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Old-fashioned fun with very good writing, February 20, 2011
The most impressive aspect of Hoosegow is undoubtedly the writing: from the title (an Anglicisation of a Mexican-Spanish word for "jail") to the character's speech and the narration, the language is perfect for the Western atmosphere the authors set out to establish. (Spoiler - click to show)(The fact that the game is set in the period after the Civil War, while "hoosegow" was first found in English in 1908, is something the reader will either not notice or not care about.) Funny asides, believable interactions between the characters, physical situations described clearly, and as icing on the cake a set of hilarious episodes: everything works. Reading this game is a pleasure.
It puts you in the shoes, or rather the smelly boots, of a Civil War deserter turned train robber, whose partner Muddy has once again gotten them both into big trouble. You will have to escape from the local sheriff's cell before they hang you in the morning -- a time limit that is implemented, but that is so relaxed that I doubt anyone trying to solve the game will come up against it. Complementing the cast of characters are a drunken preacher who randomly bursts out in apocalyptic oratory, a sheriff with the ambition to become an inventor, a deputy sheriff with the ambition to imbibe a lot of alcohol, a nasty dog, and a well-meaning but strict marshal.
Hoosegow is not a very innovative game: you will spend your time solving puzzles that fit perfectly in the tradition of interactive fiction. (If your previous game was Rover's Day Out, you can afford to be a little traditional.) These puzzles are well-clued and not overly difficult, and some problems can be solved in more than one way. For those of us (including me) who nevertheless become slightly stuck and are not eager to spend a lot of time on these somewhat old-fashioned puzzles, there are very good in-game hints and a very helpful PDF-file with the basic structure of the puzzles. (Resize the window of your PDF-reader so that you only see the top of the page, then scroll down until you find something you have not solved yet.)
This game doesn't offer anything that will blow you away, but it does offer a lot that will give you pleasure. Recommended.