Sunday, 8 September 2013

Game 34: The Colonel's Bequest - Final Rating

There have been some tough games to rate over the course of this blog, but The Colonel’s Bequest will likely take the cake. The fact is that I probably haven’t played the game the way it was meant to be played, and yet I think I’m within my rights to play any game the way I see fit, rather than being forced down a specific path based on the will of the designers. I can only review and rate a game according to my own experience, but I think I will have to show some leniency in at least one category. Let’s see how it goes...

Puzzles and Solvability
The Colonel’s Bequest was clearly designed with multiple play throughs in mind. The player is supposed to play through reasonably quickly, picking up different clues each time, and trying to piece it all together gradually. I took a different approach, partly through choice, but mostly due to not wanting to get bogged down for too long with any one game on this blog. The truth is that I missed a lot of the adventure style puzzles in the game, meaning I was for the most part just an onlooker, gathering clues that amounted to very little. The bits I missed sound genuinely interesting, such as the stuff that occurs in the chapel and the basement, and would have allowed me to actually use all the items I collected on my way through the eight acts. However, now that I know why and how I missed these sections, I do think they were too well hidden. The belltower and armour puzzles weren’t majorly concealed, but the many deaths I encountered while trying to solve them simply put me off the scent. Other Sierra games might have given me a “perhaps if you tried that a different way” style message after these failures, to at least let me know that there was some benefit to persevering.


Once this occurred, I never considered ringing the bell again.

The other “puzzle” I have a problem with is the lost necklace one. Firstly, I didn’t know that Celie was missing a necklace. Secondly, there was nothing to suggest that the necklace was hidden in Beauregard’s doghouse. Thirdly, I looked in the doghouse numerous times and didn’t find the necklace, meaning it was only there at certain times. Fourthly, I was able to give the bone to Beauregard in the kitchen, at which point I was not able to get it back without restoring, which made the whole thing impossible to solve. It’s true that I finished the game without finding the necklace and therefore befriending Celie, so I shouldn't complain too much, but I feel I missed out on a major part of the “adventuring” through skipping it. I think part of the reason I struggled with the game overall is because I was waiting to be given a puzzle to solve. I spent little time trying to use my items because I had no real reason to. I didn’t need a lantern, so I didn’t spend much time trying to get it. I didn’t need a bell, so why would I try to attain one? Throughout the whole game, I didn’t “need” anything apart from the monocle, making it a very different beast to every other game on the list so far. I have to be harsh and give the game a 3 for this rating, but if I rated completely based on my experience, it could be even lower.
Rating: 3


 So giving the dog the bone was the right thing to do, but just not yet.

Interface and Inventory
The Colonel’s Bequest is a very professionally made game, and given how well established the Sierra technology was by the time it was made, it’s no surprise that the interface has no major flaws. With so much of the game revolving around questioning guests, the parser was always going to make or break it, and I think it was pretty good all up. I did have some minor issues, such as the game not thinking a character was in a room when they were, or interpreting my request for action was for an item in my possession rather than one within the room I was exploring, but nothing that threatened to lower my enjoyment levels. There were some pretty complex commands required too, such as “tell ethel about fifi and henri”, so I should commend it rather than criticise it. I never had any movement issues either, even though the mansion contained a few staircases (Sierra’s old Achilles heel). Finally there’s the inventory, which I can only describe as adequate. It was basically just a list of items that I could select to see a visual representation. I guess it would have been nice to have received a detailed description too, without having to use the parser to get one.
Rating: 6


The Colonel's Bequest was a very professionally made game all up. Glitches like this one were few and far between.

