Gold Rush! Classic Review

Screenshot from Gold Rush! Classic
Sacrifices have to be made if you want a chance of striking it rich in California

  • Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
  • Developer: Sierra On-Line
  • Publisher: Sierra On-Line, The Software Farm, Sunlight Games
  • Release Date: 23 Dec 1988
  • Time played: 3.3 hours (INCOMPLETE)

What is it

Every adventure gamer or gamer that played games in the 80s and 90s, would've heard of the company Sierra On-Line and their "Quest" games. However, besides the big names like King's Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, Space Quest and Quest for Glory, there were several other games developed by Sierra that used the Adventure Game Interpreter engine in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Sierra Creative Interpreter engine in the 1990s. One of these "non-Quest" adventures happened to be 1988's Gold Rush!, one of the last games to be developed on the AGI engine (the last being 1989's Manhunter 2: San Francisco).

The game is set in 1848, just prior to the California Gold Rush and has you playing the role of a man named Jerrod Wilson, a journalist from Brooklyn who wants to strike it rich in the Wild West. You'll need to ensure that Jerrod makes it to California in one piece and you'll have to get there as quickly as possible (since if you're too late, there'll be no gold left)!

Gold Rush! received positive reviews back in the day, with "Dragon" magazine even giving it 4½ out of 5 stars.

German studio Sunlight Games secured the rights of the game in 2014 and re-released the original Gold Rush! as Gold Rush! Classic on the 25th July 2014; this is the version that I have. The re-release holds a "Positive" rating on Steam based on 40 user reviews.

How I got it

Unlike most Sierra adventures which I've purchased off GOG, Gold Rush! Classic was actually available on Steam and that's where I purchased the game. Since the game was discounted, I decided to get the game back in September 2014 (so shortly after it was re-released). I've always been a fan of Sierra adventures and Gold Rush! was one Sierra adventure I've never played before, so I was keen to give it a try at some point.

Also, as Choona has suggested that I revisit all the Sierra adventure games as part of my Pile of Shame Initiative, it seemed like a good time to check it out. This is my last AGI adventure I'll review in a while prior to me moving on to an SCI adventure, namely Police Quest II.

Screenshot from Gold Rush! Classic
You get to visit exotic locales in this game, such as Rio de Janeiro

What I like:


One of the best aspects of this game is being able to experience the trials and tribulations that people faced trying to make it rich during the California Gold Rush, especially during the long and precarious voyage from New York to Sacramento City, California. Each of the three possible ways there (i.e. across land, sailing via Cape Horn and sailing via Panama) have their pros and cons with their own unique challenges; this means the game has slightly more replay value than a lot of other Sierra adventures because there's not just one correct way to beat the game.


By modern standards, the game doesn't seem like much to look at, but back in its day, it must've been quite a good-looking game thanks to its animations and colour palette. It's definitely one of the better looking AGI engine adventures I've ever played (which makes sense, considering this was one of the last Sierra adventures to use that particular engine).


The game is broken into different stages and at the end of each stage, you're informed on what were the maximum points you could've achieved as well as letting you know if there was anything you missed (it doesn't tell you what you missed specifically but it's useful to know for those who don't like leaving any loose ends).

Screenshot from Gold Rush! Classic
Thanks for trolling me Sierra, even in death.

What I dislike:

La Cucaracha in Brazil?

One thing I found confusing was why the popular Spanish folk song "La Cucaracha" (popular in Mexico) plays when you visit Rio de Janeiro? I mean, don't they speak Portuguese in Brazil? Or maybe the song is popular in Portugal and its former colonies too? Anyway, I thought a different song could've been used :).

Dead-ends and critical items that are hard to find

Yes, just like many other Sierra adventures, Gold Rush! has the same issues with respect to dead-ends and critical items that are hard to find. For example, the first part of the game has you scrounging as much money as you can to afford a ticket to the West. While most of the money you'll get from selling off your family home, you're also able to withdraw $200 from your bank account but this can only be done if you happen to know your bank account number. Where is this bank account number you may ask? Well, on a slip of paper, of course. But where is this slip of paper? Apparently it's stuck on the roller door of a roll top desk but only after closing the desk will you be able to find this crucial piece of information.

You'll also need some gold to trade later on in the journey but you find it in the most unlikely of places, like under a gazebo or hidden under an adhesive stamp on a letter.

Random chance of death

There are a lot of ways things can go wrong on your journey West but thankfully, since this is a computer game, provided you bring the right items along with you on the journey, you'll be able to make it. For example, if you take the trip via Cape Horn, bringing some fruit along helps you to ward off scurvy which then gives you a chance of surviving the trip to California.

Yes, you'll still only have a chance of making it there because on the trip there's a random chance of your ship hitting an iceberg. During my second playthrough, this thankfully never happened although once I made it to Sutter's Fort in California, I had reached a dead-end and had to start again. However, with my final playthrough (the one I /ragequitted from) the ship did indeed hit an iceberg and this was after waiting 20 minutes for the voyage from New York to Cape Horn. I couldn't be bothered restarting the game only to roll the dice again and see if the ship made it past the Cape, and while I know it's probably trying to teach you how treacherous the journey was to the West, there are plenty of other ways it already does so, which makes the inclusion of these random events unnecessarily harsh.

Score – 5/10 (Average)

While Gold Rush! gets off to a promising start, thanks to its impressive visuals for an AGI adventure and ability to educate players about the perilous journey to California during the mid-19th century, it eventually becomes apparent that this game shares the same pitfalls as many other Sierra adventures in that there are several instances of unforgiving puzzles and dead-ends; worse, the game also has random events that you have no way of avoiding except for restarting the game and hoping for the best next time. So, a bit like a rogue-like to some degree, except nowhere near as much fun.

(I've placed the following disclaimer when reviewing Sierra games before and I'll say it again: before I get burned at the stake by the Sierra fans, I'm trying to judge this game on its own merits, playing it today in 2019. No doubt the game was highly regarded by fans in the 1980s, but nowadays, things have evolved and, in my humble opinion, generally for the better).

Is the game worth $4.49 AUD?: Yes, if you're curious about how challenging Sierra adventure games were back in the good ol' days, then yeah it's worth a punt (plus it's quite educational too). However, if you're not interested in brutal retro games, it's not really worth getting.

If you like this game, you might like…

[ LINK: Gold Rush! Page @ The Software Farm ]