Friday, 9 August 2013

Game 34: The Colonel's Bequest - Introduction


 That's two titles in a row that are dripping with blood

I’ve been looking forward to The Colonel’s Bequest since I started this blog. It’s one of those games that I’ve always known about and generally heard good things about, but just never got around to playing. Yet another Sierra game, The Colonel’s Bequest was released in October 1989, and was written by the legendary Roberta Williams (designer of the King’s Quest series and mother of the adventure genre we know and love). Interestingly, The Colonel’s Bequest takes as much from Roberta’s first gaming effort, 1980’s Mystery House, as it does from her better known successes. In that game the player explored a large Victorian mansion, looking for clues that might reveal who out of the seven inhabitants committed murder. The little I know of The Colonel Bequest suggests it has a very similar plot, and it’s clear that both games were heavily influenced by the works of Agatha Christie. For anyone unaware of Christie, she wrote 66 detective novels, with famous characters like Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple solving mysteries throughout.


I like this cover. It's striking without being completely obvious.

The Colonel’s Bequest is the first of two Laura Bow games, with 1992’s The Dagger of Amon Ra being the sequel. The character was modelled after Clara Bow, a well-known actress from the 1920’s, which makes sense given that The Colonel’s Bequest is set in 1925. It was the fourth of five adventure games released in 1989 utilising the SCI0 engine, with the order being Space Quest III, Hero’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry 3, The Colonel’s Bequest and finally Codename: ICEMAN. This means the game utilises 320x200 graphics and 16 colours. It’s important to note that while all the game’s story and dialogue was written by Roberta, there were many other important people involved in its creation. Most interestingly, a woman named Jacqueline Austin was brought in as a Creative Designer. From what I can tell, The Colonel’s Bequest is the only game that Jacqueline got involved in, and she’s spent more time writing screenplays and novels. I can’t be certain what her involvement was, but the title suggests she played a role in the game’s distinctive style and structure.


Clara Bow


Laura Bow 

Programming was handled by the very experienced Chris Hoyt (Police Quest 2 and King’s Quest IV) and Chris Iden (one of the creators of the AGI system). Graphics were produced by veteran Gerald Moore (Police Quest, King’s Quest IV, Hero’s Quest) and Douglas Herring (Larry 2), with the latter also handling all the animation. The Colonel’s Bequest also marked the very first game that Ken Allen worked on, who would go on to create sound and music for dozens of games (including Les Manley: Lost in LA, Conquests of the Longbow and our good friend Corey Cole’s Castle of Dr. Brain). The whole project was directed by Roberta and Chris Iden, which gives me faith that this will be a pretty professional and entertaining game. The game isn’t available for sale these days, so I’ve downloaded a copy of the original 1989 version (there was a slightly improved version included in a pack along with the sequel in 1993) and will run it in DOSBox. I’ve also downloaded the manual, a map and a copy protection sheet that is required to play to game.


I like it that they actually made the player work a bit to prove their worth prior to starting

Speaking of copy protection, the system used by The Colonel’s Bequest was actually pretty unique. It originally came with a red-lined foldout that contained fingerprints of all the characters in the game. The player had to use a “red-gel magnifying glass” to match the fingerprint on the screen with one on the foldout, and then select that character to proceed. The copy I have doesn’t require the magnifying glass, so I shouldn’t have an issue (if indeed I do need to use it). The manual is one of the nicer ones I’ve come across so far, and includes a fairly detailed description of each of the characters I will interact with in the mansion along with a six scene run through of what I assume will be covered in the game’s introduction. Finally there’s the map, which is a top down view of the entire island, with each location well represented and clearly marked. The impressive documentation has me even more excited about getting stuck into The Colonel’s Bequest. I hope I can adjust from space-faring antihero to 1920s amateur detective before I miss too many clues!


