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Video Game / Dust: A Tale of the Wired West

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"Five days. One town. No law."

Dust: A Tale of the Wired West is a 1995 Wild West Adventure Game created by Cyberflix similar to and also taking place in the same universe as the company's more well-known adventure title Titanic: Adventure Out of Time.

The story takes place in May, 1882. The player takes the role of a man only known as "The Stranger" who has to escape trough the desert fleeing from a group of outlaws led by "The Kid". He ends up in the small town of Diamondback in the deserts of New Mexico. The story, created by history writer Andrew Nelson, takes place over five days and the player has to talk to the numerous inhabitants of the city, dig deep into its many mysteries and secrets, and prepare for another confrontation with The Kid and his gang.

Most of the game is presented in a Myst-like first-person Point-and-Click Game-perspective. However, it is unique in also using keyboard based movement which was a unique novelty for predominantly mouse driven adventure games at the the time. It also includes shooter based sections that are borderline First-Person Shooter as well.

Tropes used in this game:

  • The Alcoholic: Leroy, the town drunk, and the first character you come across. During the daytime he runs the target range, but it's not clear if anyone actually pays him to do it.
    • Though not immediately apparent, it turns out that Chet Flippo loves drinking alcohol to the point he definitely can be a verified example of this trope. He'll even behave in concordance with this trope when you meet him at the Hard Drive saloon late in the game.
      • This character flaw is very helpful to beating the game and getting some more backstory. You can buy him a drink at the Hard Drive saloon when you meet him later in the game but also give him a sip from a full bottle of rotgut as Mrs. Macintosh hints at to get helpful information that can't be attained through normal dialogue with him.
  • All-Natural Snake Oil: Dr. Scheinbaum's Calming Medicine is... alcohol.
    • There are a handful of completely useless items in the game, but a $50 tin of Tibetan bear balm from Help might easily rank among the oddest example of one in any game.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The first puzzle you must immediately solve is getting past a big, angry dog blocking your way into Diamondback. Once you pick up a nearby Stock Femur Bone and give it to the dog it has the textbook effect of turning it into a Big Friendly Dog so you can enter.
  • Apathetic Clerk: Mr. George Windfall, the bank clerk, is passive-aggressive to the Stranger for no real reason, even after he becomes Sheriff. He doesn't seem much better in his private life, reselling a book to Help that his wife got him for his birthday not even a year ago.
    • Mr. Levon Deadnettle at the stagecoach office is just plain grouchy and sarcastic, caring for little else other than his collection of 'dirty' pictures.
  • Asian Store-Owner: Mr. Help (yes, that's his name), who (in stereotypical accent) offers hints if the player gets stuck and who is, at least to begin with, rather rude to the Stranger.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Mr. Radisson Bloodstone-Hayes.
  • The Bartender: Gus is a pure, undiluted model of this trope in action.
  • Bawdy Song: Todd Steed, an itinerant guitarist found in town during the daytime, performs several bawdy tunes and limericks if you talk to him. Some are more subtle than others.
    Panther piss, panther piss,
    spit it out, and hear it
    It's pure bliss, my little miss;
    taste my kiss of panther piss.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Three of the game's possible endings result in this if you opt to share the gold with Marie, Nate and Cosimo in their business ventures. Each ends with the Stranger showing great remorse for not giving back the treasure to the Yunni tribe as he was urged to by Sonoma.
  • Book Burning: Mayor Macintosh, incensed with the unflattering portrayal of himself and his father in Wars, Lizards and Longhorns, went to a great deal of trouble having as many copies as he could destroyed.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Players have the opportunity to do this on a few occasions during the game via some specific dialogue choices when talking with characters. A good example of this is being able to bluntly mention the movie Dances with Wolves when talking with Mayor Cosimo.
  • But Thou Must!: Once the Belchers are dealt with, you're the new sheriff in town. The Mayor won't take no for an answer.
  • Cash Gate: You can't move forward to Day 2 unless you've earned at least $10 (that is, just enough to get a room at the hotel with $1 left over).
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: The Hard Drive saloon enforces a policy of zero tolerance for cheaters. This isn't a lie either as getting caught cheating when playing poker results in death as soon as the game is over.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Mountain Laurel will not abide her Jackie fraternizing with loose women, and she will kill him for it she catches him. She quickly becomes protective of the Stranger, as well.
  • Consolation Prize: Upon the Stranger's untimely death, the narrator will inform the player that he received a nice coffin, and that the town thought he would've appreciated it.
  • Corrupt Politician: Mayor Cosimo P. Macintosh is portrayed as this. You'll hear this a lot when talking with townsfolk during the beginning sections of the game. However, it's firmly established as a fact when he immediately tries to get the Stranger to work as a hired thug on tasks to benefit his own interests.
