Oh and make sure you switch off your mobile phones too.
Don’t ask me what I think of The Colonel’s Bequest just yet. I feel like I’ve been dumped into a very large environment and been pretty much left to my own devices to figure out not only what is going on, but also how best to play the game. I’ve already put a couple of hours into it (which I'm unlikely to cover in this first post), and while I’m genuinely intrigued by the setup, I can’t say I’ve achieved...well...pretty much anything! As usual though, I’ve jumped ahead, so let’s start at the very beginning. Right from the outset, The Colonel’s Bequest does things very differently to any game on the list so far. After successfully bypassing the copy protection screen, I was given a rundown of each of the characters that will be involved in the game. This is done in a very effective way (clearly influenced by theatre), with each character’s portrait appearing at the bottom of the screen, before their full body image appears and merges with the cast of characters on stage. The final character to appear of course was Laura Bow, with her sweet and innocent looks very much in contrast to the brooding and cranky appearance of the majority of the others. I really like this idea, and it’s perfectly suited to The Colonel Bequest with its whodunnit murder mystery backdrop.
Thank you...thank you...you're too kind!
With the characters introduced, the credits began appearing on screen. However, replacing the theatrical style of the opening was a more modern movie style. The credits were introduced gradually, overlaying the game’s introductory scenes. The first shot is outside Tulane University in New Orleans, with the year being 1925. It’s immediately apparent how much time and effort was put into making the world of The Colonel’s Bequest feel alive, with a bird flying by, then a butterfly, before a squirrel arrives and sits on a rock near where Laura is seated, paging through a book. Unimportant people walk around in the background, bringing to mind Gold Rush, which is one of the really positive things I took from that game. Finally, Lillian approaches Laura, shuffling along in that very twenties flapper fashion, her hands pushed out to the side and her hips swaying. While I’m not overly familiar with 1920’s musical styles, the jazzy music also seems bang on. Don’t worry, I’m not going to continue on with this much detail, but I wanted to give those of you that haven’t played the game an idea just how much Roberta and co. nailed the era right from the opening moments.
Looks like a great place to sit back and enjoy a good book!
Lillian invites Laura to her Uncle Henri’s estate for the weekend, where he’s holding a family reunion. Laura is at first unsure, having a lot of study to get through, but agrees to go after Lillian’s promises that the old place is creepy and interesting. The intro then shifts to two nights later, with the girls aboard some sort of canoe en route to the estate. Once again there’s great detail, with shifting reflections on the water, frogs jumping around, and fireflies circling. They soon arrive, and the girls briefly pause at the gates to Misty Acres, taking in the scene in the same way the player is. In true Addams Family style, the door is opened by a worryingly broody butler, just as a bolt of lightning crashes above. Jeeves seems completely unaware of who is standing before him until prompted by Lillian, to whom he responds: “Everyone else has already arrived. They’re just sitting down for dinner. Please come in and join them.” The scene once again shifts to the dining room, with all eight guests sitting around the table for dinner. Henri is wheeled into the room by the rather voluptuous Fifi, and immediately goes about explaining why he called for this particular family reunion.
I hope they haven't paid the ferryman yet!
When you said rich, you really meant it didn't you!!!
“As you know, I’m a very wealthy man. I have invested my money wisely and have put away almost every dime. However, my end is near and I have decided to bequeath my millions to each of you sitting at the table.” I immediately wondered whether that statement included Laura, but that was quickly put to rest. “Except of course Lillian’s friend, Laura. AHEM! Anyway, as I have said, you’re all inheriting my money, and you will inherit equally when I go. If any of you should die before I do, then your share will be distributed equally to the surviving parties.” So it appears that Henri is good with money, but not so good at taking his family member’s safety into account. That last statement is just asking for someone to go on a murderous rampage! Henri excused himself from the table, leaving the guests to bicker over how long Henri might have to live and who deserves more money etc. This all disgusts Lillian, who announces: “I’ve had enough of this! Laura and I will retire to our room now.” This is technically where the introduction finishes, with Laura and Lillian appearing in the guest room they will be sharing together.
