Vowed to the heavens to give up gunnery.
He'd be better off, he reckoned, / With the lifelong dream that always beckoned:
Pestles, not pistols, and pharmacology.
Pharkas, Freddy Pharkas. / Frontier Pharmacist bourgeoisie,
Freddy Pharkas, Freddy Pharkas. / Peerless, earless, and free!
Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is a 90s Point-and-Click adventure game. Considered one of Sierra's best, and possibly even one of the best adventure games of the 2D VGA era. Strangely, despite being very successful, it did not receive a sequel.
Set in the Wild West, this game follows the exploits of a gunslinger named Frederick "Freddy" Pharkas (Hungarian roots unexplored). Freddy, having been proclaimed the best gunslinger in the mid-west, meets his match at the hands of the ominously-named outlaw Kenny the Kid. Kenny shoots Freddy's ear off in a duel, prompting Freddy to forsake gunslinging and vow never to pick up a pistol again. Instead, Freddy picks up his other hobby: pharmacology. He moves to the town of Coarsegold, CA (a few miles away from Sierra's headquarters in Oakhurst), and never reveals his past to any of the townsfolk.
Years later, trouble comes to Coarsegold when the local Sheriff starts shutting down businesses left and right, declaring that their buildings are "fire-hazards" (which is kind of understandable, since the whole town is built out of wood). When Freddy tries to investigate a little into the matter, his pharmacy is nearly put to the torch one night. Realizing that something is afoot, Freddy eventually concedes to his fate, returning to his old gunslinging ways in order to save his beloved town.
The game includes adult themes and plenty of sultry, witty humor by Josh Mandel and Al Lowe (of Leisure Suit Larry fame). It also contains some notoriously difficult arcade sequences. The game comes with an extensive manual on common diseases and pharmacology, written in 19th century style (thus containing, obviously, many hilarious misconceptions about medical practice as a whole). There are several points in the game where Freddy must utilize a well-equipped pharmaceutical laboratory to concoct pills and potions from a large variety of chemicals.
This work features examples of the following tropes:
- Achievements in Ignorance: The entire town of Coarsegold was built on oil fields. Not a single person in the entire town had a clue this was done except for the main villain Penelope Primm, which makes sense, considering she's a Schoolmarm. So she'd be educated enough to know about these things.
- Advertised Extra: The box art◊ says "Meet the great-great-grandpappy of Leisure Suit Larry". Nope, that's not Freddy, who couldn't differ from Larry more even if he tried. The advertised ancestor is plot-irrelevant Zircon Laffer, who appears in 1 scene with 1 line.
- The Alcoholic: The town doctor. You actually have to look through the bottom of a whiskey glass to decipher one prescription.
- Alliterative Name: Frederick "Freddy" Pharkas, Penelope Primm, Whittlin' Willy.
- Anachronism Stew: The song mentions Freddy coming first in his class in the SAT, which was invented in 1926, 38 years after 1888, the year the story started.
- Animal Stampede: A stampede of snails, specifically.
- Animated Actors: The Hilarious Outtakes reveal this. The end credits were broken up into chunks, alternating between real credits, and then scenes where the actors got out of character and complained to the game's director. Interestingly enough, the "actors" playing the characters had different names than those of the characters' own voice actors.
- Ballad of X: The Ballad of Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist.
- Berserk Button: Whittlin' Willy is typically a cheerful guy, only two things will get him mad. One is when Freddy sells out. Willy says he sort of resents him for that and for all he cares he could've died in a pharmacy and good riddance to him. The thing that really gets to him (to the point of Suddenly Shouting) is taking advantage of the town's ignorance. Apparently the entire city was built on oil fields and noone knew except the main villain. He adds that they ain't stupid they just had no idea what oil EVEN WAS! He then after that says he's riled and not to talk to him.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: The game in German is a huge mess. One specific example, for example, is that "jockstrap" was translated as "Scotsman's suspender."
- Brand X:
- You can find a tube of "Preparation G" in Freddy's pharmacy. It's a quest item.
- Freddy entices his "faithful Indian sidekick" to come work at the pharmacy by stating that one of the perks of the position was all the "Rustler's Stove" chocolates he could eat.
- The Cameo: Kenny the Kid is an obvious stand in for Sierra co-founder Ken Williams. It wouldn't be an Al Lowe game without a cameo from his boss.
- Card Sharp: Wheaton "Aces" Hall, the first bad guy to show up in the last act.
- Chekhov's Gun: Freddy's false ear. It'll serve three purposes by the end of the game.
- Caught with Your Pants Down: After Zircon shows up, it's possible to catch him in the outhouse with a dirty magazine.
- Clark Kenting: To hide his true identity, Freddy makes a false ear for himself (his real ear having been shot off in the prologue). No one seems to recognize him until Penelope removes his ear and is shocked to discover that it's Freddy!
