Have You Played Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Not enough games with commas in the titles these days, if you ask me. It’s all : this and – that. Whither the simple descriptor? Anyway: 1993 Western comedy Freddy Pharkas was probably Sierra’s most overt attempt to catch up with Lucasarts, the rival developer which had stolen most of their adventure game thunder from them by that point.

It has a distinctly naughtier vein of humour than Monkey Island – little surprise, given Leisure Suit Larry’s Al Lowe was at the helm – but it’s easy to imagine the “well, comedy pirates did well for them, so let’s try comedy cowboys” conversations. I don’t know that I’d actually giggle now at puzzles which involved collecting horse farts, but I guess I’m glad they exist.

Truth be told, I’ve never played the entirely of Freddy Pharkas. I had the demo on some coverdisk, fell in love with its Western theme, grumpy cast and comedy songs, and yearned for more the moment it completed, this being a time when adventure games were almost all I cared about, but pleas for the full game as a birthday or Christmas present fell on deaf ears, parents too concerned that too much of my time was already spent in these cartoon worlds with their asinine anti-logic puzzles.

Now I can click a single button and all 8 megabytes of it are delivered almost instantly into a browser window for free, via the uncertain legality of Archive.org. A new frontier snarky old Freddy could never have imagined.


  1. acheron says:

    haha, yes! I did complete it, though as with a lot of adventure games I had to use a walkthrough (downloaded from AOL most likely), because I am terrible at actually figuring out adventure games.

    Can’t check out archive.org right now but since you said “8 megabytes” I’m guessing it’s the floppy disk text version and not the CD-ROM voiceover version. I played the CD-ROM version, but apparently they cut out a lot of jokes that were in the floppy disk version because they didn’t feel like recording all the lines or ran out of money or something. Maybe I should run through it again with the text. I probably remember how to solve most of the puzzles.

  2. Renevent says:

    Yes, though only the demo like you. I kinda miss the days of getting a CD crammed with 100’s of demos and playing through them all over a weekend. Then again, no I don’t. 99.87% of the games on those CD’s weren’t very good at all, but it was a nice treat to find the few stand-outs.

  3. Solidstate89 says:

    No, but I’d play a game called Frontier Psychiatrist.

  4. Risingson says:

    C’mon, un-buzzfeed this section already. You just mention the game, a couple of facts, some vague personal stuff and nearly an abandonware link.

    First, it was one of these games where a lead designer in Sierra supervises the first project from someone that will lead a game in the future, in this case Josh Mandel. There are many Al Lowe touches here, as the narrator voice and that nearly every action has a different text, but Mandel (who later would design the wonderful Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, a game ignored by RPS even when doing the “best book adaptation” entry) adds his word puns and excellent puzzle design.

    Music is wonderful, characterizations are wonderful, copy protection puzzles are not, and time based ones are not. And the engine is a bit buggy, as expected in Sierra, with many unexpected exits to DOS. But it is a very charming game that understands the western tropes perfectly, loved by most of the people that ignored it at first and discovered it later, and one of the better Sierra adventures.

    On another note: play the floppy version. The CD one skips a lot of text.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      From this post, I can tell that you’re wearing a tweed jacket and small, round spectacles. The psychic link isn’t strong enough for me to tell if you’re a professor of advanced adventure gaming or just a hipster, but it’s definitely one of the two.

      • Risingson says:

        Oh, please, if you are going to drop me an ad hominem, invest some effort.

        • TheAngriestHobo says:

          Not an ad hominem, since I wasn’t disputing anything you said, simply poking fun at how seriously you take your ancient video game trivia.

          • kmdl1066 says:

            ad ho·mi·nem
            ˌad ˈhämənəm/
            adverb & adjective
            (of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        3/10, weak effort

    • shoptroll says:

      Man, someone is grumpy today! I thought the point of these articles was to spark a discussion of the game? You’re playing right into Alec’s hand!

      That said, the tagline on the feature seems to have replaced “recommendations” for “retrospectives”. I assume this is mostly because several recent entries have featured older games now that a lot of the more recent titles have been covered.

      • Risingson says:

        Of course I was grumpy! Beginning of the week, just after christmas, I gained some weigth, cannot go to the gym as it is crowded as the Central Line at 7 AM (and I cannot stand EDM playing loud at the speakers or the motivational “CMON GUYS ONE MORE!” shouts from the monitors), I am now 38 and my only objectives in life are clubbing till I am the grandpa of them all.

        Sorry Alec.

