out of P.H. Balance’s bad hearing, how Freddy would mumble some insult, only for P.H. to ask what Freddy said and Freddy to say something benign that sounds like the initial insult. Or how the Sheriff keeps mispronouncing Freddy’s last name. Or Helen’s general meanness.
Even the broad ethnic stereotypes were pretty funny. Hop Singh, Srini, Dominick, Sal and his switching between Irish and Italian, the dumb white hick Sheriff . . . the jokes in Freddy Pharkas landed for the most part. And we’ll always have catching horse farts in a bag.
|No other game has this. None.|
55 puts FPFP right there with the original Space Quest, King’s Quest IV, and Space Quest III. That is absolutely fair, and it’s interesting to see how much FPFP’s bad puzzle design couldn’t be compensated by the game’s strengths.
A quick scan of reviews on MobyGames show that Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist was relatively well-received in its day, with scores ranting from the high 70s to the low 90s, although some reviewers were less sanguine. These more negative reviews track with modern reviews, with the biggest complaint being the puzzles.
So maybe, just maybe, the troubles with this game weren’t all on my end after all. I think Al Lowe is a really good joke writer, and a really good ideas guy, but when it comes to puzzle design, I haven’t been impressed with his games. And I suppose I have to now include Josh Mandel in this same category. A shame, because Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist could have been so much better.
Session Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Total Time: 9 hours, 35 minutes
Inventory: Desk key, safety deposit box key, pharmacy key, Score: 992 of 999
Fart Jokes: 4
Missing Body Parts Remade Better and Stronger: One.
Fart Jokes: 4
Missing Body Parts Remade Better and Stronger: One.
100 points to Alex
- Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - For blogging through this game for our enjoyment
275 points to Joe Pranevich
- Festival Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For blogging through Pesach Adventure for our enjoyment
- Lewd Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For blogging through Drive-in Adventure for our enjoyment
- Extra Blogger Award - 25 CAPs - For blogging through Leather Goddesses of Phobos a second time in blog history for our enjoyment
- Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For blogging through Moonmist for our enjoyment
- Yet Another Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For blogging through Hollywood Hijinx for our enjoyment
- One More, How Does He Do It? - Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For blogging through Labyrinth for our enjoyment
78 points to Vetinari
- Asylum Tour Guide Award - 10 CAPs - For answering Will's request for assistance with hints in ROT13.
- Mountain Models Award - 8 CAPs - For tying in what must be the best moment in Spielberg’s Close Encounters with his explanation for the mystery object.
- Successful bet - 50 CAPs - For winning a bet on Hollywood Hijinx
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the best guess for the score of Labyrinth
60 points to Lisa H.
- Successful Bet Award - 50 CAPs - For a successful bet on Hollywood Hijinx
- Nutcracker Award - 10 CAPs - For cracking this nut up
50 points to Will Moczarski
- Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For blogging through Asylum II for our enjoyment
35 points to Andy Panthro
- Genre Hopping Award - 25 CAPs - For providing TAG with content during the pandemic times
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the best guess for the score of Hollywood Hijinx
20 points to Morpheus Kitami
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For correctly guessing the score for Asylum II
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the best guess for the score of Freddy Pharkas
15 points to Adam Thornton
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the best guess for the score of Moonmist
Picture in a Frame Award - 5 CAPs - For catching one of the Tom Waits references
13 points to Corey Cole
- Shoe Shine Stand Award - 8 CAPs - For skillful applying what must be advanced tea leaf reading skills to a bunch of pixels.
- Knowing Your Trope Award - 5 CAPs - For recognising a trope and giving an example
13 points to Shaddam IVth
- Two Ducks Award - 8 CAPs - For his mad cubism recognition skills
- ASCII Appreciation Award - 5 CAPs - For unfailingly feeling the love behind the dated graphics
5 points to Rowan Lipkovits
- Peking Man Award - 5 CAPs - For explaining a detail in Moonmist