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After a downright obscene wait, part four of Laura Bow in: The Dagger of Amon Ra is finally upon us! In this update, we meet the cast, attempt to navigate a system of information-feeding so convoluted that the game actually loses track of where it is and spoils itself,
The good news is that the entire rest of the game takes place inside the Leyendecker Museum, which means no more of those accursed taxi rides. The bad news is that the two walkthroughs I'm using have given me contradictory advice on the order of events. I'm hoping that just means that I can do everything in any order and the game proceeds when it's all done, and that examining the evidence before talking to the guests instead of the other way around makes no difference and won't set me up for a "surprise, the game is now unwinnable" moment later, but....
... We'll see.
Times I have accidentally clicked to start a new game instead of reloading my save when I fire up this thing again: 4
Times I have failed the copy protection check even when I'm just clicking at random: 0
I don't see Dagger of Amon Ra in the the list of games that pull the "if you fail the copy pretection, we'll pretend you passed it and then kill you at the very very end" trick (it has no fewer than four highly spoiler-filled entries in the Sierra section, but none of them are for that) so I'm just going to assume this copy of the game has had its protection disabled.
Right, so, let's try that again. Where were we....
The musem! Yes.
At the door is a Nazi security guard who must be Wolf Heimlich. Note that I am not throwing that label around as an easy joke; he has a thick accent, dresses like that, we'll later see that he goose steps when he walks, and his leitmotif is based heavily on Ride of the Valkyries. Furthermore, bear in mind that this game is set in 1926. I think Wolf Heimlich is an actual member of the Nazi party.
And yet, Lo Fat's PRESS (your pants)
A clock appears in the upper-left corner of the screen, and even plays some traditional clock chimes. The time is now exactly 7:00. The clock has a very prominent role as the game progresses; it keeps appearing and chiming like that at crucial moments. In fact, that chime is apparently so important that the title screen uses it instead of having any sort of title theme. Seriously, it plays the Sierra jingle during the Sierra logo, and then just plays the clock chime on the title screen.
I think this is just a matter of presentation, and the clock advances as a matter of plot. It is automatically 7:00 now, it will automatically become however much later when this chapter ends, etc. I hope it's like that, anyway. Given that this is a Sierra "if you don't find every single minute piece of evidence now then the game is unwinnable later" game, I really don't want to think it's timed on top of everything else.
And we enter the museum proper! This entire chapter, as you may have guessed from its title ("Suspects on Parade") is sort of an infodump, wherein we interview absolutely everyone about absolutely everything and thus meet the cast before they all start dying.
And yes, that means asking every single character about every single subject in your notebook, and that's only part of the investigation. The mechanics for the rest are ... confusing, but I'll get into that a little later. For now, I guess we should get started.
The first group we encounter is five people, three of which we've ever seen before (we spoke to Ziggy at the speakeasy, and even though Laura never met them, the player saw Doctors Carter and Carrington in the intro cutscene.) I'm starting with Ziggy because he's furthest to the left, and we may as well do them in order.
The fact that he has such a close working relationship with Detective O'Riley raises certain questions about Detective O'Riley, but....
... I guess it wouldn't be the first setting in which morally questionable police turn to sleazy informant hoods to get information.
Sleazy informant hoods with information about Yvette Delacroix' former life, no less.
Nothing too earth-shaking, though, so I guess it's on to Dr. Carter.
I actually can't tell whether this is a legitimate clue about the importance and high maintenance of Dr. Carter (which could play into the intrigue later) or him just being full of himself. Once again, I just happen to catch Laura mid-blink in my screenshot, and didn't mean to make her look that unimpressed, though it's serendipitously perfect in that context.
Now this is highly important.
This probably isn't, just because we pretty much knew that already (his desk sergeant was the one who gave us the speakeasy password!) but I guess it's more fuel for the "Detective O'Riley's character" fire.
Dr. Carter's response to being asked about Lo Fat leads me to believe that he must have played the CD-ROM version.
Interestingly, he seems to respect Dr. Myklos....
... But not Yvette.
I suppose that Heimlich having the Dagger stolen under his watch does call his character into question, as well. Well, that and the fact that he's a Nazi.
And Countess Waldorf-Carlton is apparently a golddigger. From what I understand (I haven't actually played The Colonel's Bequest, but from what I've heard) Sierra kind of likes the murder mystery formula wherein they're all terrible people.
Hmm. I am beginning to suspect something, but ... I'll wait until some more clues roll in.
I have also gone back to thinking this is important.
Once again, the scene around the Dagger display was clean, which heavily implies that this was an inside job.
Oh, boy, here it comes.