  • Creepy Mortician: Hiram Sidewinder, who is also the town's barber. His complexion and chronic cough make him seem close to death himself. He is the Played for Laughs variant of both tropes, though; due to his own creepy laugh and penchant for some admittedly amusing Black Comedy.
  • Defacement Insult: Graffiti painted on the northern alleywise fence of the Mayor's residence: "MACINTOSH IS A SON OF A BI—-", the last word smudged and illegible.
  • Dry Crusader: Mrs. Hattie Macintosh, the mayor's wife. Ironic considering her beloved "calming medicine" is literally just booze.
  • Dying Town: As players will find out, Diamondback, though once considered quite a vibrant town, has turned into this due to its rampant lawlessness and corruption.
    • According to Willi in Titanic, the town (or some semblance of it) still exists 30 years later. He's en route there to assist Dr. van der Plaars, the author of the book on the Yunni.
  • Fictional Document: The Rattler, Diamondback's own newspaper, can be read every morning. It contains a mix of lore, flavor, and references to historical events from that week in May, 1882.
    • Wars, Lizards and Longhorns by Andrew Jackson Lunamos, a lengthy narrative about the history of Diamondback from its Spanish colonial origins to the very end of the author's life in 1880, is present in the game and can be read in full. It contains a number of secrets that you can use to your advantage. You'll only need one particular piece of information contained inside, but if nothing else besides, it contains a significant amount of lore about the town that shouldn't be missed if you're curious about the game's worldbuilding.
    • Dr. Frederick van der Plaars's Yunni Cosmogony, an academic text that documents the history, alphabet, and beliefs of the Yunni people, is a book you can earn from Oona Canute for helping Mez (or you could simply steal it from her). If you're not working from a walkthrough, this book is absolutely indispensable for solving the end-game mystery.
  • Funny Foreigner: Buick Riviera is a pretty blatant French variant of this trope, complete with a Maurice Chevalier Accent.
    • Quist, a farmer from Malmö, Sweden who's easily irritated by people scaring his chickens.
  • Game Within a Game: There are people in town with whom you can play blackjack, poker or checkers. There is also a shooting range.
  • The Ghost: Most of Diamondback, which has almost 250 residents, but no clear indication where most of them live. This is of course Justified by technical limitations, but the amount of people in the game besides story-essential NPCs (and the mooks during town shootouts) left purely to the imagination is still a little striking. There is always an audible crowd at the Hard Drive whenever it's open, but there are only a few others to see or talk to on the main floor besides the owner and employees. This is handled somewhat better in Titanic, which has scattered NPCs out and about late into the night before the disaster (who you can't talk to, and will only turn to face you if clicked on).
    • Miguel and Dolores, the unseen staff of the Cactus Bed Hotel. Lampshaded by Radisson who complains that the help is "invisible".
  • Going Postal: Bill Purvis, Diamondback's last sheriff, experienced a mental breakdown that resulted in him killing the Granger family and being found hung in Shady Acres, perhaps by his own hands.
  • Greed: The mysterious guardian in the Devil's Breath Mine reveals this is why the Yunni Tribe is in shambles. Spanish Conquistadors not only enslaved but massacred many of its members simply to possess the treasures of the region which they subsequently hid in the mine.
    • This trope is also the reason Radisson Bloodstone-Hayes wants the treasure too and, unsurprisingly, is content with killing, too; along with some manipulation.
  • The Gunslinger
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: In the very beginning of the game, after the dog puzzle mentioned previously, Help offers to help you understand how to play the game. If you accept his offer, he'll briefly go to Breaking the Fourth Wall to explain how to play the game. This only happens once though, and after this instance he won't do it again.
  • High-Voltage Death: Radisson Bloodstone-Hayes is offed this way after the Stranger programs the ancient Yunni device to kill him as opposed to opening the portal back to Diamondback as he expects him to.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Oona reveals this is what's happened in the final scene to Mayor Cosimo P. Macintosh. This happens due to Cosimo giving much of his family fortune to both Radisson Bloodstone-Hayes to acquire the Devil's Breath Gold mine for his own selfish gain. In doing so he's brought himself and his family to borderline poverty. It's why he asks the Stranger to go into business with him thus setting up one of five possible endings.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Sophie undeniably shows off this trope whenever she sings which is quite an ear jarring experience each time.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The town livery. "Come see Ned DeVries, for all your equine needs!" Except you really shouldn't. Unfortunately, he's the only game in town for these matters.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: Watson, the town chemist with an inexplicable Locust Valley lockjaw, runs his pharmacy on this policy and is not hesitant to admit that he knows most of the drugs he sells are poison. Unsurprisingly his business doesn't get much money and even the Stranger bluntly tells him though Watson isn't affected in the least.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Miss Oona Canute and Ruby O'Dowdle.