"I have...ahem...other matters to attend to."
You can't choose your family
The words “Act I” appeared onscreen, along with a clock face on which the hands ticked over to exactly 7:00pm. Lillian excused herself to go freshen up in the bathroom, suggesting I “explore the estate a bit”. After she departed the room, Laura voiced her feelings about the evening so far: “Hmmmm...something doesn’t feel right. Everybody’s acting too strange...even Lillian. What would Daddy do in a situation like this?” I have to say that this seemed a little forced to me. The family weren’t being particularly nice, but I don’t think any of them were acting suspiciously enough to kick off an investigation. Laura must indeed have extremely good intuition! After Laura had questioned what her father would do in the “situation”, an image of him appeared: “Honey, if things don’t feel right, they probably AREN’T. Observe the situation closely, yet be unobtrusive. Explore your surroundings quietly and carefully. Try to question the others without raising suspicion. Notice small details. Take lots of notes. And above all, be careful.” This all seemed like pretty good advice, and by now I was keen to get on and put it into practice. Laura collected her notepad and pencil from her suitcase, and control was handed to me.
Act 1: "Laura begins investigating a crime that hasn't occurred yet"
Note 1: "I forgot to take my medicine again and am already hearing my father's voice in my head!"
I asked both Lillian and Ethel about all the other guests. Their answers were occasionally interesting, but nothing stood out as critical. For example, when asked about Henri, Lillian responded with “If you ask me, I think he’s having a little fling with Fifi!” When asked about Rudolph, Ethel responded with “My nephew tries to pass himself off as a gentleman, but he’s nothing but a worthless gambler and womanizer!” I took screenshots of all their responses, but was yet to figure out whether randomly questioning people was the way to go or not. The idea of going around asking everyone about everyone brought Mortville Manor to mind, and that really didn’t make for a pleasant thought! I decided to move through the house, mapping it out as I went, and hoping that more specific motives would arise. Now, before I go on, I’ve been pondering how best to blog through The Colonel’s Bequest so I don’t spend eighteen weeks on it. If I were to describe every conversation I had and every little thing that I investigated on every screen, we’d all be in for a long and boring ride, particularly as it's quickly becoming apparent that I will be revisiting pretty much every screen multiple times. With this in mind, I’ve made the decision to give you a tour of the first floor of the house for the remainder of this post, ignoring all the minor conversations and item investigations that went on. Here goes...
I'm still trying to figure out whether I should ask questions related to my current task or just ask everyone everything. Then again I don't actually have a task yet!
THE FIRST FLOOR
The guest room that Laura and Lillian occupy is on the first floor of the house, which as you can see from the map I made below, contains seven rooms plus a connecting hallway (and two hidden rooms, but we’ll get to that later).
My home has a total of five rooms. This one floor has six bedrooms!
The room to the right of the guest room was once a nursery, but is now occupied by Lillian’s mother Ethel. I could find nothing in this room that I could interact with.
The first floor main hallway is displayed across two screens, with the first one having doors leading off in three directions. Most tellingly though, when I typed “look at floor”, I was informed that: “You notice deep scuff marks on the floor near the two armoires.” Following up on this lead, I was able to move both the left and right armoires to reveal hidden rooms, which I'll cover soon.
The door to the north of the hallway led to a bathroom. I could find nothing of interest there, but did experience a great death scene when I made Laura take a shower! Laura rather surprisingly stripped naked (although I guess it’s not that surprising when you know that Roberta once posed naked in a tub for the cover of Softporn Adventures) and hopped into the bath to take a shower. Someone entered the room, and a knife glinted in the darkness. By now you can probably guess what happened next! The jarring music of Psycho kicked in and Laura was brutally murdered, pulling the shower curtain down as she fell.
What's that? You want me to show more screenshots? Shame on you!