  5. rustybroomhandle says:

    The opening theme song, as sung by Al Lowe. link to allowe.com

    • algernon83 says:

      I still know this by heart; even absent-mindedly sang it to myself while warming a bottle for my baby last night!

  6. Nasarius says:

    Lucasarts, the rival developer which had stolen most of their adventure game thunder from them by that point.

    I dunno, I’m sure some people feel this way, but I don’t remember it being at all like that at the time. They made very different types of adventure games, and that was fine. There can be more than one company.

    King’s Quest 6 (1992), Quest for Glory 3 (1992), and Quest for Glory 4 (1994) were arguably the peak of the Sierra adventures, which is exactly the same timeframe that LucasArts was peaking. Adventure games died for both companies in the mid/late 90s.

    • Nasarius says:

      Oh yeah and of course Sierra’s Gabriel Knight games in the early/mid 90s, which I didn’t play then. But I have since, and they’re extremely good.

      • Risingson says:

        You are right about your appreciations. There was no war between Sierra and Lucas: we loved them both. If you had to chose one, you’d miss the fun of the other.

        Same thing happened genre-wise: being a pc gamer in the early 90s meant you were able to invest your time in whatever fell on your hands.

  7. Author X says:

    I played this when I was a kid, and it had one of my favorite forms of copy-protection/feelies. A reference book (in this case a medical guide) that was required for a few puzzles, not because you had to look up the symbol on page 35 but because as a pharmacist you had to reference the procedures and formulas in the book. Aside from the necessary formulas, it had a lot of entries just there for the humour. For example, I still remember the entry for Colds had “Feed a Fever, Starve a Cold”, while the entry for Fevers suggested “Starve a Fever, Feed a Cold” (or maybe it was the other way around).

    Anyway, I guess this is a reminder that if you’re going to play it, you’ll need to look up the manual. There’s a comment under the game but the link seems to be broken, it shouldn’t be too hard to find in this day and age though.

    • Author X says:

      Looking again, the site hosting the manual is up, they just seem to have blocked hotlinking with a an unnecessarily confusing message. But if you go to the game page the manual is available to download: link to agamesroom.com

    • algernon83 says:

      It was re-released as part of the SierraOriginals collection in the late nineties with a misprinted manual that lacked the birth control pill formula. Fortunately, I was able to ask for help on the CompuServe Sierra On-Line forums and get an answer from Josh Mandel personally!

  8. Mr_Blastman says:

    Sierra ruined their games when they went to point and click. The distinguishing feature (besides dying) for their older stuff was the parser. And I prefer the parser.

    I’ve always had a problem with clicky interfaces. It’s like they discourage creative thought by just clicking stuff. Though, I’ll admit, some of the Lucas Arts games do require good observation skills to figure stuff out.

    Parsers were the best. To this day I’ve played basically every single Sierra parser game but the majority of point and click ones… I have not.

  9. nickylee says:

    Well I’ve played it now.

    I was enjoying myself until I died without warning due to the flatulent air. There was no indication this was going to happen that I could see.

    ‘Fair enough’ I thought and restored from an earlier save and carried on. Got the gas mask this time and was at the point where I was creating the cure. Game over because I didn’t do it fast enough.

    Nope. Just nope.

    • Risingson says:

      You have never played the space quest games, or solved the babel fish puzzle…

      • Risingson says:

        Which just means “you are not used to sudden deaths”. Something that only adventure games removed from their design.

        • nickylee says:

          I am well aware of sudden death phenomenon in adventure games both text and graphical. Somehow this seemed different. I feel like usually there was better indication… like the babel fish example – didn’t that give some kind of warning you were gonna get spaced before it happened? I dunno it was a long time ago.

  10. shoptroll says:

    I was wondering recently when or if Sierra games were going to be covered now that the likes of DOS, Smash TV, and Spy Hunter have been covered. Good to see them showing up even though the rights are still a mess on some of the games. I’m actually surprised that many of their second tier adventure games aren’t available for purchase. I would’ve thought Activision or Codies would’ve had the rights to some of them.

    • shoptroll says:

      Also, ‘but it’s easy to imagine the “well, comedy pirates did well for them, so let’s try comedy cowboys” conversations’. I believe Al said it came up at a party or something. I think he’s also said in the past he noticed that there weren’t many “Western” games on the market so he pitched one as he and Ken thought it was a relatively untapped market. He also doesn’t shy away from the fact that he was inspired by Blazing Saddles which isn’t a huge surprise considering the ending of Larry 3.

  11. mika76 says:

    There is a bit more info here right from “the horses mouth” link to allowe.com