The lights are on
The adventure games of the '90s had a fair share of ridiculous obstacles, but few can compete with the town full of lethal farting horses that Freddy Pharkas confronted. Yes, it may be absurd and juvenile, but it also is one of the most memorable puzzles in adventure game history.
Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is the only Old West-style pharmacy adventure game from Sierra…or anybody else. The main plot deals with a mysterious figure who is trying to buy up all the land in the town of Coarsegold buy using a variety of schemes to make residents abandon their homes. As the second act of the game begins, players see one of these plans in action: All of the horses in town have terrible gas.
Now it's Freddy's chance to be the hero. As the only pharmacist 'round those parts, he can whip up an antidote to whatever is ailing the horses, but first he needs to know what they were fed. To do that, he needs a sample of their…emissions. That means standing behind one of them long without suffocating to death on noxious methane fumes.
The resulting series of improbable and hilarious item combinations results in Freddy fashioning a homemade gas mask and collecting a horse fart in a paper bag. As he does all of this, the horse flatulence periodically blares out in the background, making the air more poisonous for the residents of Coarsegold. By analyzing his sample in a gaseous spectroscope, he is able to discern the nature of the malady and concoct a cure.
The premise alone is funny, but what makes this sequence (and the whole game in general, really) so great is the attention to detail. Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist rewards you for trying to give every item to every townsperson, dying in creative ways, or for talking to inanimate objects like windows and windmills. Funny bits of dialogue and Easter eggs are buried all over the place, and thorough players can get a lot of good laughs.
In the video below, you can see the horse puzzle in its entirety, along with a few other interactions (like offering the paper bag to Penelope, the local schoolmarm) that illustrate how this game could be simultaneously revolting and charming.
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