Gold Rush

Publisher: Sierra
Machine: Amiga 500

Published in Zzap #51

Gold Rush

In 1848, men from all over the world headed for California in the hope of making a fortune. As Jerrod Wilson, you are one such man. Jerrod lives a humdrum life as a newspaper reporter in Brooklyn Heights, New York. But when he hears rumours of gold, he's determined to get in on the excitement and the money. His brother Jake disappeared some years ago and every day Jerrod visits the post office in the hope of a letter from his long-lost brother.

This seems like any other ordinary day, people going about their usual business, but maybe if Jerrod takes a look inside that post office, he'll have a surprise. Brother Jake is not dead as feared but instead is in California. The letter he sends to Jerrod reveals (in not very subtle code) that he has discovered gold and wishes Jerrod to join him in the Golden State.

If you can get to California, you could get rich; but it's 2500 miles away and Concorde hasn't yet been invented. There are three main travelling options: by ship - either going round the infamous Cape Horn, or by landing in Panama and travelling through the jungle (the canal hasn't been built yet) to another ship. The third option is to take the stagecoach to Independence, Missouri, where you join in a mining company travelling westward in wagons.

Gold Rush!

Before you embark on any of the dangerous journeys, you must get enough money for the ticket. Selling your house is the way to make big money, but if you wait too long the rumours of Californian gold will cause property prices to drop and ticket prices to rise. The estate agent doesn't have an office, but comes round to buy your house when you've stick a "For Sale" sign in the front garden (achieved by typing SELL HOUSE).

A joystick, mouse or cursor keys may be used to make Jerrod walk around the 3D landscape of Brooklyn. Talking to other characters is achieved by 'TALK TO person' and interaction is limited to listening to their messages. Shops can be entered in order to buy useful equipment and food. Strangely, you can't pay shopkeepers any money (you decide to 'save it for a rainy day') but they will allow you to have three items on your account. What you choose depends on which way you plan to reach California. For example, if you're going by ship some citrus trust will prevent you getting scurvy.

As with most Sierra adventures, Gold Rush hardly makes use of the Amiga's graphics and sound capabilities. Some of the scenery is well drawn but the characters, although realistically animated, are blocky and have bright red faces (Perhaps they've embarrassed by their appearance!). Even so, Brooklyn Heights bustles with animated peope and horse-drawn carriages. The only problem is that when three or four characters are on-screen simultaneously their movement is slowed down to a snail's pace. Sound is limited to the sort of 'beepy' tunes associated with the Spectrum (Shock horror!). But after a while the simple presentation goes unnoticed as you get caught up in the excitement of 'gold fever'. The game manages to capture the authentic atmosphere of the time, helped by the fact that it is geographically and historically correct.

After setting off for California, frequent saving of the game position is a necessity as there are many ways to die, ranging from cholera and starvation to sinking (on the ship, of course!). Dying frequently can become irritating (as my zombie uncle Trevor keeps telling me), but somehow the lure of all that gold makes you persevere. And if you get totally stuck, you can read the fascinating 96-page historical guide (included in the packaging) to see how the real 49ers managed. [They won the Superbowl, didn't they? - Ed] Ultimately, how much enjoyment you get out of Gold Rush depends on whether you love or loathe the Sierra 3D adventure style - if you're a fan, you shouldn't be disappointed.