Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure
I met Fenimore Fillmore several years ago in 3 Skulls of the Toltecs, his first hair-raising adventure. I remember it as a game I resisted playing for a while because of the western theme, but luckily I succumbed because I enjoyed it. Now, after a fairly long break, Revistronic have produced a sequel with vibrant 3D graphics. This new game was originally released in Europe as The Westerner, and The Adventure Company is now publishing it to a wider audience under the new title: Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure.
Fenimore rides into Bannister Farm and right into trouble. As he slides off his horse he steps into a crop of artichokes, and Fenimore hates artichokes and artichokes hate him. As if this wasn't bad enough he soon learns that the good farmer and his family are about to be run off their land by three henchmen of the feared and greedy rancher, John Starek. Starek has been menacing the local farmers and wants to get rid of them so he can get more land for his cattle.
The introduction sets the mood with a classic send up of the 'spaghetti' western genre with lots of close-ups of shifty eyes and tense hands hovering over guns. Fenimore Fillmore, all-round good guy, steps in and temporarily saves the day, then, Stella, the farmer's wife promptly tries to poison him by feeding him artichokes. Fortunately Fenimore survives, and just as fortunately he doesn't have the same aversion to carrots because carrots play a significant part in this game. In fact you won't get far without them as they are the only food (or fuel) that Feminore's horse will eat and you will have to grow some before you can leave the farm and keep a supply handy wherever you go. You will also have lots of other chores to do if you are to help the farmers of Starek City stand up against the cattle baron and win the heart of his feisty niece, Rhiannon.
In this third person perspective adventure game you play as Fenimore and it is completely mouse controlled. Revistronic deserve to be congratulated for creating a 3D game that doesn't insist on keyboard only control. This is not to say that the interface is perfect as panning is restricted and the shifting camera angles are also a bit disorienting making it fiddly getting Fenimore to go exactly where you want him to sometimes. But most of the time all you need do is click on a door or a point on the screen and Fenimore will happily walk there. I only wish there was some way of speeding up his walking pace. I played a pre-release review copy that didn't have a manual so I am not sure if there is some way to make him get a hurry on. But these minor shortcomings are more than made up for by the fun factor.
The cursor has only three actions, the default is 'look' and a right click changes it to the 'use' icon. It also generally defaults to 'talk' when you move it over a character but sometimes you will need to right click to select this option. It's extremely intuitive. When you 'look' at an object you get a first person close up view that is useful for examining the contents of drawers and cupboards. And you will be doing a lot of this. It's a good job that adventurers aren't averse to petty theft in a good cause. Fenimore will look around furtively before he pilfers money and this, of course, increases that sense of guilt.
You will need lots of money on this quest to buy drinks in the saloon and various useful items from the store. You may also pay a high price for illegal goods. Add to this forgery, fraud and criminal damage and you may just wonder if Fenimore shouldn't be behind bars. But, remember, it's all in a good cause. Actually, when I first started playing I was very careful with my money (well, other people's money) though I did learn as I moved through the game that this wasn't completely necessary. Some, though not all, items that can be bought from the store can also be found in the gameworld with a bit of diligent searching, and there are ways and means to replenish your purse if need be. Items that you pick up are stored in a scrolling inventory that appears at the top of the screen when you move your mouse there.
As with 3 Skulls of the Toltecs this game is a light-hearted romp through the old wild west. I happily played it through with a smile on my face and the occasional good chuckle at a playful anachronism or a witty remark. A lot of work has gone into making the characters fun and larger than life.
The puzzles are inventory based where you need to find and use the correct item to make progress, but it isn't a case of trying everything everywhere as the uses of most items are fairly obvious. The key to the puzzles is, as always, thinking about what you are trying to achieve then trying to do it within the logic of the game. The difficulty comes in sorting out what actions will lead to the correct end, especially as you can go just about everywhere (if you have enough carrots) and talk to lots of characters right from the very start. Lots of clues are provided and many are far from subtle which is nicely in keeping with the light-hearted nature of the game.
There is a drinking duel where rhyming insults come in handy, a surprise treat for Monkey Island fans. Of course to solve this problem drinking to excess definitely does pay. And I should also mention the point and click shooting gallery where the levels become progressively more difficult. I had major problems here and at one stage I was convinced it was impossible to get through all the levels. The first two were easy but more than that was beyond me as the cursor was difficult to control with any speed and accuracy. After many failures I was about to give up when I had a rare brainwave. In the settings I lowered the 'detail' bar all the way down then tried again. Voila! Accuracy returned to the mouse and I got through all the levels after six or seven attempts. So if you too have wayward cursor problems try this remedy.
Having said that, I know that the shooting gallery will still frustrate some adventurers and it might have been better if there was a way of allowing players to choose a difficulty level that suited them. Towards the end of the game there is a timed shoot-out that also requires some dexterity and took me three or four attempts to get through and then, finally, there is another confrontation, but this last shoot-out is not timed and it is more of a strategy puzzle than an arcade sequence. Certainly reflexes are not needed at the end.
When I first saw the doll-like characters in early screenshots I wasn't sure that I would warm to them as easily as I do with cartoon characters but I needn't have worried. Fenimore and his friends are delightful and I was just as pleasantly surprised by their fluid movement. The dialogue is excellent as is the voice acting. It's all pretty much over the top as you might expect in a comic western romp. The graphics work just fine and the many cut scenes and animations are thoroughly entertaining as you watch Fenimore and friends go about their business. And make sure you watch the 'out-takes' at the end of the game.
Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure is on the whole an entertaining and enjoyable game. It comes on one CD and provides unlimited save game slots. You can also enable subtitles and the text appears at the bottom of the screen. I can thoroughly recommend it for fans of humorous graphic adventures, especially if you feel in a silly mood and want a couple of days of fun. Just remember the arcade sequences may test your patience.
See the metzomagic.com Wanted: A Wild Western Adventure walkthrough.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2004.
All rights reserved.
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentuim III 850 MHz (or equivalent), 128 MB RAM (256 recommended), 24x CD-ROM Drive (or PC DVD Drive), 64 MB Graphics Card, DirectX 8.1 Compatible Sound Card, Mouse, Keyboard and Speakers.