Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold - Episode 1: A Fistful of Pocket Lint
First posted on 07 April 2013. Last updated on 07 April 2013.
Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold is the debut episodic adventure series from Finnish indie game developer Prank. The series pays homage to the golden age of the adventure genre and parodies many classic adventure games from the bygone era. The graphical style mirrors games from that period: pixelated character models, exaggerated facial animations, and the instantly recognizable verb coin interface. Set in the Wild West, the series also appears to draw its inspiration from Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist. This is a fitting tribute, since that game's co-creator Josh Mandel also serves as a creative collaborator for this series. Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold - Episode 1: A Fistful of Pocket Lint is the first episode of a planned trilogy, with the remaining episodes supposedly following on from where this episode leaves off.
In this retro styled classic third-person, point-and-click adventure, you take on the protagonist role of Fester Mudd—a slothful and lazy cowboy who lives alone somewhere in the Wild West, with his trusty mule (whom he names Martha) and his loyal dog as his sole companions. The episode begins with a cut scene showing Fester asleep and snoring on a wooden bench outside his dilapidated homestead. The dog is barking incessantly at the mailbox when it notices some mail in there for the first time in years. Fester finally gets up, throws his boot at the dog, and wanders over to retrieve the mail. Fester finds a letter from his long lost brother Bud who tells Fester of his goldmine somewhere beyond Loamsmouth. Bud asks Fester to meet him in Loamsmouth at the Torn Blister Saloon. Upon arriving at Loamsmouth weeks later, Martha drops from exhaustion due to the long travel and falls into a deep sleep. Fester searches the town for Bud, only to discover that he has mysteriously disappeared. Naturally, it is up to Fester to muster up provisions from the townsfolk to revive Martha, continue his search for Bud, and perhaps locate the goldmine that his lost brother has discovered. The adventure has just begun.
Installation of the game is straightforward and glitch free. During setup, you are given choices to change the default graphical and input settings. From the Main Menu, you can select Continue, New, Save, Load, Settings, and Quit. The Settings option includes some instructions showing the game's basic controls.
The game can be controlled entirely using only the mouse (except for the Esc key on the keyboard used to return to the Main Menu). Navigation is done by pointing and clicking using the left mouse button. The user interface is reminiscent of the early LucasArts adventure games using the SCUMM engine. There are 9 action verb coins located at the bottom left of the screen (Action Interface): Give, Open, Close, Pick Up, Look At, Talk to, Use, Move, and Kick. Selecting an action verb coin and then a corresponding item or location in the scene (World View) enables that action to be taken. The inventory is located at the bottom right of the screen (Inventory Items). An overlay bar tracks your current actions (Action Bar). There are 3 locations in the game to where you can travel using a map. There are also some 37 items located in the town and the nearby environs that you will need to gather. No pixel hunting is needed. However, there is no hotspot hotkey.
Although you cannot die in the game, regular saving of your game progress is highly recommended. Your progress is automatically saved whenever you quit the game. Continuing the game later on will resume from the autosave. You can also create a save manually and enter a description for the save. On restarting the game, you can then reload the manual save to continue.
The overall production is impressive for an indie game title. The many characters in the game are purposely recreated to match the pixelated characters of adventure games of yesteryear. The countless jokes, visual gags, and genre references to both LucasArts and Sierra will have you chuckling throughout the game. The humor is strategically interwoven into the corny but clever plotline. Many of the wacky characters have names such as Wild Bill Hiccup, Wyatt Burp, and General P Store (who, incidentally, is the owner of a general store). The colorful graphics are also well done to conform to the retro style of the classic adventure game era.
There is no spoken dialog in the game. All dialogs in the cut scenes are captioned. When interacting with other characters, you are presented with branching dialog choices from which you can select until they are all exhausted. The characters reply in captions.
The MIDI music is lively and has an appropriate Western theme. Circus themed music is also played when you visit the gun dealer. The music complements the game's Wild West setting perfectly. Sound effects such as meowing cats, barking dogs, and even farting fish (really) add life to the scenes.
The puzzles are mostly good, with a few exceptions that are there to test your resolve. The inventory based puzzles require you have to use or combine the correct items. For example, you have to gather provisions to wake up Martha, defeat Wild Bill Hiccup in a drinking contest, and evict an annoying squirrel from a hollow tree trunk. Some of the puzzles are timed so that you have to restart the puzzles if you fail to solve them in time. You also need to earn money to pay for some of the items you need to solve these puzzles.
Unless you get stuck on a puzzle, you can complete the game in less than a couple of hours. Even considering the series' episodic format, this game is quite short. The game is nonlinear to the extent you can gather many of the needed items in any order. However, some of the puzzles can only be solved if certain items are found first.
With the first episode, Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold shows much promise as a most enjoyable game series that is crammed with nostalgia. The only complaint I have is that the game is far too short even for its episodic format. Newcomers to classic adventure games may find this game to be a good stepping stone to explore the history of the genre.