Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist

Just a small article on a title that I had a ton of fun playing back in 1993-94. A title that I really think should have had its own series. But even though it became a commercial success and praised in reviews it was released in a time where increasing competition and technological advancements left many of the old “classic” adventure games behind.

Al Lowe had been working for Sierra for a decade and his Leisure Suit Larry series was still going strong with its wacky but award-winning stories and characters. In 1992, between Leisure Suit Larry 5 and 6, Lowe and Josh Mandel got together to write and design a new humoristic title that would tap into the ever-popular western theme. Mandel, who had joined Sierra in 1990, was appointed as a junior designer and project manager. Mandel assembled his team while Lowe, from his home, developed the story and overall design. The two ended up mix-matching their ideas into a finished story and game, filled with humor and charm. Ken Williams was even parodied as the villain, Kenny the Kid, who in a gunfight shot off one of Freddy’s ears.
Freddy Pharkas used Sierra’s, at the time, proven SCI framework, with a point and click interface, 256 color hand-drawn art, and a perfect matching musical MIDI score by Aubrey Hodges.
Mandel had the ingenious idea of doing the intro as a song. Lowe, who initially was a bit hesitant went along and wrote the music while Mandel wrote the lyrics. The catchy intro known as The Ballad Of Freddy Pharkas was on the CD version performed by Lowe himself.

On the the left the original US 5.25″ release, on the right the US 3.5″ release and one of Josh Mandel’s personal copies, signed by him and Al Lowe.
In my opinion one of the best-looking boxes of the time. Very high quality with embossed artwork, gold decoration, and lettering

When Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist was released in 1993 it became a success, selling over 150.000 copies within its first year. While the sales figures weren’t enough to convince Ken Williams to commission a sequel it was enough to do a CD-ROM version, catering to some of the new technological advancements. Fairly quickly voice-over was added alongside CD-quality music. The CD version was released in 1994 and sales continued, eventually topping at around 500.000 copies. A figure that might have been enough to convince Williams of a sequel but this was now years later and both Lowe and Mandel had moved on, as had the technology and probably most importantly so had the majority of people and what they wanted from software entertainment.

The CD-ROM release from 1994. The CD-ROM version featured voice-over and CD-quality music.
The catchy intro song was performed by Al Lowe, with lyrics written by Josh Mandel

Josh Mandel went on to Legend Entertainment and designed Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, published in 1997. Al Lowe continued working for Sierra, where he wrote and designed Torin’s Passage alongside a few more titles in the Leisure Suit Larry series before leaving Sierra in 1998.

Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist was a breath of new air, far enough away from the Kingdom of Daventry, space janitors, and middle-aged losers in ’80s suits, to be it’s very own. It showcased not only Al Lowe’s humor and talent for writing but maybe, even more so, helped establish Josh Mandel as both a producer, a great writer, and designer.

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