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The Dagger of Amon Ra, Part 1: Murder and mugging! Oh, New York. :) - Video Game Tales [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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The Dagger of Amon Ra, Part 1: Murder and mugging! Oh, New York. :) [May. 25th, 2013|08:23 pm]
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[kjorteo]
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davidn did a highly entertaining screenshots-with-commentary play-through of Hugo 2 sometime ago. I decided I should follow it up with a game from my childhood. I find my selection fitting, for several reasons. First, it's by the same company, which should tell you that we're in for a treat.


I will probably be using this as a reaction image a lot.

Furthermore, it is another point-and-click adventure game, and it also has a murder mystery plot (except this one involves murders that actually happen.) And with that segue, I give to you: the rather confusingly-titled Roberta Williams' Laura Bow in in: The Dagger of Amon Ra: A Laura Bow Mystery (I am not kidding) which even the game itself shortens to....


Laura Bow in: The Dagger of Amon Ra.
(I personally tend to shorten it even further by omitting the "Laura Bow in:" part.)

It is the sequel to The Colonel's Bequest, but I've never played that one and know almost nothing about it so whatever. It is set in 1926, and to their credit, they at least do a reasonably passable job emulating the era (and by that I mean there are speakeasies and a lot of racism.)

This is a fascinating game to me, because it is extremely schizophrenic in its presentation. On one hand, it is a murder mystery filled with some very gruesome murders. I would have described it as a horror game back when I was younger, and there are certainly some terrifying images that make me a little uneasy to this day. On the other, there are gags everywhere, and even the plot points that take themselves seriously are somewhat absurd. Just you wait until I start covering some of the murders; it's almost Final Destination-esque in how they were designed by a six-year-old told to come up with the freakiest way to die imaginable with absolutely no concern for sense or reason or structure or how anyone would actually go about arranging a death like that. I can't say this game is scary without looking squeamish for being afraid of something so goofy, but I can't say it's goofy without sounding oblivious to all the killing. I don't even know!

Oh, well, maybe we'll figure it out later. Let's start the introduction, shall we?


The scene opens in a bedroom of some sort. A sinister figure enters, and murders the anonymous other figure in what has to be the world's quickest strangulation. I'm no expert on the human body and what it can and cannot survive, but I would normally expect victims of even the mightiest strangulations to last longer than three seconds. Shows what I know, I guess. Anyway, the murderer puts the body in the nearby trunk, and then walks away. Well, all right, then.

Then we cut to a shot of the ship we were apparently on in the dock, with its passengers conversing with each other as they walk off.


There is a heated argument between a condescending British imperialist stereotype and an Egyptian man whose caricature I cannot even begin to explain. The gist of it is that the Egyptian man (who is unnamed at this point) wants the British man (who is named as Mr. Carter) to return the Dagger of Amon Ra to the Egyptian government, whereas Mr. Carter stands by the assertion that it's his. The Egyptian man demands to know on whose authority Mr. Carter can make such a claim.


On the authority of the Egyptian government itself, apparently. Mr. Carter therefore continues to adhere to his "deal with it" stance on the matter.


The Egyptian man indirectly threatens Mr. Carter, which goes over about as well as you would expect.

And with that piece of intrigue laid out for us, the two keep walking, and our next set of characters follow them.


There is at least a 100% chance that that trunk has a body in it, given the cutscene we just saw.


Just in case they hadn't made the connection obvious enough already. I realize we're not even done with the introduction yet, but I'm already pretty sure it was Colonel Mustard, in the Bedroom, with his bare hands. Do I win? That was remarkably easy for a Sierra game.

Anyway, those two keep walking, and we cut to one week later, in New Orleans.


Laura Bow's father is seeing her off before she boards the train to New York. He obsesses over whether she'll be all right, whether she has everything, whether she has enough money (maybe she should take some more), etc.


What ... you can't seriously be asking that, can you? Here, let me explain:


Anyway.