- Combat Medic: Freddy uses both his gunslinging skills and his medical knowledge to help save Coarsegold.
- Comically Missing the Point: After Penelope tells Freddy "it's always the person you least expect," Freddy starts rattling off all the people he suspected even less than Penelope herself.
- Completion Meter: Parodied. Of the 1,000 points to be gathered throughout the game, the first 500 are for unlocking the pharmacy door at the beginning.
- Copy Protection: The recipes for the medicines you have to distribute at the start of the game are All There in the Manual. Only problem is, when the game was re-released in the Sierra Originals version, only a truncated version of the manual was included in the CD booklet, and one of the required recipes was left out entirely. Due to this, Al Lowe has put the entire doc on his website.
- Credits Gag: You can interact with the opening credits using the cursor. For example, using the hand on the job title gives, "You can't take the credit for something you haven't done!"
- Elective Broken Language: Hopalong Singh, the Chinese chef, can speak perfect English, but Mom pays him to Speekee Engrish instead because he'll sound more "authentic" that way. One of the Native Americans says he only uses Tonto Talk to make the tourists happy.
- Exactly What I Aimed At: Freddy confronts a poker cheat named Wheaton "Aces" Hall in a saloon. When Aces pulls out a gun, Freddy upturns a table and hides behind it. The player is then given a targeting cursor, and everything you can hit with it results in a trick shot. Only one specific object ends up bouncing the bullet into a chandelier that falls on Aces, though.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Srini is very literally an Indian.
- Fastest Gun in the West: Freddy was trying for this title, until his defeat at the hands of Kenny the Kid (which cost him his ear) made him give up gunfighting in favor of pharmacology. Come the end of the game, he at least manages to shoot Kenny's gun out of his hand.
- Femme Fatale: Penelope Primm.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: Used in the game's prologue, the Ballad of Freddy Pharkas.
- Foreshadowing: An event is foreshadowed and the narrator hangs a lampshade on it by saying "Foreshadowing alert! Foreshadowing alert!"
- Food as Bribe: How Freddy has to get bullets and a gun cleaning kit. He has to give coffee and the apple pie from Mom's Cafe to the sheriff in exchange for these.
- Frontier Doctor: Freddy Pharkas.
- Funny Foreigner: Srini, the INDIAN.
- Fun with Acronyms: Srini gets a medal from the American Society of Salves, Holistic Ointments, Liniments, and Emollients Salesmen.
- Game-Over Man: Whittlin' Willy, the game's narrator, will show up to relate the circumstances of Freddy's untimely death.
- Goofy Print Underwear: When Freddy drops his holsters at gunpoint, he accidentally drops his pants as well, exposing polka-dot boxers.
- Have a Nice Death: Take any medications meant for someone else, open the bag of horse farts, let the town be overrun by snails, get shot by an outlaw, take too long during certain events (such as when Coarsegold's water supply is poisoned), walk onto a swamp then sink...
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Madame Ovaree, to some extent. Possibly the rest of the ladies at the... errr... ladies' house.
- Identical Grandson: Leisure Suit Larry's great-great-granduncle shows up; Zircon Laffer. His voice actor, Jan Rabson, would eventually voice Larry himself from Larry 6 onward.
- The Illegible: A prescription written by the habitually-drunk town doctor is completely illegible until an empty whiskey glass is used on it, prompting Freddy to remark that it must've been written while looking through the bottom of a whiskey glass as well.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: The way Freddy takes out the Card Sharp.
- Just for Pun: The reason Srini is from India.
- Morally Bankrupt Banker: P.H. Balance, the local banker.
- Never Found the Body: Penelope Primm, the Big Bad, setting up a Sequel Hook for a second game that never came.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: After managing to shoot Freddy, Kenny the Kid, assuming Freddy will die, reveals he's working for Penelope. This leads to the downfall of both him and Penelope, as Freddy survives, stops Penelope's plan, and then kills Kenny once he shows up.
- No Animals Were Harmed: The game ends with "A total of 34 animals were injured or maimed in the making of this game. After all, we could accept nothing less than total and complete realism."
- Non Standard Game Over: The game quits to DOS if you shoot yourself.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The disguise used by Freddy in the last act consists of a change of clothes, a neckerchief (which is actually worn around the neck), and a silver ear. Nobody realizes that the man with the silver ear is actually the one-eared pharmacist, up until the Big Bad captures him and removes the fake ear.
- The Piano Player: There's a piano player called Neville Shute."You know, Neville Shute, the piano player... he's only doing his job."
- Pinball Projectile: During the final chapter, when Freddy accuses a villainous poker player of cheating locals out of their homes and businesses in card games, the guy pulls a gun on him, leading to a standoff in the saloon where the player must find something to ricochet their gun off of while taking cover behind a table. Aim wrong, and the bullet bounces all over the place and eventually kill an innocent bystander - but instead of issuing a Game Over for this (as one would normally expect from a Sierra adventure game), it rewinds the scene (ricochets and all) so the player can try again.