And now that I've played that one off so gracefully, time to ask all of the totally innocent society news questions!
They'll never suspect a thing.
That actually brings up an interesting question I had about Yvette's character. Clearly she'll hit on anything with a pulse, but what is her intention, exactly? Is she really just that horny, or is she trying to sleep her way to the top of something? If so, what? In a mystery game like this, I actually find these to be fairly interesting questions.
Hmm, maybe it is just her libido; Crodfoller is just a newspaper writer who lacks anything sufficiently important to make him a target. He's not even in this portion of the game.
Once again, I am guessing John Bow must have played some sort of role in The Colonel's Bequest, and I'm missing out on something by never having played it. I wonder if anyone here would be willing to take that one up? David, you did Hugo 2, didn't you? The Colonel's Bequest is basically just an EGA Dagger of Amon Ra (from what I understand); it should be more or less Hugo 2 only the murders actually happen.
Another one I can't see as having any sort of ulterior motive, at least not yet....
And another excellent summation of the question concerning Herr Heimlich.
Oh, hello. Now we're on to something juicy. Definitely making a note of that one.
Meanwhile, I would like to call your attention to Laura's "she seems like a nice old lady" comment. You may have noticed that we haven't actually met the Countess yet. She's currently off in another gathering on a different screen, and is in the same general "talk to everyone about everything" pool as this gathering here. The game makes no attempt whatsoever to keep track of the order in which you question everyone. You'd think the fact that this party is on the first screen and the Countess is off on another one (meaning you pretty much have to walk through this group to get to her) would affect that, but apparently not!
Another instance of this that I cut from the screenshot collection came earlier, when talking to Dr. Carter. He claimed never to have heard of Rameses Najeer, despite the fact that he's standing right there (he's the one between Yvette and Dr. Carrington.)
Instances like these are nothing, though. Trust me, the game gets so, so much worse with its own internal chronology. Just you wait.
Speaking of people who apparently fail to notice Mr. Najeer standing right next to them, though.... (Continuity issues aside, though, the actual content of her take on him may or may not be important.)
... And now I'm back to thinking she's sleeping her way to the top of something after all. (Her wink is another serendipitous yet unintentional screenshot timing issue.)
... Or maybe not? She is quite the vexing vixen, isn't she.
Now this is interesting. Remember, one of the big questions about Dr. Carrington mentioned earlier was that he seemed suspiciously nonchalant about the Dagger's disappearance for a new guy just taking over the leadership of the museum.
Well, we got some good tidbits so far, and we're only three people in!
Oh, God. Please let that be a Daffy Duck lisp, and not Sierra's take on a gay lisp. Please, please, please....
GOD DAMN IT. (4:54 if the time information in the URL doesn't work.)
All right, let's ... let's just try to get through this, starting by asking him about Dr. Carter.
Still gathering information on my theory, but this is interesting.
BUT HE'S STANDING RIGHT THERE
He's ... about as passionate about this subject as that other guy from the intro cutscene, isn't he?
Religionth, you say. Well, that would explain your children's names....
This should give me some good information for my theory. Let's start by asking him about Dr. Carter.
Hmm ... well, all right.
But ... he's....
Good to know.
Interestingly, this is actually rather telling for both of them.
Also interestingly, his assessment of Wolf Heimlich contradicts both what Yvette said and common "BUT HE WAS ON GUARD WHEN THE DAGGER WAS STOLEN" sense.
Even more for the interesting pile! His thoughts on Mr. Najeer tell me that the gag about his kids wasn't just a gag; maybe there really is something there.
Hey! I was nowhere near those ruffians at the time, and obviously I would have no reason to be, anyway. You can't prove a thing.
Finally, that concludes those five guests! Now, we only have a total of four more in the other two rooms, and then ... everything else in this chapter. Oh, my God.
Let's start by going left, I suppose.
Great job making the background characters distinguishable from the real characters, Sierra.
Anyway, let's start with the man at left side of the real crowd, who is Detective O'Riley.
He is not a fan of Dr. Carter, it would seem. Then again, with Dr. Carter's winning personality, I imagine most people aren't.
My Colonel's Bequest curiosity grows!
Ziggy seemed chummier when asked about Det. O'Riley than the other way around, but then again, Det. O'Riley's answer doesn't necessarily contradict their working together.
Adding to the "people of whom Det. O'Riley is not a fan" list is Dr. Myklos, despite the fact that, again, right there. (She's the one in the white dress.)
He only adds to the Wolf Heimlich suspicions, as well.
I just cut out about twenty images of further exchanges those two had on various issues because they were mostly gags and this update is going to be absurd enough as it is. Moving on. Let's go talk to Dr. Myklos.