Bruce Balfour? Odd. Normally, when a Sierra game is brutally sadistic, it's because--


Ah, there we go.


Laura chats up a random fellow passenger on the train, and admits she's never been to the big city before.


Take that, New York!




Oh, they weren't kidding.

Actually, I'm kind of surprised you don't die when this happens. On one hand, yes, you have no control whatsoever, as it's a cutscene, and the game hasn't even started yet. On the other,


Anyway.

Laura triumphantly declares that some bad luck isn't going to hold her down, and moves on.


Continuing the optimism, she further proclaims that nothing can stop her now, and then promptly stops dead in her tracks until the music in the background finishes. No, really. This is not a cue that the cutscene is over and you're playing now (though it lasts long enough that I had to check.) She literally just stands there until the song is over, so that the next scene can load.


Well, this interview is off to a fantastic start.

Laura mentions that she's the daughter of John Bow, at which point Mr. Augustini immediately changes his tune and welcomes her. I have no idea whether this connection is a Colonel's Bequest thing or something new and out of nowhere, but it's easy enough to pick up from context either way, I guess. Anyway, Mr. Augustini asks Laura how her father is doing.




Laura impresses her new employers with her extremely intelligent questions.


All right, that's a cute gag for a game that opened with a grisly (if implausible) murder, but if you look at the previous shots, there is absolutely no angle at which that perspective even comes close to happening. He doesn't even have the same stuff on his desk! His desk isn't even the same color!


Mr. Augustini supplies us with our overall objective: write a story about a burglary of a "fancy knife" from the Leyendecker Museum (given the conversation with Mr. Carter earlier and the name of the game, this would obviously have to be the Dagger of Amon Ra) under the guise of pretending to do a society fluff piece so that the other guests won't question what the hell you're doing there. That's actually fairly enlightened for 1926. (Note: do not get used to me saying that in this game.)


And thus, the game begins!


We are quickly introduced to our coworker fellow-reporter, who supplies a name he obviously made up. Pleased to meet you, Rube, I'm Farthington J. Doorknobs.


Oh, he's in charge of the newspaper's Copy Protection division. All right.


Twice in a row (because I forgot to get the screenshots the first time,) I literally just picked the very first option in the upper-left corner with no looking up or verifying of anything, and was correct. I suspect my copy of this game might have had its protection compromised.


Okay, now we're actually playing.


And the very first thing I'm going to do with my newfound ability to control things is save under a new filename, of course. Given who made this, it's very possible I might have already made the game unwinnable in the first two seconds. You never know.

(I have no idea what those other saves there are. They're not mine. I'm guessing they're a sort of peperony-and-chease-esque deal that came with the copy I downloaded.)


And the second thing I'm going to do is quit. Hey, this entry is already running long enough just from the introduction! Maybe I'll do some actual playing next time.

In the mean time, here here's the CD version of the entire introduction, which has early Sierra voice acting and everything. Note that this is probably the only time I will be able to provide you with something like that, though. I'm playing the floppy version, which does not have voices (but that's better for the purposes of this play-through, since you may notice that the voiced CD version does not have written text boxes, which makes screeshots somewhat more problematic.) I was onlly able to get this for you because someone else on YouTube happened to upload it. I'm guessing that luck won't hold for the entire rest of the game. Still, at least for this one time, you get to hear everyone sounding like even bigger stereoytpes than you imagined when reading their dialogue in your head!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: davidn
2013-05-26 04:34 am (UTC)
This looks to be a very promising playthrough, Farthington J. Doorknobs :D Those two examples are exactly the kinds of names that I expect to see in my new work inbox. Getting through the introduction unscathed is pretty good going - I remember that I really did die in the first two seconds of the game afterwards by attempting to cross the road and being flattened by a passing taxi.

I've come to realize that Sierra's whole presentation just makes me uncomfortable, probably just due to bad memories associated with them! Things like their sound (both the voice acting style and the music library they tended to use), and the face closeups - which in the initial scene are at the end of three zoom levels on the same screen!