It will be nice knowing the boundary limitations of the environment going in for once
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). If you get it right I will reward you with 130 CAPs in return (it's going to keep going up until someone beats me)! It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

Example Bet:
Ubj pna gurfr guvatf gurl fnl or gehr
Zl sngure n zheqrere? N tunfgyl orvat?
V gubhtug vs V pnzr V jbhyq haqrefgnaq
Ohg V pna’g rkcynva gur guvatf V’z frrvat!
Jub nz V?
20 PNCF naq n pbcl bs Grk Zhecul 1 + 2 sbe gur svefg pbeerpg nafjre.

Extra Note: Once again, Lars-Erik will gift the next readily available game on the list to the reader that correctly predicts what score I will give this game. So, if you predict the right score (or are closest), you will get 10 CAPs and a copy of Loom from Steam! How awesome is that!? Good luck!

77 comments:

  1. The last game of 1989, and another one I haven't played.

    It seems interesting, but after stumbling around a bit I'm not sure if it's for me. Going to try it out some more and see if it opens up.

    The setting and style is unique for this period in adventure gaming, which makes it worthwhile so far.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, and it also works in ScummVM, so you can avoid potential compatibility-issues with sound etc.

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    Replies
    1. I'm going to nitpick again and say that, as far as I know, there will not be any andvantages sound-wise in ScummVM, as the game has no digital sound samples whatsoever and still has the problem of requiring a certain MT-32 version.

      Delete
    2. Speaking of MT-32 bug exploits in Colonel's Bequest, here's two videos from YouTube to illustrate the differences between a genuine early MT32 and MUNT (the emulator everyone is using, including ScummVM and DOSBox):

      MUNT

      MT-32

      The musical instruments are all right, but the sound effects (cricket chirping and thunder) are screwed up. Hopefully the MUNT devs can soon fix that. :-)

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    3. Oddly, the frogs sound the best in the AdLib card at the start of the MT-32 vid. Also MT-32 seems to have less of an advantage in the game then previous ones.

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    4. Wow, want to hear a big jump? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaVjBib5KH4

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    5. The Sound Blaster is really poorly emulated there, so of course it's gonna sound bad in comparison. (DOSBox users should set oplemu=compat, oplrate=49716 and rate=49716 in the config, for maximizing emulation accuracy.)

      That said, General MIDI can sound incredibly good if played on a high quality device or soundfont. That particular video used a SC-88. I myself have been editing together my own soundfont for software synths for a while now -- early results can be seen here. ;-)

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    6. I wonder how much it would cost to get those cards today, or if they are even compatible with modern motherboards.

      Huh, they have modern versions out: Has anyone tried one? Like the Roland SD-50? Or are they crazy expensive?

      Delete
  3. I think this game offers some important 'firsts' in the genre, and was an obvious labor of love, but some of the gameplay mechanics have not aged well.

    Erm, 56, for a score.

    Looking forward to the posts!

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  4. I'm going to predict a 60. I like the game, id does a lot of new and experimental things, but is also flawed. It might even set a new record on Enviroment and Atmosphere.

    As for the riddle...

    Nagbvar Zbernh? Sebz Gur Frperg bs Pungrnh qr Zbernh?

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  5. I'm gunna go for 58, for the CAPs. Also, Laukku is definitely right, Environment and Atmosphere is this game's biggest asset and easily blows away most of the previous games in this category. Probably going to lose significant amounts of points in puzzles, though, and for being kinda directionless.

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  6. Never actually played this game, it certainly seems interesting and having Roberta Williams in charge can only mean good things! Good luck for your endeavours into the world of the Colonel's Bequest.

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  7. This was probably one of the first adventure games I owned...I've still got the original boxed 5 1/4s kicking round in the loft somewhere. I don't remember it being the best game in the world, but it was pretty fun (and I was fairly young then, so possibly not the best reviewer of a slower-paced murder mystery adventure!).

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  8. Know nothing about the game apart from what's written here...

    Too busy this week to bother checking its Mobygames page...

    Pulling guess out of nowhere...58!

    Damn. Already taken and don't want to double up. Make it... 49!!!

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  9. By the way, what are the limits of what can be bet? Is it only for whether or not there will be a call for assistance for a specific puzzle? Or can it be also for optional things that Trickster can't find or solve?

