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About the StoryGaucho was written for the RPG Geek / BoardGameGeek site-wide adventure project. Nearly 500 players worked their way through this game in the first full week of August, 2012. Gaucho was written by Dave Bernazzani, Steven Robert, Jason Hanks and designed/coded by Dave Bernazzani.
Gaucho is decidedly old-school IF. It's not likely to be the kind of game well regarded by the inner sanctum of the Interactive Fiction community. It's a treasure hunt. A puzzle fest. In other words: it's a Text Adventure. Further, it has a number of in-jokes, breaks mimesis and targets and rewards a subset of players (those who are members on BGG). It is still playable and can be enjoyed outside that sphere... but you have been warned.
The tour had been going exceedingly well up to this point. You've always yearned to visit a Ghost Town and your affection for the Old West has never been stronger. It stemmed from your early years of playing Cowboys and Indians with the neighborhood gang. When the opportunity came up, this was a no-miss trip! A remote town on the old Texas-Mexico border that has been left untouched and well-preserved in the arid climate for more than a century. This is exactly the vacation that you have craved! At one time, this place was a bustling little frontier town of notable repute. Nameless now, the town was once filled with frontiersmen. "Gauchos" the underpaid South American tour guide kept calling them. Cowboys by any other name. It doesn't matter what nationality a cowboy is, he remains an icon and a legend. You couldn't wait to get here - when you logged out of the Geek and set your Facebook status to 'On Vacation', you were going totally tech-free, just like the pioneers did. Even more special is that this particular no-name town was founded by none other than General Jebbidiah Alden in 1865. A Civil War hero who made it his mission in life to help rebuild after the destruction caused by the war. General Alden was well-liked and well-respected. History remembers him kindly. His descendants still live only a few hundred miles from the site of this now long-abandoned ghost town. Unfortunately, your allergies have kicked in at the worst possible time. Before long the tour guide was speaking but all you could concentrate on was the stuffiness in your head. Breathing became a labor and staying alert a chore. If you could just rest your head for a few minutes... It wasn't exactly clear when you fell asleep, but the tour guide and your fellow tourists have moved on without you. The last thing you can remember is the tour guide saying that the group could take a short break for lunch, take a last look around and then get back on the bus for the trip home. As you wake up, you can hear the clunker of a bus pull out of the parking lot to the north.
Welcome to Gaucho! Your goal is to survive one (1) night here in this ghost town so you can be picked up by the next tour bus that will arrive in the morning. With your allergies acting up, you'll need a good night's sleep to make it through. And you are so thirsty that you'll never be able to sleep without a good long chug of water. To survive in this old frontier town, you will need all of your wits to combat puzzles and obstacles that stand in your way. As you progress, you will uncover various special items and, quite possibly, some gold. At the end of your adventure (if you either Win or Quit), you will be given a unique code that you can use on the Geek to claim special microbadges and geekgold. At any time during the game, you can type SCORE to see your progress. If you wish to give up and simply claim your earned prizes, you can type QUIT. If you win the game, it will be obvious as to how to claim your prizes. The maximum score for this game is 100. If you need a bit of generic help, type HELP. Good luck!
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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.
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