Articles/Game Reviews/PC/Dust: A Tale of the Wired West (1995)
Dust: A Tale of the Wired West is an adventure game that was released in 1995 by Cyberflix. It was originally found in the budget section of the PC games in a jewel case format, but don't let its low cost fool you. It is one of the most enjoyable adventure games and one of the best western games ever made!
The game makes no secret that it is a comedy and based on the spaghetti western theme. There is a lot of humorous dialogue, but at times the game takes on a more serious tone since there are shootouts and dealings with outlaws and other less than savory characters. It also makes references to the mistreatment of the Yunni Indians that used to live in the area.
The game opens with an intro video showing your character, the nameless stranger, playing a game of poker with an outlaw named The Kid. The stranger catches him cheating and stabs him in the hand, then flees town, eventually arriving late in the night at a small town called Diamonback. It is there that the entire story takes place.
Upon arriving in town, you are placed in first person view of the main character. The game's interface is pretty simple, you have an inventory that allows you to drag items onto people to give them to them. Other than that, you can click on objects and people to interact (there are no verb icons like you would find in adventures from Sierra and LucasArts) and walk around using the arrow keys. The interface works out pretty well, although some seasoned adventure game fans may find it simplistic at first.
As soon as you arrive it is pretty clear that this town is full of some pretty quirky characters. You first met the town drunk, Leroy, followed by a Chinese man named Help and a cowboy named Jackalope Jones. When you speak with people, you get a close up of them and some dialogue options. Cyberflix used a pretty unique method of making the characters talk, which is to display a variety of images to show them in various poses. This was presumably done since using videos would have been unfeasible at the time, but it gives the game a very unique aspect and it still looks like a cool effect. A lot of the dialogue is cheesy and over-the-top, but it makes it amusing and matches the spaghetti western comedy theme very well.
The town of Diamondback is small, but most of the buildings can be entered so it is pretty dense when it comes to activities. There is the Hard Drive Saloon, general store, newspaper office, bank, hotel, undertaker, missionary, feed store, as well as some houses and other things. Along with people roaming around, there are some animals such as horses, dogs, and pigs.
You start out with a mere $5, which isn't a whole lot, even for the 19th century. However, in the Hard Drive Saloon there are some gambling opportunities to make money via blackjack, poker, and a slot machine. The Hard Drive Saloon also has an upstairs with some girls, but the game never shows any sexual encounters, despite some suggestive dialogue. Around town you can find various items and one of your first goals is to locate a gun, since Diamondback has some rough characters.
The game is divided over several days, with you spending most of the evenings at the hotel. Each day there are new events and the choices you make will affect what happens to a degree. You can make people angry or flatter them, often impacting what items you find and how they treat you later.
The game features great period music, using some light acoustic guitar and piano in the Saloon. It also has great sound effects and ambient noise, which really adds to the western atmosphere. You feel like you are really in a western town and it helps draw you into the game.
The graphics are a bit rough and the game only runs in 640x480 resolution, which makes playing it in modern times a bit rough. However, you get used to the smaller box and I remember playing it full screen back in the day, when the graphics were a bit remarkable. One of the advantages of there usage of photographs for the dialogue is that these scenes look like new. The town itself has rather low resolution models and textures, but it is still attractive and playable.
Overall, I loved this game when it first came out and I still love playing it now, fifteen years later. There aren't many western games out there and this is still among the best of them. I wish that Cyberflix was still around because they know how to tell a story and create a fun gaming experience. This game is hard to find online these days, but if you do find it, give it a play through!