    Also, for anyone interested, you can find and download many Sierra demos on the Sierra Help Pages and The Internet Archive. The demo for Colonel's Bequest is particularly interesting, as it apparently features some early (creepy-looking) versions of the character portraits.

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    Replies
    1. Only for calls of assistance (at least has been so far). I think there won't be any, because you could almost play the game through without doing anything - you'd just miss everything and end up with an unsatisfying ending.

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    2. I'm limiting it to calls for assistance. There are plenty of things that I miss, but since they're no required to complete a game, are not even aware of it.

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  10. I predict a score of 51.

    As for the riddle: Cuvyyvc sebz Crahzoen?

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  11. Totally forgot about the score predictions. I'm picking 54 for no good reason.

    I also just realized that the giveaways for game 33-35 (SQ3, Colonel's Bequest and Déjà Vu II) should have been the Hugo-pack and not Loom, since Hugo's House of Horrors comes before Loom and is actually for sale online. If the winners want the Hugo-pack instead of Loom (if you already have Loom for instance) I'm offering to swap it out.

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    Replies
    1. Well, I've already donated mine to Laukku in a riddle contest.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, but since you gave it away because you had it and you had it because I gave Tricky the wrong prizes, I think it's only fair you can get the proper one instead.

      So if you want Hugo just let me know and I'll send it via Trickster.

      Delete
    3. Cool, I'll take the Hugo! I probably would have eventually bought it, just to suffer the first one with Trickster, but this saves me trouble.

      Delete
  12. I own a boxed copy of this game but never played it, nor know much about it honestly. My relatively low score is based mostly on the fact that it seems to be rather unknown, especially compared to the rest of the Sierra series.

    But I --love-- the care that went into it. The box even included a cute little notebook and a pencil inscribed with the name "Laura Bow":
    http://www.atomicmall.com/cpic/30/84949-1296924754.jpg

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  13. I played this when it came out and remember enjoying it. That and the copy protection being anoying are the only things I really remember. I'm going to go for 59. I know time plays a role with certain events happening at certain places only at specific times regardless of what you have or have not achieved. I don't remember how time passes though whether it is by every time you change screen or a clock. I'll definitely be playing along, but won't be starting until next week, so don't go too quickly please Trick.

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  14. I'm quite new at this, didn't know a score prediction could be done.
    Anyway, I predict a score of 55!

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  15. My guess will be... 80! I know the game won't get that high, but I had to say it to show my appreciation of Laura Bow's fine featu... ahem, feats of intelligence.

    When I first played this, I think missed half of what there was to be found. Colonel's Bequest has a lot of optional things that I am sure Trickster will miss. Heck, there's even a complete side quest (Canageek, did you hear this: an adventure game with a side quest).

    I remember reading in an interview that Al Lowe actually suggested the title. He was making fun of all the Quests they were producing, but Roberta Williams took it seriously.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, a side quest! Vg'f n frperg uvqqra gernfher (cebonoyl nabgure ersrerapr gb Zlfgrel Ubhfr). Or that's what I've heard...

      I might replay the game during Trickster's own playthrough, and this time try to figure out how to complete it.

      Delete
  16. The Colonel's Bequest is a game that either clicks spectacularly well.. or not at all. I'm going to say that it's a little bit more innovative than Zak McKraken/Maniac Mansion... so 63!

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  17. Judging by your previous ratings on Sierra games, I'd say this game will get a 59 though I will not be surprised if it actually manages to score higher than that!!

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  18. You seem pretty stoked for this one, so let's go ALL OUT. 60.

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  19. I watched a LP of this game a few months ago and was not very impressed by what I saw... so I'm going with 54

    As for the riddle: Tnoevry Xavtug?

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  20. Sam & Max game sales on Greenmangaming:

    Sam & Max Season 1 75% off: http://www.greenmangaming.com/s/no/en/pc/games/adventure/sam-max-season-one/

    Sam & Max Season 2 75% off: http://www.greenmangaming.com/s/no/en/pc/games/adventure/sam-max-season-two/

    Sam & Max Season 3 75% off:
    http://www.greenmangaming.com/s/no/en/pc/games/adventure/sam-max-season-three/

    Note that all of these are keys you activate in Steam that end up in your Steam library.

