Into the Maelstrom: Dry Gulch Special Edition
Into the Maelstrom: Dry Gulch SE is a remake of Whizzard's Into the Maelstrom Part I: Dry Gulch, a Western adventure where you, a traveler lost in the desert, come across a ghost town and have to somehow find a way to civilization.
On one hand, the remake adds a first-person narrative with a strong and fitting Western vibe, removes the intolerable fake-wall paths, fixes the glitches that make the game unwinnable, and gives the game a complete graphical makeover with the result that the outdoor areas look beautiful. On the other hand, the indoor boards are now bare outlines on black fields, without even the views of the surrounding area from the vintage original, and it keeps the less than logical progression.
The progression is actually worse in this version than in the original, because not only are you no longer told that the outlaws know the way through the desert (thus hinting towards meeting them), you are given a new hint to "never stray from the honest path [...] unless you know what you're doing is the right thing," yet you are not given a sufficient motive to kill the Sheriff to free the outlaws other than to free them, even though it is still required to complete the game. You still have to follow them to their hideout, break in, and confront them in their basement before they tell you the info you need, and while talking to the wrong one no longer softlocks the game, they now give you unlimited ammo, torches and gems, which makes the mine one board from the end of the game even more pointless. Getting the right info also causes the fence north of town to magically disappear the next time you see it, which is little improvement on magically enabling you to shove away a pile of sand that you couldn't before.
Finally, not only does the remake keep the out-of-nowhere twist ending, it actually removes atmospheric narration describing your initial discovery and approach, and retains the reference to "what it feels like to be a tachyon," a word that was not coined until 1967, which clashes badly with the new first-person narrative style that seems to suggest your character lives in the Old West. It would fit if the new story was that you were a lost time traveler, which would fit with a remake of the sequel, but the sequel was never remade and there is nothing else in the game suggesting this (even the joke inclusion of the original game's BBS ad is written as if your character doesn't know what any of it means).
Overall, while the remake has a stronger graphical and literary presentation than the original game and rids it of the worst game design issues, it is still largely unpolished for the little time you spend on it. Try it once, but prepare to be disappointed.
As I began to play "Dry Gulch SE," I saw the opening text and thought, "this is promising." The graphics and writing evoked a fine Spaghetti Western atmosphere, and the opening - a lone stranger wanders into a dying town in the Old West - was right on target. It's all been done many times, of course, but the reason for this is that the setup is simple, streamlined, and effective.
Unfortunately, the game collapsed soon after its promising beginning. The interiors were clearly not reworked the way the exteriors were, resulting in a stark contrast between dry, dusty desert scenes and sterile buildings, and the plotline, such as it was, didn't go anywhere. The only apparent goal was to wander the desert and try to leave, and there was no real hint about how to do even THAT. As it turns out, the sole barrier to exit disappears magically once you accomplish certain tasks.
There are a few strong moments, but the game design commits three terrible errors, in addition to its aimlessness:
1: At one point, the player is given infinite torches, ammo, and gems. Later, said player is expected to care when he finds a treasure trove of gems.
2: One character tells the player to keep to the honest path unless sure of himself and the morality of his actions. Later, it is necessary to contradict this advice and do something amoral (at best) to advance, unless I missed something.
3: The ending makes no sense. Again, unless I missed something, it came out of nowhere.
Dry Gulch SE isn't a terrible game, and it is pretty short, so it's probably worth your time. The exteriors are good, and the whole package isn't bad for a remake. Just don't let the introduction get your hopes up.