Celine Kalante (kjorteo) wrote in videogame_tales,
Celine Kalante

The Dagger of Amon Ra, Part 5: Gore and glitches

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First off, my apologies for the delay on this update. Things like a convention, having to get a new computer and moving all my data over, and just general busyness from work happened. Also, there's a bit of an issue with Clickteam's image hosting. Everything is on kjorteo.net now; we'll see how that works out in the long run. I do intend to see this through to completion, though! So, let's try more of this Dagger of Amon Ra stuff, shall we?

When last we left off, a sarcophagus mysteriously became bloody and full of a dead person while we were busy examining the Rosetta stone a few feet away. Who could it be?

Actually, before I get to that, let me reload my save and do the Rosetta stone thing again, just to make extra extra sure I got it.

With no dialogue box or anything at all in the close-up screen other than that hovering the mouse over individual letters lets you view them and clicking anywhere at all exits out entirely, and without the ability to read your own notebook at will, there really is no confirmation whatsoever on whether "examine the Rosetta stone to copy the hieroglyphs" worked. I suppose you could assume that the sudden appearance of the murder scene right behind you means that you successfully collected everything and the game is ready to move on, but ... this is Sierra. That is never a safe assumption.

With the hieroglyphs secure (I hope), let's open the sarcophagus!

The music suddenly turns very intense for the buildup of this, by the way....

DavidN wrote:
As for who is in the sarcophagus... my money is on Dr. Carter. At this stage of the game, I think it would be the most obvious choice (but then, the rest of the game hasn't exactly been about obvious or intuitive choices), bringing some shocking and mysterious truth to "the dagger will have its revenge" and doing what all mystery stories have to do, which is to throw massive misdirected suspicion on to a character early on - in this case, Dr. Smith.

Forgive the possibly inappropriate levity; I have to take advantage now, as this is quite possibly my last opportunity for a while. You see....

The music intensifies even more, and the game plays a sound effect of Laura screaming as the camera shows her obvious alarm....

And then we see a lovingly rendered closeup view of the body of Doctor Pippin Carter.

I'm going to try to rate the deaths in this game on a gruesomeness/absurdity scale, because the game does kind of excel at both.

Victim: Dr. Pippin Carter
Gruesomeness: 8.5 / 10
Absurdity: 1.5 / 10

Honestly, compared to the later deaths, the closeup on Dr. Carter is relatively mundane. I'm giving it a high gruesomeness score because that facial expression is rather grim, but mostly because it's such an out-of-nowhere shock. Dr. Carter is the first victim in this game. Before we opened that sarcophagus, every entry I had done up to this point was relatively lighthearted Sierra shenanigans. (Well, except for the murder on the Andrea Dorea in the intro, but we didn't get a post-mortem closeup of that.) If you're the type of person who would find a closeup illustration of a murder victim freaky, you were actually safe up until this point of the game. Then, suddenly, SURPRISE! This sets a tone that hadn't been set before. Going forward from here, we at least sort of know what to expect when someone else dies.

I mean, it's not that Roberta Williams has ever not loved showing a dead body in a whodunit mystery game....

It's just that now she has an art department to realize her horrible bloody vision.

Dr. Carter's expression really is traumatic if you're not expecting it.

On the other hand, the absurdity score for this death is near the floor, because I've seen what this game does later. Honestly, being stabbed to death by a (probably gift shop replica) Dagger of Amon Ra is the least stupid way to die in this game. Being fatally stabbed and then stuffed in a sarcophagus is believable, and Dr. Carter is quite possibly the only character in the game about whose death I can say that. I gave it a few half-points here and there for chronological anomalies such as his body just appearing in the sarcophagus when I was right there, and the fact that Laura asked Yvette about this murder at the part before it actually happened....

... But I'm just nitpicking at gameplay issues. The basic premise, "Stabbed to death by a (replica?) dagger and stuffed in a sarcophagus", is very sound, especially compared to some of the ways the others go.