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  21. I'll go with 52. I liked this game, but I don't see it doing as well as Space Quest 3.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I get really excited when starting a new game: made sure this one worked before work, and was almost late for work. I might have to show some restraint in not playing only this game over the weekend.

    Don't forget the quick reference guide Trickster; although, it seems like it's a basic guide for Sierra games, so maybe not entirely necessary.

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  23. Replies
    1. Also.. I have that map. I'm look at that map in my hands right now.. mmmh.. game maps.

      Delete
  24. Low 50's, I'd say. I'll pick 51. Laura Bow was inspired by Ken and Roberta attending a murder mystery "interactive theater" event in Los Angeles. As the guests wandered through the rooms of a mansion, actors played out small parts of the story. As a result, the guests could experience it in different orders, much as in an adventure game. The Seventh Guest might also have been partially inspired by this type of play.

    I think you will find Colonel's Bequest strong on story, characters, and atmosphere; but relatively low on puzzles and continuity. Since I've been consistently overestimating scores, and don't think this one stands up to Space Quest 3, I've made a relatively low guess.

    Incidentally, "Gerald Moore" was always known as Jerry, and "Douglas Herring" as Doug. Jerry was famous around Sierra for being an avid science fiction fan, and particularly a Star Trek nerd. His hallmark was sneaking a cameo of the Starship Enterprise into every game on which he worked. Jerry had a habit of accidentally overwriting artwork by copying it in the wrong direction, but he also understood the Sierra art tools better than anyone else. He came up with the idea of using multiple "overlays" for the Quest for Glory 2 deserts so that each scene would look unique without having to store dozens of different scenes on the disk. He had a rare combination of left- and right-brain skills that made him an excellent technical artist.

    Doug is more of a fantasy fan - We played briefly in a D&D-ish RPG he ran, and more recently he has been very active in SCA/RenFaire-style simulated combat live role-playing. Doug was our lead artist for the Shannara game we developed for Legend Entertainment.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing your memories Corey. It's neat to find out these tidbits of personality that go into the games. I will now play "spot the Starship Enterprise" when I play QfG 2.

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    2. If I recall it correctly the Starship Enterprise is easily spotted in QFG2, so you shouldn't have much trouble!

      Delete
  25. I think this game could do quite well on the scoring, but might only do so if you play it through more than once.

    So... I'll go for a score of 62.

    Probably higher than it will get, but it tried something quite different and did pretty well at it. I like the setting too, although I've always been more of a Hercule Poirot fan (David Suchet's TV performances in particular).

    ReplyDelete
  26. Excellent! It's nice to stump you guys once in a while. I'm increasing the reward to 30 CAPs.

    How can these things they say be true
    My father a murderer? A ghastly being?
    I thought if I came I would understand
    But I can’t explain the things I’m seeing!
    All around me from a time long past
    Yet somehow not this odd reflection
    This castle I must thoroughly search
    Blocking these horrible recollections!

    Who am I?

    30 CAPS and a copy of Tex Murphy 1 + 2 for the first correct answer.

    Hint: This game is often listed as action / adventure as well as survival horror, and is not currently on the list at all. Hey, I had to make it tricky with a game up for grabs. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My answer is ROT-13'd as weird as it is. Is it: Q?

      Delete
    2. Err, I guess the character's name would be Ynhen Evpugre.

      Delete
    3. That's not quite right Cush, but I'll give it to you. It's Laura Harris from the game D, not Laura Richter. Her father was Richter Harris, so I can see how you got to what you did.

      Well done! How did you figure it out? Do you want the Tex Murphy collection? You get 30 CAPs regardless.

      Delete
    4. I've never even heard of that one.

      Delete
    5. It hit me when you said survival horror. I have the first game for the Saturn and remember trying to play it once. It's horrendously slow; there's loading going from room to room. But after you mentioned survival horror, I remember going to a place that looked like a castle (I think it's actually a hospital), seeing weird visions, and investigating something to do with the character's father.