I'm already beginning to understand why the other characters find Dr. Myklos creepy.
Creepy, morbid, creepy ... wait, another person who doesn't really know Dr. Carrington that well (which adds to my personal theory about him.) That's actually several times now in which this game has hidden potentially important information in character personality/gimmick gags. I ... I actually have to give Sierra credit for that one; that's actually pretty clever.
Perish the thought. Er, not that kind of perish. Down, Dr. Myklos.
Laying it on a bit thick at this point, isn't she?
I actually know quite a few people who would get a kick out of describing themselves this way, so here are these screenshot for their reblogging use.
Let me just say right now that that is about the scariest couple ever, and I feel deeply sorry for any offspring that may happen as a result of their truly unholy union.
She isn't a fan of the Countess, either ... and at this point, I honestly can't tell which of these lines are jokes and which are clues anymore.
I'm pretty sure that this one, about Rameses Najeer, is important, though. It adds even more fuel to the "there's something about that guy" pile.
Well, it's good to find something you enjoy doing.
Well, we finally know who that Egyptian caricature from the intro cutscene was. Ladies and gentlement, meet Dr. Ptahsheptut "Tut" Smith. I don't even ... he's ... his name is Tut Smith! Honestly. Just ... Tut Smith, everyone.
"But other than that, I think Dr. Carter is a swell guy. Why do you ask?"
As far as cover stories go, that's ... actually feasible. That actually sounds legitimate, at least at first glance. We'll see, I suppose.
Hmm. A secret connection between the two Egyptians that Dr. Smith doesn't want us to know about? Potentially interesting...?
Dr. Smith didn't realize Dr. Carrington was on board the Andrea Doria (that ship from the intro cutscene) either. My theory is very slowly starting to take shape.
Did ... did he just threaten me for asking him about my magnifying glass?
Oh, silly me. There's clearly nothing threatening about Dr. Smith at all, then.
All right, we're done with those three. Just one more guest to interrogate! By process of elimination, that would have to be the Countess Waldorf-Carlton (whom the game can't remember that I haven't actually met already), who must be off to the right.
This should be good.
Wait, is that....
(That is an excellent movie, by the way.)
I'm pretty sure this is just her clumsily attempting to hide having her predatory sights on the museum's new leader, but more importantly, it dispels the idea that her having picked him up from the docks meant they knew each other. If the two of them went back, it would blow my theory out of the water, but ... this actually takes care of the last obstacle before I think I'm actually on to something, here.
This would be a massive spoiler if I'm actually correct, so people who are actually interested in this story might prefer to leave this alone and attempt to figure things out for themselves. Just for my own notes, though....
[Spoiler (click to open)]I no longer believe the man currently leading the museum, and to whom we spoke just now, is the real Dr. Carrington. I believe the first murder in the game, the mysterious unidentified one on the Andrea Doria from the intro cutscene, was whatever mysterious assailant killing the real Dr. Carrington. The assailant then put Dr. Carrington's body in his own trunk, assumed his identity, and that is why "Dr. Carrington" departed the Andrea Doria with a body in his trunk. This would explain why "Dr. Carrington" doesn't seem to have any connections to anyone (the one person to whom he should, Dr. Carter, noted that he found it strange that "Dr. Carrington" didn't remember him and he almost didn't recognize "Dr. Carrington.") It would also explain why he seems so unconcerned about the theft of the Dagger despite being new to this position. I don't yet know the fake Dr. Carrington's real identity, but whoever he is, his motive is obvious enough: Dr. Carrington is a powerful person, being the new leader of the museum and all. Prime target for a wealthy and powerful identity to steal, especially if he could use his ill-gotten access as museum leader to loot the exhibits such as the Dagger.
Anyway, back to the Countess....
Given Yvette's warning about the Countess, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to learn that the Countess doesn't think particularly highly of Yvette, either.
She looks so heartbroken.
Whew, that's all the direct questioning. I think you people get some sense of how laborious that was just from how long this update is already, but you should have seen how much I cut. (Hint: the first screenshot in this update is numbered 315, and the Countess' comments about 1926 I posted in the previous paragraph was 569.) Remember, I had to ask nine different characters about every single person, place, and thing in my notebook.
And that's with one particular person missing! I haven't mentioned this yet, but worryingly, despite the fact that we just spoke to him, Dr. Smith is not in our notebook. I can't ask any of the guests about Dr. Smith, because he just isn't there to select. I don't know what you do to add him, or even if his name is one you're ever supposed to have. The last time I tried to play through this game, I spent a lot of this and the next chapter worrying that I had missed it (did I need to ask someone in chapter 1 about Egyptology or ... something?) and that I had somehow managed to fail a "make sure not to miss this thing or it will be unwinnable later" thing despite playing this game with not one, but two walkthroughs.