There is a reason for this detailed closeup besides the freakiness factor, but it's no less terrible: this being a Sierra game, we are now expected to conduct a very thorough examination of the body, and gather all the important clues. So, as traumatic as this may be if you weren't expecting it (and people who've played The Colonel's Bequest probably saw this coming, but people starting with Dagger and its goofy Sierra nonsense chapter 1 probably didn't), you now have to force yourself to stare at this image really closely, for as long as it takes for you to uncover every tiny clue. It's like that glitch where the zombies from Space Quest IV freeze the game when they're screaming at you, only this time, Sierra did it on purpose, and you'll make the game unwinnable if you don't play along and notice everything.

According to both of my walkthroughs, the main thing I am after is a notebook that is in the pocket of Dr. Carter's jacket. Both walkthroughs make it very clear I need this, but neither mentions anything else in particular. Both just instruct me to "examine the body thoroughly" and then make off with the notebook.

I can handle that, I suppose. Commencing investigation!


Okay, so it's not the Dagger, at least.

Assuming this wasn't a suicide?? Did suicide via stabbing yourself in the heart and then closing the sarcophagus door behind you happen a lot in those days?

Once again, the important thing the game is trying to establish is that Dr. Carter was caught off-guard by his own murder.

Oh, there's the notepad.

And it even comes with an obligatory token "find a piece of charcoal or something to shade the page so you can read whatever was on the previous page" puzzle!

It's not tampering with a crime scene if I'm an adventure game protagonist!

Hmm ... that could be important.

Anyway, I guess we're done here!

As soon as you exit out of the closeup, the time becomes 8:15 and Det. O'Riley shows up. This is why you have to get everything when you have the chance.

More dramatic music plays, and the screen fades to black. So concludes Act 2!

Act 3 begins, but first....

You still aren't pirating this game, right? I mean, we already asked at the beginning, but this game didn't spontaneously become pirated sometime during Act 2, did it?

Just to test whether the version I'm playing had its copy protection compromised (because there's no way all my guesses were that lucky), I deliberately tried to flub this one by answering a question that asks about a Goddess by selecting the first figure I could find who had a beard. I went with the upper-right one, and....

... the game continued! Either Sierra has kept track of my silent failure and will spring it on me in the climax or something (which I don't think this game does,) or this version really was altered to just accept everything.

Wait, I'm not allowed to leave, but the staff members are? Or do they just mean leave the central gathering room, and start wandering the rest of the museum in small groups that can more easily kill each other off one by one as the game continues? (Spoiler: it's the latter)

Oh, and it's 10:00, by the way. That was a bit of a jump.

A brand new character appears! This guy, apparently some sort of janitor/groundskeeper/general museum worker like that by the name of Ernie Leach, walks up and introduces himself. Why was he absolutely nowhere to be seen during the party? Well, there are a few race- and class-related reasons why the help would be off in a corner somewhere, and since this game is set in 1926 I'm probably exactly correct in going there, but ... still, let's not.

Anyway, he seems friendly enough, and his theme song is a cool beat type thing. I like him.

Well, that narrows it down.

You're one to talk.

Once again, every time Laura brings up her previous investigation (or the game brings up her father, like it did in the Act III intro, there,) I get curious about The Colonel's Bequest! I'm still not going to do it myself, though.

And with that, the game is afoot!

So ... let's speculate! Who murdered Dr. Carter?

[The evidence]The evidence at the scene was 1) Dr. Smith's ankh, 2) a bloody footprint that was clearly a woman's high-heeled shoe, and 3) the fact that Dr. Carter appeared to have been murdered literally by surprise with no prior struggle.

[My theory]To me, the existence of points 2 and 3 contradict point 1, and allow me to rule out Dr. Smith. For one, with all the ranting he had been doing, and for how early in the game we are, that would be way too obvious. More importantly, though, Dr. Smith is neither a woman nor someone who could have approached Dr. Carter without the latter getting his hackles up.