Story and Setting
The story of The Colonel’s Bequest is really a very cliché whodunit mystery, with many attempts made to make it difficult for the player to be certain who the killer is. The intro sets things up really nicely, although I really do have to question the sanity of anyone that would almost suggest family members take each other out the way Colonel Dijon does. He might as well have said: “Whoever is still left standing at the time of my death can split the remaining money. Now off you go!” It’s difficult to call the story and setting unique at this stage of the genre’s evolution, particularly as Mortville Manor had a very similar setup (to a lesser extent, so did Psycho), but it certainly gave Sierra fans a different experience to the typical Space Quest and King’s Quest fair. I do really like that it was set in the 1920s, as that gave the whole thing a flavour I wasn’t highly accustomed with. While I’m being positive, the twist towards the end of the game (when it appeared as though Lillian wasn’t the killer) really caught me by surprise, and it played out nicely given the doubt that put in my mind. I also really like that the protagonist acted in a completely moral way throughout, refusing to touch items that didn’t belong to her, unless of course they had been left behind or discarded. Probably my biggest problem with the story (apart from the fact I was just a passenger) is how many seemingly important threads were created that didn’t turn out to have any relevance (what was Gloria’s medical condition? Why did we find out about Sunny Boy? etc. etc. etc.) I understand that all of these were there to create potential motives, but they caused me to ask a LOT of useless questions.
Rating: 5


 Things that seemed relevant in early acts played no role at all later in the game.

Sound and Graphics
My first post was full of praise for the visuals and sound in The Colonel’s Bequest, but the promise that was displayed in my first session wasn’t completely lived up to. The wonderful 1920s music that came through in the intro was rarely heard in the actual game, only coming back when either Gloria or Fifi decided to put a record on (that is nice use of sound though). The quality of the visuals didn’t diminish, but the level of animated background life that was displayed early on did. For the most part the game is silent, which is something I’m hoping will be remedied in games on the list for 1990. There were some background sound effects (crickets, frogs etc.) heard in the outside locations, but otherwise sound is reserved for the opening of a door or the chiming of a clock. Graphics-wise, the game looks really nice. Characters are well represented, and each of them has a unique look. The use of light and shadows (not dynamic of course) was also really effective throughout, and despite the limited colour palette making it challenging to represent an atmospheric night-time mood, I think they did a good job. The animation was on the higher end of the spectrum too, being very smooth and convincing. Just watch Ethel stumbling around drunk, Rudy and Clarence having a fist fight, or Jeeves pinching Fifi’s bottom to see what I mean. The game isn’t on par with Indiana Jones or Hero’s Quest, but it was definitely as good as the chasing pack.
Rating: 6


 The use of shadow was really effective throughout

Environment and Atmosphere
Many of you predicted that this game might reach a new high for this category, and there’s no doubt that it’s the best thing about it. Given the game’s setting is one long night in a creepy mansion where guests are being brutally murdered one by one, it would have been a tragedy if it had lacked atmosphere. The estate where the whole mystery plays out is wonderful to behold. It’s a really beautiful place that I’d actually like to visit had it been real. I do however feel that it could have been used to better effect by the game’s designers, as I spent far too much time spying on people from hidden rooms in the mansion rather than solving interesting puzzles out in all the surrounding locations. The Colonel’s Bequest is dripping with atmosphere, with the murderer’s silhouette seen passing windows, spirits in the cemetery, and alligators guarding the swamps. I wish I’d found the bible in the chapel and found my way to the basement, as these missed sections had potential to increase this category even further. The player deaths were perhaps unfair, but they also added to the sense of danger, and who doesn’t love a good Psycho shower scene rip-off! I’m going high here, but my lack of involvement in what was actually going on, and the consistent silence, has to reduce the result somewhat.
Rating: 7


 The mansion itself was a major character in the game

Dialogue and Acting
As is the trend with the games I’ve played this year, there’s a lot of dialogue in The Colonel’s Bequest, and a lot of it is not really all that critical to the actual story. I have to say that it’s pretty well handled in this instance though, with each character having a distinct “voice”. The language used by each of them was convincing, and gave all of them a unique flavour, particularly Celie and Fifi (although I guess some of it is bordering on racial stereotyping). Ethel’s drunkenness was clearly apparent, as was Henri’s grumpiness, Gloria’s snobbishness, and Jeeves’ gloomy demeanour. The use of capital letters and even censored swear words also helped give the dialogue some life, and I noticed only a few minor errors despite the large quantity. There were no signs of branching dialogue trees, and I think this is a good example of a game that really could have done with them. I had to ask every character countless questions based on combinations of other guests’ names, and then had to repeat them time and time again later on, since things had changed. It got a bit tedious, especially as I rarely found out anything useful.
Rating: 6


 I was sad when Ethel died. She was pure entertainment!