This death scene was far better than the whole Psycho game!
The door to the west of the hallway led to Henri’s room. The only interesting thing I could find there was an elevator, but I could find no way of using it. If Henri was in the room then he would tell me to “Stay out of my elevator!” and if he wasn’t there the elevator would be ascended to an upper floor with no apparent way of bringing it back down. I can only assume that when Henri's not in his bedroom, he has taken the elevator up to wherever the elevator goes.
The door leading further west out of Henri’s room took me to a room that hadn’t been used for a long time, yet “currently seems to be the guest room of Dr. Wilbur C. Feels.” I could find nothing to do in this room at all.
Moving down to the southern half of the hallway, I gained access to two more rooms, three sets of stairs and a closet. Interestingly, the chandelier hanging from the arched ceiling regularly shifts about as though it could fall at any time. I can only imagine it will play a role at some point. The closet was empty.
The eastern door leading out of this section took me to another guest room, with this one belonging to Rudy and Clarence. Unsurprisingly there wasn’t anything to do in there, but once again the eyes of the child in the picture on the wall were described as having a “strange, faraway look in them”.
The western door leading out of the lower hallway section took me to Gloria and Gertie’s guest room. There was nothing that I could do, but this time it was a horse on the wall that had a “strange, vacant stare”.
That completes our tour of the mansion’s first floor! So what did we learn from all this? Well, clearly all those vacant stares had to mean something, and I quickly discovered what it was. Both the armoires in the hallway open up to reveal hidden corridors. Once inside the corridors I could look through the eyes of four paintings, spying in on people within Henri’s room, as well as the guest rooms of Rudy and Clarence, Gloria and Gertie, and my own room. The trick was doing it at the right time. If I walked into Henri’s room prior to spying on it I would catch Fifi and Henri about to kiss, but they would quickly move away from each other after noticing my presence. Interestingly, the clock would appear on screen and tick over to 7:15 if this happened; suggesting I’d missed my opportunity to witness their conversation. However, if I entered the left hidden corridor and spied on them before entering the room, the clock would tick over and I could witness the two being very intimate. Fifi: “Oh, mon ami, I find it difficult to refuse you. I am so attracted to you.” Henri: “Well, I WAS quite a blade in my younger days!” Fifi: “Oh la la, I can tell, Henri, I can tell!” Henri: “Ah, Fifi, my dear. I DO appreciate you, but you’d better leave now before we’re noticed.” Fifi: “If you say so, Henri. Au revoir, mon cheri.”
My first and only real success in a whole post!
There are hidden doors into the rooms too, but I couldn't use them while there were people in there.
...and all your money!
Looking into my own room was also rewarding, although the time notably didn’t move onto 7:30 when I did. Ethel was having a bitch about Gertie. Ethel: “Gertie isn’t deserving of any of Henri’s money! Why, she’s not even a blood relative!” Lillian: “What are you going to DO about it, Mother?” Ethel: “Well, I can certainly talk to Henri about her and those two brats of hers!” Lillian: “You never change, do you, Mother?” Ethel: Never mind, Lillian. You and I will never agree on anything!” So I’m beginning to see how The Colonel’s Bequest might work, and it has me a little concerned to be honest. I know it’s early stages, but the game looks like it might be all about being in the right place at the right time, which is going to involve going back and forward between all the locations multiple times. The fact that I’ve not been able to pick up a single item so far suggests it’s not going to act like a standard Sierra adventure game, but I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a completely linear story with little actual puzzle solving. Reader comments suggest it requires a lot of thought, so hopefully I’m worrying about nothing, but I guess it depends exactly how that thought is supposed to be applied. Perhaps I’m just worrying about the obvious similarities to Mortville Manor, albeit in a much prettier environment!
Let's hope she doesn't, particularly when I'm looking into the room!
Session Time: 1 hour 00 minutesTotal Time: 1 hour 00 minutes
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've written 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 points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!