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Gold Rush! is an adventure game from Sierra, initially released in 1988. The game chronicles the adventures of the main character Jerrod Wilson, a Brooklyn journalist in 1848 who, upon receiving a letter from his long-estranged brother, embarks on an adventure to California, to seek his fortune and reunite with the only family he has left.

Like most adventure games released at the time, Gold Rush! uses a text parser to allow the player to guide Jerrod's actions. Unusually for a Sierra adventure game at the time, the game offered multiple paths to completion, and each path, when fully completed, offered a chance at getting full points. Naturally, the game featured a surprisingly long list of deaths, all of which expounded on your inability to make the hazardous trip from New York to Sacramento, a trip that historically was fraught with incredible danger.

The game doesn't bother too much with historical accuracy (or rather, it doesn't come up very much), but the manual, which was required for the Copy Protection, held a great deal of information on the time surrounding the 1848 gold rush, from the discovery of gold in California, to the eventual abandonment of the boom towns that sprang up.

Gold Rush! gathered a few high-profile good reviews, but never sold very well. It's a rather drastic departure from the King's Quest series that was vastly more popular at the time, but is still well worth a look today if you want to try something different.

Tropes used in Gold Rush! include:

  • Bag of Spilling: An in-game version. Regardless of which path you take, you will eventually shed a large amount of inventory in order to save weight (or appease some cannibals). The only things you will always get to keep are your bible, your gold coin, and your brother's letter.
  • Copy Protection: Of the "X word on Y page" variety. If you fail to enter the correct word, you get treated to a scene of Jerrod being hung before a rather unceremonious force-quit to DOS prompt.
  • Guide Dang It: It's a Sierra game. Examples include the importance of fresh fruit, the correct path through Panama (which is not the same as the safe path), and exactly what you're supposed to do with that mule you buy, something that's barely even alluded to in the game.
  • Have a Nice Death: Examples include: standing in the middle of the road long enough (you'll be trampled to death by a horse and carriage, which will not bother stopping to check on you), dying of cholera (see Luck-Based Mission), and stepping on to the deck of the ship during a storm (you are literally blown off the stern).
  • Interface Screw: If you manage to successfully complete the game by finding the Mother Lode, take a look at your inventory before quitting the game. Your total cash will be intentionally glitched, to reflect the fact that you've found more gold than you could ever hope to count.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Both played straight and averted: you're encouraged to pick up just about everything, but if you look for gold on someone else's claim, you're off to the gallows.
  • Last Lousy Point: There are many things in the game that are not required to finish it, and many more things that will lower your point score if you do them. Solving puzzles is adventure-game-easy. Solving puzzle correctly requires more effort.
  • Luck-Based Mission: When you reach the first leg of the Cape Horn path and the Overland path, Jerrod may be inexplicably stricken with cholera, falling over dead after a few minutes. Whether or not this will occur is determined before the scene where it kills you, with no indication given until it's too late, and there's absolutely no way to prevent it from occurring.
    • On the Cape Horn route, while traversing the Horn itself, there is a random chance to hit an iceberg. You cannot do anything to prevent this, and like the disease, it is determined before the scene actually occurs.
  • Multiple Endings: Or rather, one true ending, multiple ways to get there. The easiest way to get to California is also the longest, traveling around the Cape Horn (in other words, from Brooklyn, around the southernmost tip of South America, and back up to California). The fastest way is Panama, but that also requires a lot of skill or Save Scumming to survive the hazards of the untamed jungle. The cheapest way is the Overland route, which requires a precise list of tools and very specific timing. Depending on the route you choose, gold will either be relatively easy or extremely difficult to find (the longer you take, the more people have arrived in California before you, making gold more rare).
  • Point of No Return: Two. Once you leave Brooklyn, you can't go back (the journey progresses until you die or reach Sacramento), once you drop down the outhouse hole (It Makes Sense in Context), you have no way of climbing back up if you can't open the door down there.
  • Red Herring: In the Brooklyn section of the game, you can visit a hardware store and buy a variety of different tools that would prove very useful for finding gold in California. Unfortunately, those tools never make it (see Bag Of Spilling above).
  • Super Drowning Skills: Falling into the ocean of Brooklyn Harbor kills you instantly. This can be done in less than a minute after starting the game.
  • Timed Mission: Several varieties, even. At the beginning of the game, in Brooklyn, you have exactly 15 minutes to choose a method of traveling to California. After time is up, the announcement that gold has been discovered is broadcast, and all the travel prices increase dramatically (locking you out of all but one method). In addition, on the Overland route, if you instruct the wagon master to leave too early or too late, the journey is doomed to failure (and you might not know until much later). And this doesn't count the myriad smaller timed tasks, like getting your oxen down the hills without destroying your wagon, or figuring out a way to get food on an ocean-going ship that hasn't exactly run out.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Surprisingly averted for a large number of puzzles. If you've forgotten to bring a particular item, there's generally another way to solve the puzzle. You can navigate a dark cave by bringing a lantern, or by feeling along the walls in the darkness (the latter being much more likely to result in death, however).
    • Of course, study of the manual is required, in order to understand exactly why and how you've failed. Otherwise, you might end up forgetting a crucial piece of equipment, or missing a particular deadline that only results in failure many turns later.