Looking at the ratings I’ve attributed here, I think The Colonel’s Bequest is going to rate a bit higher than I’d expected. 3 + 6 + 7 + 6 + 5 + 6 = 33, divided by 60 = 0.55, which gives it a score of 55! That would put it equal with Space Quest I and III, as well as King’s Quest IV. While I enjoyed playing the game, I don’t think I’m happy with it sitting that high on the leader board, particularly since there are so few traditional adventure game puzzles in it, so I’m going to use my discretionary point to drop it down to 54.


Did anyone predict 54? I’m going to have a look right now. Well that has to be a first! Three people predicted 54, being Lars-Erik, Deimar and Canageek! I’m sure Lars-Erik would rather the prize go to either Deimar or Canageek, but I’ll do a round robin random number comp anyway. I’ll cut to the chase and say that Canageek has won a copy of Loom! However, since we’ve now figured out that the next game on the list that can actually be purchased is Hugo’s House of Horrors, he will have the choice between Loom and the Hugo Trilogy. I seem to recall Canageek were quite keen to watch me play Hugo, so perhaps you can join me for the “fun”.

55 CAPs for Lars-Erik
• Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
• Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – For predicting what score I would give the game (first)
• Kickstarter Award – 10 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game Kickstarter campaign
• Companion Award – 5 CAPs – For at least giving the game a shot
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam

45 CAPs for Laukku
• Honesty Award – 10 CAPs – For informing me how crappy my screenshots were
• True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing along and completing the game.
• Evil Dog Award – 10 CAPs – He knows why
• Explanation Award – 10 CAPs – For going through everything I missed in my playthrough
• Easter Egg Award – 5 CAPs – For posting a few neat links

40 CAPs for Ilmari
• Helping Hand Award – 20 CAPs – For generally giving hints and advice to all of us playing the game.
• Werewolves and Priestesses Award – 10 CAPs – He knows why
• Explanation Award – 10 CAPs – For going through everything I missed in my playthrough

35 CAPs for Cush1978
• D Riddle Award – 30 CAPs – For solving my D riddle
• Sweet Brown Award – 5 CAPs – For not having time for that

20 CAPs for Zenic Reverie
• True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing along and completing the game.
• Fingerprint Award – 5 CAPs – For helping Draconius to get past the copy protection screen
• Family Relations Award – 5 CAPs – For letting me know that Gloria and Clarence were not married

20 CAPs for Cro Gamer
• What’s Your Story Award – 20 CAPs – For answering the What’s Your Story questionnaire

18 CAPs for Canageek
• Psychic Prediction Award – 8 CAPs – For predicting what score I would give the game (second)
• PNG Program Award – 5 CAPs – For helping me find a new way of managing my screenshots
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam

10 CAPs for Joe Pranevich
• Explanation Award – 10 CAPs – For going through everything I missed in my playthrough

10 CAPs for Draconius
• True Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing along and completing the game.

10 CAPs for Apermama
• Snakes and Ladders and Santa Claus Award – 10 CAPs – He knows why

10 CAPs for Knurek
• PNG Program Award – 10 CAPs - For telling me about PNGOut

10 CAPs for mpx
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on GOG
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG

10 CAPs for Andy_Panthro
• Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For at least giving the game a shot

10 CAPs for Jarikith
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game on Steam

9 CAPs for Deimar
• Psychic Prediction Award – 9 CAPs – For predicting what score I would give the game (second)

5 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on Steam

43 comments:

  1. Well, that's a bit disappointing. I personally think the game deserves a higher Enviroment and Atmoshpere score than Hero's Quest (the current reord holder). The makers of the game clearly tried to make everything in the game as creepy and bleak as possible. The theatre play references, including the pause screen saying "intermission", were also a nice touch. But as you missed both the attic and the basement, and want to rate according to your experience, so be it. I also hugely value innovation, which is why I like the game so much. We won't see such a time progression mechanic with NPCs having their own schedules until The Last Express, I think.