The copy protection's interesting in being one that you could conceivably pass without having the manual at all, assuming their questions and answers are accurate - although when I first said that, I had forgotten that during the time this game was released you wouldn't have an instant computer-god oracle to help you and would have to get the information by actually going down to the library.
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[User Picture]From: kjorteo
2013-05-26 06:21 am (UTC)
I remember marveling at that when I heard it, because ... you can (try to) cross the street?? The last time I tried playing this game, I hailed the taxi to go everywhere, including the police station, because I didn't know it was, you know, right across the street.

I might just do that again anyway. It's a question of whether the having to look both ways or the long taxi ride is more insufferable, I guess. Though the latter at least keeps me slightly farther away from harm.

"Taxi!"
"Yes, ma'am?"
"Can you take me to the police station?"
"The ... the one that's right there?"
"Yes, sir."
"So you want me to ... what ... drive around the block and turn around, just so I can pull up in the same spot but against that curb instead of this one?"
"Please."
"... Why?"
""
"Oh. Right. Good thinking, then. Off we go."
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[User Picture]From: lupineangel
2013-05-26 12:45 pm (UTC)
I love these sort of Did Not Do The Research names; they remind me of watching Death Note for the first time, and wondering how anyone thought Raye (with the 'e') Penbar and Quillish Wammy were perfectly normal English names. At least with Death Note, they had the excuse that the writers were from a different culture - with Sierra, they... actually, the same excuse could apply; Sierra's pretty much a culture unto itself. :P

Also, what the hell is up with the Copy Protection Guard's face in the third screenshot? I'm not sure how mimicking the cyberzombie from the start of Space Quest IV is supposed to help us at all.

D.F.
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[User Picture]From: kjorteo
2013-05-26 03:47 pm (UTC)
Er, sorry about that. If you watch voice-acted CD version, you'll note that the portraits are animated when people are talking (and to a certain extent when they're not, at least as far as blinking and such.) The same is true in the text-box floppy version, too. It's how you know who's talking, since the text boxes don't have any manner of "Crodfoller: Okay, you win" type attribution. So, when gathering the screenshots for this, my choices were either to wait until they were done speaking and get shots where it's impossible to follow who said what, or catch them mid-speech so you at least know who it is, at the cost of catching them in ... rather awkward facial movements.
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[User Picture]From: lupineangel
2013-05-26 11:17 pm (UTC)
Ah, that's fair enough. :)

Also, for the record, I believe that's Ptah, the god of craftsmen. Based on the little drawings, I can also make out Heru (Horus), Thoth, Set, Hathor and Anpw (Anubis), and several others that I can't identify. It's nice they're trying to keep the theme going, at least.

D.F.
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[User Picture]From: crassadon
2013-05-26 06:32 am (UTC)
what train looks like this?? It looks like they're sitting in a state room! Is. . is this what trains looked like inside in that time? Can I go to the past. . .?
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[User Picture]From: davidn
2013-05-26 02:39 pm (UTC)
Is that "Employee of the Month" sign indicating the skeleton hanging in the corner?!
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[User Picture]From: kjorteo
2013-05-26 03:42 pm (UTC)
I think it is! As I mentioned before, this game has an extremely schizophrenic presentation where it can't decide whether it's grim or goofy ... this instance of seeing a skeleton is kidding and having a good time, the others won't be (or shouldn't be but they may find a way to slip an inappropriate macabre gallows humor type bit in there somewhere anyway, I don't know.)
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[User Picture]From: premchaia
2016-06-07 05:00 pm (UTC)

Laura impresses her new employers with her extremely intelligent questions.

It makes sense if you imagine her as just telling him that her father wanted to know, as social talk, rather than as an implicit question in itself, though. The actual content is then that he's still interested and actually remembers Mr. Augustini's office rather than having forgotten all about him.

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