I remembered that pitfall when I restarted for this screenshot play-through, so I made sure to completely scour the first chapter. I took something like five extra unnecessary insufferable 45-second taxi rides just to rub every old character and new keyword together, like maybe if I asked Crodfoller Rhubarb about Rameses Najeer then that would do it, or ... something. And now, here we are, and I still don't have it.
Maybe ... maybe it happens in the eavesdropping part, somewhere?
Oh! The eavesdropping part, right. Oh, boy, are you in for a treat, now. So asking these characters about things directly was one thing, but the next phase of our information gathering is to sneak up on groups of them, and listen in on their conversations from behind them. They break and reform into different groups (which is why it was so important to question everyone before you start eavesdropping; they start moving around and you might not be able to find them all later), and you have to eavesdrop on all of them. There are a total of fourteen, repeat, fourteen conversations you need to capture.
Let's start with that big gathering in the center room, shall we? So, again, to initate this, the player need only walk up behind that group instead of approaching it directly from the front. Laura then assumes an inconspicuous eavesdropping pose as the conversation happens. The key here is subtlety; no one likes being spied on, so Laura must approach casually, keep her distance, and avoid any suspicious posing that would tip her off.
All right, let's make our approach....
PERFECT. NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW.
Anyway, as Laura blends in flawlessly, Dr. Carter treats the others to an obviously exaggerated account of how he found the Dagger.
Dr. Carter and Mr. Najeer then fight for a bit, and then Yvette excuses herself. The center group then becomes ... the same group, minus Yvette. So, we approach them again....
SHE'S BEEN THERE SINCE BEFORE YVETTE LEFT AND HER DRESS GLOWS IN THE DARK, HOW COULD YOU NOT ... oh, whatever.
My, Yvette is about as creative as she is busy, it would seem. I ... I think I like Yvette. If this is just the sort of thing she's into and she's not up to something, then Yvette is basically me. (Though, knowing this game, there is at least a 100% chance she is up to something.)
At this point in my play-through, I belatedly remembered that you need to pick up one of those water glasses on the center room's table, as it's an inventory item that comes in handy later. For now, just grabbing it means that it is now a notebook topic (unlike Dr. Smith?) which means I need to track down EVERYONE (and they've changed positions now) just to ask them about the water glass. I also need to make sure NOT to approach them from behind, because A) I'm listening in on the conversations in the order one of my walkthroughs lists, and listening to later ones out of order will mess up my "wait, did I get this one already?" count, and B) listening in on a conversation makes everyone move again.
For the most part, going through all this trouble just to ask every guest about the fascinating subject of water glasses is about as unrewarding as you would expect, but there is one character's response....
Ha ha ha ha just kidding no but really you're totally going to have to do this later.
While I'm taking a break from listening in on conversations anyway (2 down, 12 to go!) I decided to go visit the museum's gift shop, which is conveniently unlocked. It's another thing I belatedly remembered that I think (I think) you have to do before you've listened to all 14 conversations.
This sure is a museum gift shop, all right!
Complete with a large pile of Dagger replicas behind the register! That's where you put merchandise you want people examining, right? Beind the register?
Anyway, this part is more than a little "who the hell would have thought to do this without a walkthrough," but you're supposed to take the magnifying glass to the daggers...
...note the "Made in Pittsburgh" etching on them...
...take a step back, and examine this one exact specific Dagger (that happens to be right behind Laura's head when she's examining the rest of the shelf, which is why you have to move first)...
...and notice that this one wasn't made in Pittsburgh. Not that you can do anything with what is probably the authentic, missing Dagger of Amon Ra just now, because it's under a locked glass case and all. Still, it's worth noting, especially when attempting to unravel the mystery of the burglary. Obviously the thief attempted to hide it here ... perhaps to smuggle out later under the guise of a gift shop purchase? Who all was in on this, exactly?
The time is now 7:30. Oh God, are the guests still there? Was I not supposed to advance the plot before listening to everyone after all? Did I mess up? SIERRA, DON'T PUT CLOCKS IN YOUR GAMES, YOU'RE JUST MAKING ME NERVOUS.
Herr Heimlich kicks us out of the gift shop before we can do anything with that Dagger. :( The good news, though, is that all the guests are still there, and it was the correct move to get the gift shop discovery scene out of the way first after all. Well, I guess we should just keep that in mind for later. Meanwhile, I believe I've hit LiveJournal's character limit, so I'm truncating this post now. When we return, more eavesdropping!