by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
The gold rush begins again
Although fairly well received, Gold Rush! is one of Sierra’s lesser known adventure games, certainly not as famous as the likes of King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. It also came out three years before I was born. Needless to say, I don’t know much about the original. I guess that makes me well equipped to review its remake here in 2014. Without nostalgia clouding my judgement, does it hold up to today’s standards or should it have been left in the past?
In the early goings, I wasn’t impressed. I was expecting at least some modernisation of the way it controls. You left click to move around the screen, left click to interact with objects, and right click to select different actions for that object. Fine, fair enough. But when these basic actions are temperamental at best, it left me wondering if the original was the same, or whether this was just a shoddy remake. Sometimes I wanted to walk somewhere and it was thinking I was clicking on an object. Other times the option to ‘use’ an object didn’t even show up, even when I knew it could be used. At one point there were three men having a conversation. I clicked on one of them to talk to him, and it started up a conversation with someone entirely different.
At least the story is vaguely interesting, and the scope of it seems like it would’ve been impressive at the time. You play as Jerrod Wilson, a citizen of New York who wants to travel to California to try and find his long lost brother. The fact that gold has been found there isn’t a bad incentive either. Where it becomes really interesting is when you discover there are three possible routes to take across the country. You can take the land route, you can go via Panama, or you can travel round Cape Horn. Each of them is viable and has their own specific puzzles for the journey to Sacramento. Once you get there, the paths converge and it becomes linear again.
Another interesting aspect is that the game has a concept of time. Spend too long trying to figure out a puzzle in a certain area and you may miss opportunities. Or, you might figure something out quickly and not see something that would’ve happened if you’d stuck around. This is a cool thing to know about, but in practice it’s annoying. This is an old school adventure game, and as such, you can most certainly die. If you do, you’ll have to reload a save, or even go back to the beginning if you’ve truly screwed things up. At one point during the land journey across country, you have to wait for the plains to grow some grass so the wagons don’t get stuck. Which means waiting in real time.
As for the gameplay itself, this is very much your standard point and click adventure fare. You’ll need certain items to progress, and you’ll have to go and find them, or buy them, or find a way to get money to purchase them. This sort of puzzling isn’t particularly challenging, and certainly won’t pose much of a problem to seasoned adventurers. Large portions of the game are designed to be quite educational. The trip across country sees a line travelling across a map depicting your location. The narrator will constantly point out landmarks, and give little historical facts about the time and places you go past. Again, if you have to replay this section, you’ll be waiting around for the line to traverse the country. But at least the narration is skippable in this case.
The game is nothing special visually, but it works within the confines of the source material. A lack of higher resolution options seems to be an oversight, however. The sound is adequate, with short jingles letting you know when something happens. The narrator is good, but the actual characters who interact with each other are not. The main character Jerrod has an almost comical simplicity to the way he speaks, which I can only imagine is intentional, but I can’t think why that would be the case.
On its original release in 1988, Gold Rush! would’ve been an impressive achievement. By today’s standards, there’s nothing here that would attract someone new to the remake. Unless you have a serious interest in the 19th century California gold rush, and the lives of people who flocked there to seek their fortune, you’re better off saving your own fortune for something else. Maybe you loved the original and want to see what the past couple of decades has done for it. I’d advise you to leave your fond memories as they are.
Provides a good education of the period, scratches an old school adventure itch
Dated presentation, odd voice acting, a lot of waiting around