Gold Rush! Anniversary Review
Gold Rush! Anniversary Review
Jeffry Houser reviews Gold Rush! Anniversary. The game has been revamped with new graphics and sound.
Posted: 11/18/14 | Category: Review | Developer: Sunlight Games | Publisher: Kiss ltd. | Platform: Microsoft windows, Apple macintosh

Gold Rush! is a vintage game by Sierra Online that never went away. First released in 1988, it was one of the last games that Sierra built on its original AGI interface, and is sort of like an adventure game version of The Oregon Trail. The game has been available for sale from the original designers for a long time, presumably due to the educational value of the game. I guess the game must have had some traction because the developers have revamped the original with new graphics and sound, releasing it as the Gold Rush! Anniversary edition.

The Story

It’s 1848 and you play Jerrod Wilson, a journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. Rumors of gold being discovered in California have been swirling, and after receiving a letter from your long-lost brother, you decide it’s time to make the trip, find your brother and make your fortune.

Jerrod starts by spending some time organizing his affairs in Brooklyn, and then it’s off to California. There are three travel options to California: you can go by wagon train, through the Panama Canal or around Cape Horn. Each route presents different challenges. Once you arrive in California, Jerrod takes up the search for his brother while exploring the land and doing his own search for gold.

This is one of the most complicated Sierra games from its classic era, and I remember spending days pouring over all the possibilities. The three different paths lend a lot of replay value. Additionally, the game uses a point-scoring mechanism, meaning that actions within the game are worth points; the goal is to get the most points by the end of the game. This is different than the achievement-based mechanism common in today’s games, and it makes it fun to replay the game in order to find the points you missed.

Production Values

The first thing you’ll notice about the game is the quality of the graphics. They are, unfortunately, pretty bland. The backgrounds are nice recreations from the original screens, but they seem as though they're a leap forward of just 10 years, bringing them to the quality of a game you’d find 15 years ago. There are no character portraits, and the animations, while functional, lack creativity. Everything is dull to look at and it feels as if the game is lacking in life.

The game’s sound is a mixed bag. The voice-overs are short on emotion and are often monotone in nature, accentuating the blandness of the graphics. It’s not all bad though. The music is well-done, although it's minimally used. In most cases you don’t get background music with the screens; the music mainly comes on in response to user interactivity or as part of cut-scenes. I loved hearing the music when I did something to increase my score. I think the minimal use of music is effective and the great music production helps set the scene for 1848 tonally.

Two control schemes are implemented in this game: a point-and-click control scheme similar to modern games and a console interface as in the original game. I played around with both approaches and am impressed with how well they work. The typing interface is just like the old game I remember, but better. The action of the game stops when you start typing, so you never have to rush to finish a sentence.

The point-and-click option is great when it works, but the game feels as though it's still in beta. Sometimes the cursor won’t highlight examinable items. Often, I would get two conflicting dialog responses, almost as if two clicks were registered instead of one. One example of this is a dialog saying “move closer” after I'd had a conversation with a character. If I'd already had the conversation, why would I need to move closer?

There were a few times when I couldn’t complete puzzles in the point-and-click mode. The most egregious example was when I was trying to buy a mule. I clicked the gold on the mule salesman and he responded with a dialog saying he accepted the money and would get me a mule. But he didn't actually get a mule. Switching to the console mode worked around the issue, and typing "buy mule" got me the mule I needed to continue the game. Although this is the most extreme case, issues like this are prevalent throughout the game.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed stepping back into the shoes of Jerrod Wilson in his search for his brother and gold. All things being equal, this Anniversary Edition is superior to the original. However, there is one major drawback that has caused a lot of controversy. The game is priced at $34.99, which seems very expensive for an adventure game. I’ve gotten into the habit of funding Kickstarter adventure game projects for $10-$15, so the price tag is a big shocker both to me and many others. If you loved the original and want to play it again, then consider picking up the Anniversary Edition. If you’re just looking for something fun to play, you can probably get two new adventures for the price of this one. Watch for sales though, because this game would be a steal at $10. 

Final Grade: B-
 
 Lots of replay value with three different travel paths to California
+ Good music, although used minimally
Bland graphics and animation 
- Priced higher than many new adventure games
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MINIMUM PC:

OS: Windows Vista, 7 or 8
Processor: Pentium 4 with 2 GHz (or better)
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Graphics: Minimum of 512 MB Ram

 

 

Specials from Digital Download
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