- Potty Dance: When the water supply is poisoned, Freddy arrives at the outhouse to see a long line of people, all of them dancing.
- Potty Emergency: Freddy has one of these after the town's water supply is poisoned with a nasty substance. It's so bad he actually shares an outhouse with someone else. Truth in Television, some outhouses were three-holers… Except this one's barely large enough to fit one guy. And Freddy has to tell that guy to "scooch over a bit". Yuck.
- "Pop!" Goes the Human: How Freddy "dies laughing" according to the death screen if you use the tank of Nitros Oxide (AKA Laughing Gas) on him.
- Punny Name: Almost every character in the game has one.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: An army of mooks get this slightly wrong. No doubt a reference to Blazing Saddles, in which an army of mooks also stampedes women and rapes cattle."Let's stampede the women and rape the cattle!"
- Retcon: Zircon Jim Laffer is advertised as being Leisure Suit Larry's great-great-grandfather on the box art, but in-game is referred to as his great-great-granduncle.
- Road Apples: A cow patty is an inventory item. Also, horse farts. It's a Sierra game by Al Lowe, what did you expect?
- Rule of Funny: Do NOT attempt to follow any of the medical advice listed in the pharmacist's guide/manual. It is a parody of the more primitive state of medicine in the 19th Century and is only meant to be used as a source of humor and copy protection information.
- Scenic-Tour Level: The prologue of the game has Freddy walking through Coarsegold to open his pharmacy for the day — and it's completely interactive. The game makes fun of itself by awarding half of the available 1000 points in the game to the player for (finally) opening the pharmacy door."You're halfway through the game!"
- Schoolmarm: The game had one of those whose last name even was Primm. However, she turns out to be the villain in the end.
- One of the medications in the pharmacy is a hemorrhoid cream called "Preparation G", presumably a forerunner to modern hemorrhoid cream Preparation H.
- The game makes a few shout-outs to other Sierra games.
- One of the people in the bar is Zircon Jim Laffer, ancestor to Leisure Suit Larry (whom he resembles closely).
- There's a bridge that informs you every time you cross it that you have only three crossings left (the number never goes down), referencing a bridge that actually does have limited crossings in King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne.
- Cedric the Owl has a cameo. A very short cameo.
- Dying in certain circumstances causes the narrator to wrap up Freddy's story, then launch into new ones, containing references to another King's Quest game, The Adventures of Willy Beamish, and (in a non-Sierra reference) The Music Man.
- A few pieces of paper in the general store are full of these, including a letter from King Graham, a message from Dr. Miklos, who lost her pet ferret Daisy, and a wanted poster for Al Lowe himself, complete with a reference to one his first games, Bop-A-Bet.
- Using the shovel on the loose floorboards in Freddy's pharmacy will cause a monster to crawl from underneath the boards, saying "I'll swallow your soul!", to which Freddy replies "Come get some."
- The cutscene of the snail stampede falling off the cliff looks like a stage from Lemmings.
- Showdown at High Noon: Close to the end of the game. There are two arcade sequences following each other very closely.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Two lines from "The Ballad of Freddy Pharkas":She had captured Fred's affection,But he's scared he'll get a huge... rejection
- Suicidal Lemmings: Freddy saves the town from a horde of stampeding snails by diverting them into a chasm. The narration notes that they "look just like little lemmings, marching over that cliff" and the cutscene of snails falling to their doom is a pretty obvious Shout-Out to Lemmings.
- Technology Marches On: Deliberately invoked by the manual, which takes the form of a 19th-century medical handbook. Nearly every single entry in the book contains some old-timey misconception about medicine — and it is all Truth in Television.
- Toilet Humor: One puzzle involves collecting horse farts.
- Another puzzle involves the whole town being afflicted with Potty Emergencies after the town's water is contaminated. Drinking the water yourself with end with you having to share an outhouse with someone else.
- At any time, you may go into the outhouse, potentially catching someone using it.
- Unreliable Narrator: The old guy who starts narrating the game does this even in death scenarios. "You're talking to a ghost, wooooooooooooo!"
- The Wild West
- You No Take Candle: Played with; see Elective Broken Language.
- Zorro Mark: In the climax, Freddy carves a ℞ into the clothing of the Big Bad, Penelope Primm.
Dad and designer, of Larrys one through five.
But while Larry's slightly dirty, / Freddy isn't anywhere as nerdy,
Short, lewd, or balding, nor pushing forty-five.
Pharkas, Freddy Pharkas. / Digitized and in VGA.
Freddy Pharkas, Freddy Pharkas. / Saddle up and let's play.