  • Horrible Housing: The Cactus Bed Hotel, so-named because one of the town fathers boasted that he could get away with erecting a tent over a bed of cacti and get good business for it. It doesn't look that bad, but the service and amenities are said to be awful, at least by Radisson's standards.
  • Hunter Trapper: Mountain Laurel's the definitive showcase of this trope.
  • Informal Eulogy: You'll get this from the narrator whenever you die.
  • Invisible Wall: The front gate to the city leading back out into the desert. There's nothing out there for the Stranger, and The Kid is going to find him one way or another.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Diamondback, named for a deadly, venomous rattlesnake, is still perhaps one of the less disagreeable-sounding names for an old Western town when compared to its neighbors Asbestos, Blow Fly, Dry Rot, Rabies, and Varmint.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Subverted. Cosimo's latest buisness venture and he wants you to co-invest: "Lead-In-Paint!". But eventually, things change, but not until Cosimo and his contemporaries are safely dead.
  • Knowledge Broker: Buick Riviera has quite the monopoly on knowing about what goes on in the town. During various parts of the game, you can get various helpful information by paying him for some of that knowledge.
    • He'll also at one point turn this knowledge against you when you try taking an important book regarding the Yunni Tribe from Oona Canute's room. As soon as you do, Buick will appear to Blackmail $50 out of you which, if you don't have or refuse to pay, is an automatic game over.
  • Local Reference: Mountain Laurel is from East Tennessee—as was CyberFlix, being headquartered in Knoxville.
  • Magical Native American: The mysterious and nameless guardian of the Devil's Breath Gold Mine.
    • Sonoma is also heavily implied to embody this trope too. This is evidenced by Sonoma appearing then quickly disappearing again should players wait around the fountain area of the abandoned mission long enough, if she isn't visibly standing around waiting to talk to you.
  • Make an Example of Them: If you commit a crime, you will be treated to a macabre game over cinematic of the Stranger either having been hung at the cemetery, or having his open casket displayed in front of the Hard Drive as a warning to others.
  • Male Gaze: Lampshaded. There's a painting of a nude over the bar at the Hard Drive. Clicking on it will take you to a close-up. If you click on it further, an unseen man will razz you to the amusement of the other patrons.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Radisson Bloodstone-Hayes does an absurd amount of manipulating to indisputably get this trope trope. He admits during the game's final scene in the mine to manipulating Marie Macintosh's feelings so he becomes engaged to her. He does this as a way to not only gain favor with the mayor but to be put into a good position to get him to into investing towards locating then buying the Devil's Breath Mine due it to being full of pyrite. As he non-chalantly admits, the mine being full of pyrite was yet another manipulative lie he made up to both fill his own pockets with the mayor's money and to find the Devil's Breath Mine to take its treasure.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: Quite a few of the characters in the game are not actually voiced by the actors who provided their faces. Sound and music director Scott Scheinbaum not only actually portrays Ned DeVries, he is also the real voice actor for many of the other male characters.
  • The Many Deaths of You: It's the wild west, after all. If someone with a gun (that is, most people) doesn't get you first, some of the local venomous fauna probably will.
  • Miss Kitty: Miss Oona Canute.
  • Multiple Endings: There are a total of five of these. Unlike other games with branching stories, these are solely determined by a decision made at the end. Four of them are narrated epilogues with still images, explaining what happened to the Stranger and whoever was involved in his decision, and the fifth is a simple Off-into-the-Distance Ending with everyone waving goodbye.
  • Native American Casino: If the Stranger chooses to return the treasure to the Yunni to help pay to get their land back, it's implied they built a casino by the end of the 20th century.
  • No Name Given: For much of the game the protagonist is only referred to as "Stranger" and later on as "Sheriff" Oona gives him the nickname "Johnny", short for Stagecoach Johnny.
    • This trope is finally subverted though during the game's final act. The protagonist's birth name is revealed to be "Ahote" by the mysterious guardian of the Devil's Breath Mine.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: One of the game's five endings employs this old hat western trope. You get it by choosing to leave town with the Yunni gold.
  • Old School Building: The abandoned Santa Marta mission with the schoolroom in back. If you wait around in the courtyard, you'll hear the sound of far-off chanting. If you wait around even longer, Sonoma will appear to spook you by phasing in and out of existence.