If we assume that the ankh is a red herring, possibly planted there as part of a frame-job or something, but the other two items are legitimate, then the high-heeled footprint cuts the suspect list down quite dramatically. There are only three female suspects, after all: Dr. Mylkos, Yvette, and the Countess.

Of those three, I'm ruling out Dr. Myklos for now because she has the least reason to get mixed up in something like this. She's creepy, and I'm sure we'll have a hard time keeping her from humping the cadaver or something now that she knows there is one, but I don't think she would murder someone just for that.

This isn't that game, after all.

I actually don't think the true mastermind behind Dr. Carter's death was Yvette or the Countess, though. I think Dr. Carrington is the one who had the biggest reason to want Dr. Carter dead.

For one thing, Dr. Carter was openly bragging about how he was such a superstar that he was going to rise up the ranks and take Dr. Carrington's job and kick him out to some other museum somewhere, thus making Dr. Carter a threat to Dr. Carrington's power.

For another, Dr. Carrington has the world's most obvious dead body in his trunk, so something like this clearly isn't beyond him.

Finally, recall my previous theory: Dr. Carrington is the new owner who came out of absolutely nowhere after Sterling Waldorf-Carlton's death, and Dr. Carter is the only person in the entire cast who had ever met him before (yet remarked that Dr. Carrington didn't seem to recognize him, later!) I had the theory that Dr. Carrington is an imposter, and the intro cutscene murder on the Andrea Dorea was actually this character killing the real Dr. Carrington so that he could assume his place. This made Dr. Carter a threat not only to his power, but to his cover!

Thus, I firmly believe that Dr. Carrington ordered a female helper (because of that high-heeled footprint) to kill Dr. Carter for him. But who was his hitwoman? Again, I'm ruling Dr. Myklos out because she makes the least amount of sense in this picture, but the other two....

... for how much Yvette and the Countess hate each other, both have a rather suspicious connection to Dr. Carrington.

Yvette had already agreed to go off privately for some "discussion" with Dr. Carter later in the evening, and the partially undone tie on Dr. Carter's body could imply something like that was going on, and would easily fit with the evidence that points toward Dr. Carter knowing his assailant, allowing an approach with his guard down, and being taken by surprise with the murder. She would even have had an easier time getting "close" with Dr. Smith so she could take his ankh, if leaving it there for misdirection was part of the plan. The one hole in this theory is that the meeting time to which Yvette and Dr. Carter had agreed was much later than this; they said something like three in the morning, whereas Dr. Carter was already dead before 8:15 PM.

The Countess is an obvious black widow who has already married and murdered her previous husband (Sterling Waldorf-Carlton) to get in on his wealth and power. Now that Dr. Carter has filled Sterling's museum owner role, the Countess is probably after him, too. She could easily agree to something like this because Dr. Carter is a threat to Dr. Carrington's power and she wants that power, so before she can do anything else, she needs to protect it and solidify their alliance. She was also seen making some sort of underhanded deal with Ziggy, but the details on that are unknown. (Was that an unrelated conspiracy, or is Ziggy in on this, too?)

I can't prove anything deeper than that, so I'll leave the theory at that for now. Dr. Carrington had a female associate murder Dr. Carter and frame Dr. Smith, and said associate is either Yvette or the Countess, but I don't yet know which one.

And while we're on this massive speculation kick, this murder doesn't change the fact that there's still the matter of the original crime: the theft of the Dagger of Amon Ra.

[And for that....]And for that ... I don't know. Clearly, the thief would have to be someone with very good security clearance and access to locked areas and such within the museum, since the Dagger was taken from its locked display case with no break or forcible entry or anything along those lines. Furthermore, it was hidden in the museum gift shop (which wasn't locked, but according to Wolf Heimlich, it should have been) in a replica display case (which was definitely locked.) I believe this narrows the suspects down to people who had access to all these locks, which would presumably be Dr. Carrington again, Wolf Heimlich, and perhaps Ernie Leach.

