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Fun Western Puzzler, January 28, 2014
You've been abandoned by your tour group in an Old West ghost town, and you must wait until morning before the next bus comes to pick you up. At the very least you must find a good place to sleep, and at best? Well, adventure awaits...
Inspired by Scott Adams' 1981 game Ghost Town, Gaucho has many similar locations and old-style puzzles, but expanded and modernised from the simplistic days of two-word parser yore, and all the better for it.
There were a couple of things that initially seemed off-putting about this game to me. Firstly, the disclaimer in the description on this site is way too firmly stated. While some may distinguish between 'text adventures' and 'interactive fiction' it seems that the writers are immediately putting up an inverted snobbery against the latter when they really don't need to - the game is fun on its own terms and is a welcome addition to IF. The warning that it is made for a specific group is also somewhat overstated - Gaucho certainly contains references outsiders may not get, but it doesn't impinge on gameplay, and most of its humour is broad enough to be accessible (and also succeed in being funny).
Secondly, the opening paragraph is as long as a cowboy's lariat extending to rope an errant steer. Over-long backstory exposition in pre-game text is something a lot of games fall prey to, and in this case even a bit of basic editing would have been helpful - cut it into more paragraphs, pare it down to essentials. Fortunately this tendency towards lengthiness only reappears a couple of times in the game, and most descriptions are functional or funny rather than flowery. There are a few typos along the way, but nothing that really impinges on game quality.
In the end, I'm glad I ignored these quibbles and dived in, because this game was fun. I have a habit that may or may not be peculiar to me: that is, when I load up a new IF game I will always jump and dance and sing and check myself out (in-game, that is) - the implementation levels give you a reasonable idea about the care that goes into a game. And here there are a good number of responses to trying silly things, and it makes me respect the writers a lot more. You want to try dancing with a horse? You go for it. You want to light everything you see on fire? They're ready for you. Lick a flagpole? Well, you can try.
The story unfolds at a reasonable pace as you explore and pick up the items you might need. The puzzles are fair, logical, and not too tough. It seems impossible to put the game in an unwinnable state (though don't quote me on that), although it is very possible to finish the game in a satisfactory manner without picking up all of the points or finding all the cowboy gear. Overall it makes for a fun, old-school game suitable for beginners and veterans alike.