  • Opening Narration: The game and every chapter starts with a monologue from the anonymous Narrator whose character never appears in the game physically, but implies he's a citizen of Diamondback.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Though you may pay to see them, you don't actually get to sleep with any of the ladies of the Hard Drive. Justified as this game was from the mid-1990s; but there are also specific reasons you wouldn't want to sleep with them: Ruby is a strong character who's already spoken for, Sophie is generally unpleasant, and Fat Maizie is rumored to have syphilis. In any case, they don't appear very interested in the Stranger, and Mountain Laurel doesn't want it for him, either.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Belcher brothers really don't like Chinese people. The Stranger inevitably has to confront them when they try to burn down the local Chinese owned store after the previous day's news that President Arthur has signed the Chinese Exclusion Act.
    • It's also possible to meet Cobb early on before this event. If you do, he'll reveal he's not a fan of Native Americans either by insulting the rumors about you being part Native American. Though, as you later find out these aren't rumors as you were born into the Yunni tribe.
    • The Kid also showcases this as well when he tries to get the Stranger off balance by mocking him for his mixed ancestry.
  • Practical Currency: A very historically accurate trope as, just like during the actual days of the wild west, people you meet during the game will accept practical items instead of money. In fact, for most of the game, you'll have to utilize bartering in a non-monetary manner to advance the story.
    • Just as well, seeing as money is very easy to come by—just save-scum at the blackjack table—and there's very little of use to the Stranger to buy with it.
    • Other times, you can resort to practical currency as an alternative solution. An early example of this involves the ring Help gives you early on. You can actually save some hassle later on. You do this by giving it to Miss Oona Canute to get upstairs rather than paying her money. Doing this also has the bonus of helping you avoid Sophie stealing it from you and later demanding you pay $75 to get it back from her, so you can help Jackalope Jones appease Mountain Laurel.
  • Press X to Not Die: The final showdown with The Kid, which is unlike any other gunfight in the game. You get very little time to react, and there is no other prompt besides him saying "Goodbye, stranger." Before he finishes saying it, you have to click the Stranger's hand, his gun, and then The Kid.
  • Product Placement: Through some humorous artistic license, players in a section of Help's store can find boxes for three other Cyberflix games on display: Jump Raven, Lunicus and Skull Cracker.
    • Late in the game, Help acknowledges them saying he keeps finding them out in the desert. Though he doesn't know what they are, he says that that they're big sellers.
  • Professional Gambler: Hirotedus "Mez" Mezamee is a textbook example of this.
  • Rancher: Nate Trotter. The Stranger can also become one as well if he chooses to invest the Yunni treasure with him in one of the game's five endings.
  • Schoolmarm: Sonoma embodies this trope but with a twist: she is a Native American as well, which is something quite uncommon in fictional westerns like this game.
  • Secret Diary: Marie Macintosh's diary.
  • Shout-Out: The town doctor's name is Hillary Rodham and is even modeled to look, sound and sometimes act like her, even namedropping 90's political figures like Al Gore and Newt Gingrich. If you pause long enough during a dialogue with her, she'll say you're procrastinating just like Bill.
  • Showdown at High Noon
  • Small Town Boredom: The Mayor's daughter Marie Macintosh *really* hates her hometown.
  • Someday This Will Come in Handy: By talking with townsfolk and listening into their conversations with one another, players should always pay attention to information that appears unimportant. Much of it is in fact very cleverly layered information needed to beat the game.
    • The most important pieces of apparently trivial information involve The Kid. You can use the information to figure out what insults to use on him before you have a gun duel with him. This makes it much easier to beat him.
  • Sound-Only Death: Many instances, if you count distant gunshots heard in passing.
    • The Cactus Bed has no vacancies on the first night... until Radisson greases some palms so that one opens up. You'll hear the results of this while talking to the clerk, Jonas Fearwitt.
    • When you keep the town map open for a few seconds, you hear a ricochet and a thump, and the population shrinks from 248 to 247.
  • Spurned into Suicide: Poor Sophie poisons herself after finding out The Kid has shacked up with another girl.
  • Talking through Technique: The Piano Player at the Saloon, Isao, only talks through his piano playing.
  • The Trope Kid: The Kid, one of the game's two main Big Bads.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: There are basically two main story-lines in Dust, the first concerning the upcoming confrontation between the Stranger and the Kid. The second is the Stranger's involvement in the quest for the mysterious Devil's Breath Mine.
  • Vision Quest
  • The Voice: Fat Maizie. While mentioned somewhat often, you can only interact with her by knocking on her door at the saloon and hearing her voice on the other side. You never see her face, or have any idea of what she looks like because she's always too busy for you.
    • Jay, Ned DeVries's employee, is constantly asking his boss how to deal with the sick and problem animals in the livery stable.
  • The Wild West
  • You Fight Like a Cow: The stranger and the Kid resort to this kind of verbal joust during their final confrontation. If the player can deliver the right insults to the Kid then it'll make the subsequent duel much easier.