Of course, just like Dr. Carter's murder, there's also the question of whether the person who did the crime was working for someone else, not to mention the question of motive. I'm afraid that's about as far as I can get on this one, too, at least for now.

All right! That was a lot of speculating. Time to go solve a mystery or two!

We resume our regularly-scheduled play-through. The game automatically had Laura walk to the right one screen, as part of that cutscene....

And even though the first action I undertook upon regaining control was to go back to the main rotunda, Det. O'Riley and Herr Heimlich are already gone. So much for getting to ask them anything. I lament the lack of informatin-gathering opportunity, but more importantly, I still don't have a way to check my own notebook and see if the hieroglyphics are in it.

Oh, well.

So, the game opens up at this point, and if it were any other game, I would commence heavy exploration. Not only is it an adventure game; it's a mystery adventure game! Leave no stone unturned, right? Except that this is a Sierra game, and that clock element is still a thing, and I still have no idea whether there's an actual time limit or it just advances the clock at the speed of the plot. (DavidN once tried The Colonel's Bequest and managed to find zero of the four vital things he needed within the game's first in-game two hours, so I have a reason to worry that it could be the former.) Therefore, my exploration is going to consist of me following the walkthroughs, walking straight from one plot point to the next like I'm being guided by lasers. If any of this progression seems disjointed, like your reaction to "now, it's off to the ___ room!" is "wait, what? Why?", it's literally just because that's where the walkthroughs said I needed to go next.

So, apparently, our first stop is the Old Masters Gallery! According to the map I found on GameFAQs....

You go up through the Rotunda into the Dinosaurs Room....

And then ... right? Right according to the map, but if you orient it according to the entrance from which Laura just emerged, it'd be the door on the far camera left?

Hey, I did it! Well, that wasn't so bad, I guess.

I go to look at one of the paintings...

... and the Countess walks into the room, out of absolutely nowhere.

Neither of my walkthroughs mention anything about her, or anyone, being here, or anywhere, at this point. They only say to go to the Old Masters room and look at a few specific things. They don't mention having any company.

I'm not going to question it, though, because it means I CAN FINALLY CHECK MY NOTEBOOK.



Wow, okay, this is a bit more complicated than I expected it to be. I'm sure that, at some point, there's going to be a message the game will expect me to decrypt by flipping back and forth between my notebook pages, but I can already tell that this is going to be way too much of a bother, and I'm just going to let the walkthrough translate the message for me.

You can actually click on the letters and they appear on the bottom of the screen, though I don't know what this accomplishes just yet.

I only found half of the Rosetta Stone, so I don't have the "S" and "N" glyphs yet, shut up.

Anyway, while the Countess is here, may as well ask her about Dr. Carter, I guess.


And, in a rare mercy, every other major subject in the notebook (except the new addition of "Hieroglyphs", which doesn't lead anywhere interesting) leads to a "you asked me about that already, you idiot" response since we covered everything in chapter 2.

Anyway, back to what we were supposed to be doing in this room. See that shiny thing stuck to the canvas of that big painting on the camera right--

I actually don't have a screenshot of this, because it happened too fast, but while I was typing that, Dr. Carrington entered the room, walked to the exact point where the Countess was standing (literally the exact point, their sprites were overlapping), and then left the room again. I don't ... what??

Okay, before anything else happens, see that sparkle on the painting?

Yes, that one. Now, even though the sparkle itself is kind of near the middle of the painting, I have to (for some reason) specifically look at the lower-right corner of the painting. You know, that spot where Laura is now standing, and attempts to look there lead to more snarky "you look at yourself" narration. It's the gift shop daggers all over again!

So we move out of the way....

Hah. Cute, though that isn't quite what the walkthrough said was going to happen. Perhaps I missed? It did specify the lower-right corner, but apparently we now have a pixel-hunt on our hands. A pixel hunt that's made even worse by the fact that some of the target zones (anything that mentions the skeleton holding something, rather than the painting itself) cause Laura to move back in front of the painting again. Maybe I need to--



... Um

O-okay, I can ... I can deal with this. I just--



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