      I read your updated hint, went to bad, then it hit me before I fell asleep that D might be the game. So I grabbed the laptop, dug up the FAQ to check my facts and get the character's name. Obviously I was at least half asleep to screw up the last name. Alex Trebek would not have let that fly!

      Oddly enough, I don't own, nor have I played any of the Tex Murphy games, so I would love to have the collection.

      Draconius, D was published for the PC, Saturn, Playstation, and 3DO. It wasn't a mainstream game and was quite a horrid experience on the consoles due to the load times. If you know how to beat it, it probably takes less than an hour. Pretty weak point-and-click game overall. I'm surprised I remembered as much about it as I did, seeing as I tried it once.

      Still, glad to get a riddle once, even if I nearly blew it!

      Delete
  27. I've never played the Colonel's Bequest, but if it's fairly easy to get *an* ending, if not the best ending, then I'll play along if I get some time this week. I'll also guess 58 for the score. From what I've seen so far (which isn't much, admittedly), it looks too detailed to not beat SQ3, even if SQ3 gets the benefit of nostalgia and humor to make up for a very short story that barely hangs together.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I've been playing it for a while and haven't really got much idea what I'm doing. I can vaguely remember things from the last time I played it, but I don't think I've ever completed it.

    The text parser could be a bit better too, sometimes I feel it can be hard to guess the appropriate commands, especially with American spellings and such.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find myself at a loss with the text parser myself sometimes. I think I've nearly reached the end without fully reading the manual. I tried to push through tonight, but it just crashed, so I'll try again tomorrow. I'm not sure what all I've solved or really done other than pass time. Once I reach the end I'll decide if it's worth it to explore more.

      Delete
    2. The game helpfully tells you in the end what you've achieved and what sort of things you've missed.

      Delete
    3. Ah, good to know. I just finished it this morning. Got right between Nzngrhe Fyrhgu naq Frnfbarq C.V. V yvxr gur jnl gurl qvq gur abgrf ng gur raq, ohg fbzr bs gurz ner engure onssyvat. Yvxr V gubhtug V nyernql svtherq bhg Uraev hfrq gur cnffntrf jura V sbhaq uvf pnar naq pvtne ohgg, naq qb V npghnyyl unir gb xabj jung Tybevn unq gb xabj jub unq na rzoneenffvat zrqvpny pbaqvgvba? V qba'g xabj jul gur pebjone be pnar jbhyqa'g jbex gb ernpu gur evat ba gur ebcr gb fbhaq gur oryy. Gbjneqf gur zvqqyr V jnf whfg gelvat gb frr jung gevttrerq rnpu gvzr whzc. V guvax V'yy cynl ntnva fbba naq gura fgneg ernqvat Gevpxfgre'f cbfgf. V'z nsenvq gb trg n fcbvyre yvxr ubj gb hfr gur qhzojnvgre. V zrna V sbhaq gur ynagrea, yvg vg, naq fgvyy pbhyqa'g fgvpx gur qnea guvat vagb gur qnex puhgr gb frr jung'f qbja gurer. Nyfb, V jnf pbzcyrgryl ybfg ng gur sbhagnva bapr V ghearq vg ba.

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    4. Don't want to spoil you too much, if you plan on playing another time, but lbh'yy unir gb xabj vg'f Urael'f pvtne (ur'f abg gur bayl fzbxre). Nyfb, ur'f abg gur bayl bar gb hfr gur frperg cnffntrf.

      Delete
  29. I'll guess 54. ONWARDS, TO MYSTERYYYYYYYYYYY!
    !

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hum, I bet someone else here will like this: Monkey Island Meets Metal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEHIwxGA17Y

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  31. Completed Colonel's Bequest... (rest in ROT13)

    V sbhaq vg dhvgr qvssvphyg, ohg abg arprffnevyl orpnhfr bs gur chmmyrf. N ybg bs gur cnefre pbzznaqf ner gevpxl (rfcrpvnyyl vs lbh'er abg Nzrevpna), naq V sbhaq zlfrys jnaqrevat nebhaq n ybg gb gel naq gevttre riragf.

