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Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist

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Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is a comic Old West adventure computer game created by Al Lowe (of Leisure Suit Larry fame) and Josh Mandel (of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon fame) and published by Sierra On-Line in 1993. It was dubbed "the Blazing Saddles of computer games" by Computer Gaming Magazine.

Gameplay

The game uses Sierra's SCI1.1 engine, and features 256-color hand-drawn art, scaling sprites and a mouse-driven interface. Freddy Pharkas ran under both DOS and Windows 3.1. It was released in both floppy disk and CD-ROM versions, the latter having full voiceover speech for all characters. The game's manual is entitled The Modern Day Book of Health and Hygiene, a parody of 19th century medical texts. It contains information necessary for solving prescription puzzles.

Plot

In the game, the player takes the role of Freddy Pharkas, a 1880s-era pharmacist in the town of Coarsegold, California which was the location of Sierra's headquarters in 1993. Freddy was once a gunslinger, but sought a new career after his last gunfight, in which "Kenny the Kid" shot off one of his ears. Throughout the town, businesses are either being bought or proprietors are being scared out of town. Someone is obviously trying to take over the entire area, but who? And why? The slimy sheriff, Checkum P. Shift doesn't seem eager to help, so it's up to Freddy to find out the details. The cast includes the town's eccentric old man and story narrator Whittlin' Willy, Srini (Freddy's "Injun" sidekick - actually East Indian), Doc 'Dizzy' Gillespie the drunken town doctor, the cafe owner Helen Back, otherwise known as Mom and her steretypical Chinese chef Hopalong Singh, the crooked banker Phineas (P.H.) Balance, town schoolmarm (and Freddy's love interest) Penelope Primm, and Madame Ovaree, who runs the local brothel. The villain "Kenny the Kid" is a cartoonish version of Sierra's then-president Ken Williams. Madame Ovaree's name is an obvious parody of Madame Bovary and (as evidenced by her occupation) ovaries.

Freddy must take part in numerous tasks such as mixing the right amount of chemicals to create the requested prescription remedy and lab equipment. He also must deal with various dilemmas taking part in town such as a gas leak aka all the town's horses with explosive flatulence, a snail stampede, a diarrhea epidemic and an abandoned building fire that might spread through the entire town. He must use found objects and pharmaceutical skills to solve these problems.

On at least one box containing the CD-ROM version of the game, it states "Meet the Great-Great Grandpappy of Leisure Suit Larry!", referring to Zircon Jim Laffer who makes a (belated) appearance in the game. However, the game's original intent may have instead been to portray Zircon Jim as Leisure Suit Larry's great-great-great uncle.

Cast

Development history

Al Lowe has said that he considers Freddy Pharkas one of his funniest games. He gives a good deal of credit to Josh Mandel, who co-wrote the game, as well as some of the songs including the opening and closing ballads. (Mandel was a humorous collaborator on several Sierra games, including the Space Quest series and The Dagger of Amon Ra.)

Mandel had explained in a commentary the reason why there were so many more jokes in the Floppy Disk version as compared to the CD-ROM version of the game, "I had co-designed, directed, produced, and written the floppy version; there were no plans at all, at the time, to produce a CD version. When sales of the floppy version justified a CD version, I was no longer available to produce and direct it, having by then started on SQ6. Al Lowe was then tapped to do the casting and recording of the CD version, but the game already had so much text in it that, when it came time to record the inventory text, Al just stopped—he was, he said, tired of sitting in the sound studio. As I had written the vast majority of the game’s text and dialogue, I pointed out to him that, in the process of cutting roughly 15% of the game’s text from the recording, he’d left out many of the jokes".

Lowe admitted that his goal was to make a comic western game in the vein of Blazing Saddles. Freddy Pharkas definitely contains its share of scatological humor: it may very well hold the distinction of the only computer game in which the player must capture a horse's flatulence in a paper bag.

Reception

In its September 2006 issue, Game Informer called it one of the best adventure games of all time, and gave it a Retro Review score of 9.0.

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