    Vg jnf dhvgr sha gubhtu, ohg V gubhtug gurer jnf fhccbfrq gb or zber inevngvba (V thrff gung'f gbb zhpu gb nfx!). Vg frrzf yvxr V tbg gur tbbq raqvat, ohg qvqa'g dhvgr znantr gb trg Fhcre Fyrhgu. V zvffrq bhg ba n srj pyhrf urer naq gurer.

    V qb jvfu gung gur pyhrf naq abgrobbx unq orra znqr zber bs, vg jbhyq unir orra vagrerfgvat gb unir unq n zrrgvat bs fheivivat punenpgref naq sbe lbh gb qrqhpr gur xvyyre(f)! Nf vg jnf, nyy lbh qb vf oyhaqre nobhg nf gur bgure thrfgf trg xvyyrq bss bar ol bar.

    Tbbq, vairagvir, vagrerfgvat punenpgref, ohg snyyf fyvtugyl fubeg bs vg'f cbgragvny. Pna'g jnvg gb frr ubj Gevpxfgre tbg ba.

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    Replies
    1. Did you find the uvqqra gernfher?

      Delete
    2. Ubj ner lbh fhccbfrq gb xabj gur wrjryf ner va gur gbzo? Nsgre V jnf qbar V purpxrq n jnyxguebhtu gb frr jung V'q zvffrq naq gung fgbbq bhg (nybat jvgu abg rknzvavat n pbhcyr bs vgrzf jvgu gur zbabpyr, naq abg fzryyvat va gur evtug cynprf!)

      Delete
    3. Fb lbh znantrq gb trg gb gur Peblgba inhyg ol sbyybjvat gur uvagf yrsg ol cneragf bs Fnenu Peblgba? Jryy, vs lbh purpx gur anzrf bs gur gbzof, bar bs gurz nyyrtrqyl orybatf gb n pregnva Ehol Peblgba - rkprcg vs lbh purpx gur Peblgba snzvyl yvar jevggra ba gur ovoyr uvqqra va puhepu, gurer'f ab zragvba bs nal Ehol. Cyhf, ehol vf n wrjry...

      Delete
  32. I've played this game and I can say that I wasn't very impressed with it back then. 51 was my first guess but since it's already taken... 50.

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  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I highly recommend using a DosBox frontend application to run your games Draconius. I use D-Fend Reloaded.

      http://dfendreloaded.sourceforge.net/

      All you have to do is Add a new game, then select the Sierra file in your Laura folder. Then you can run the game from the application without ever having to worry about cranking up Dosbox and typing commands.

      Delete
    2. In this case though, I decided to use SCUMMVM, as it works with Colonel's Bequest and takes much higher quality screenshots.

      It's also really easy to set up, and all you have to do is point it to the application file, which in this case is called Sierra.

      http://scummvm.org/downloads/

      Delete
    3. Sorry, I downloaded from a different place and it's going fine now. So then I deleted the comment as I didn't know anyone had responded. Should have refreshed my browser first.Thanks though. I'll give that a go as I'm sure it's going to come in handy for other things.

      Delete
  34. If you want to play along, TCB can be streamed from Archive.org at: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Laura_Bow_1_-_The_Colonels_Bequest_1989

    Note that you can't save in the streaming version of DOSBOX they use, but if you want to give it a go with zero set up, give it a try.

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  35. The way this game's text parser works gave me this weird (& very sad) moment: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BlY8n8ICMAAiWpo.png

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  36. Greetings to our visitors from Cracked!

    We've just completed our review of 1991 games and our contest is open for picking what games will be the best in 1992. We know you're just here to browse, but sit a spell and read along. We'd love to have you!

    Our 1992 contest is here: http://advgamer.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-year-that-was-1991.html

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    Replies
    1. Ah, I did wonder why this post suddenly appeared in The Posts That People Actually Read widget.

      Delete