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  2. I'd be remiss if I didn't post these great takes on the story:

    http://youtu.be/QKqhTz-zpfA

    and

    http://youtu.be/5OObUcEOji4

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  3. Hmm, has this Kickstarter been mentioned already?

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/infinitap/neverending-nightmares

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    Replies
    1. Sure looks interesting. I'm not certain they're trying to make an adventure game though. It specifically mentions not wanting to include puzzles, as they "don't contribute to creating an immersive horrifying experience".

      Delete
    2. Well, I found it via Adventure Gamers... then again, their definition of adventure games is occasionally very broad.

      Delete
  4. Also, Laura Bow: World's Worst Detective

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhhdZ2COfQs

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    Replies
    1. My, that's a hilarious minimal run :-D

      At least she does a lot better in the sequel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfqCcATPlGQ

      Delete
  5. I'd probably agree with that score after having played it again. I'd say I over predicted on my memory of twenty odd years ago. There was a lot less gaming as such than I remember.

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  6. I both agree and disagree with your rating. "The Colonel's Bequest" is one of Sierra's great experiments in genre. Just as "Quest for Glory" melded an adventure game with a cRPG, this game owes as much to the legacy of 1982's "Deadline" or 1983's "The Witness" (both from Infocom) as they do "King's Quest". I agree that in this case the melding was not done as well as in the QfG series, but there is a ton of good here:

    1. The atmosphere and game world is terrific. You get to know each of the characters in a much deeper way than in any of the Sierra adventure games to date. The only game I can recall with anywhere near this great a cast of characters is "Maniac Mansion".

    2. The parser is much more intelligent than previous games. Try to even consider how you'd ask about pairings in a click-adventure like later Sierra; I don't know how they'd do it. Sadly, most of the dialog you find that way isn't that useful.

    I feel that to play through the game "properly" what you could have done is beat the game however then acted on the hints that you received at the end to see how that would have impacted your next play through. Your criticisms about some of the puzzles being obtuse are right on, but how many Sierra games have you played so far? ;)

    I wish you liked this game more, but you didn't. Onward!

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  7. I knew when I guessed my score that there was every chance I'd go the wrong way. But to be honest, the idea of a game that was a little more playable the second time around as anything but a speed run was what I was banking on.

    Still, a fun game at the worst. I played the FPS Thief as a hack n slash kill everyone game, losing as many stealth points as humanly possible. That made the 'proper' play through I did later that much more entertaining to me. Games are whatever you get out of them at the end, no?

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  8. Deja Vu II!

    And congrats, Canageek!

    If you've never played Loom before, you might want to play along Trix when he gets to it.

    It's really innovative with its core system never been, and never will be, emulated.

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  9. CAP Leaderboard Updated

    Admin complete. Time for an End of Year Post!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey... I actually finished the game! Shouldn't I get 10 CAPs?

      Delete
    2. Speaking of 10 caps, is it only 10 because a monkey could finish the game given enough time? ;)

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    3. I've adjusted it to 10 Andy_Panthro. Sorry, it can be difficult to figure out who finished games by just reading through the comments.

      And yes Zenic, I only gave 10 CAPs for this one since you can finish the game without doing anything.

      Delete
    4. Many thanks!

      Got to keep those points coming in, otherwise I might drop down the leaderboard, and I couldn't have that.

      Will you be adjusting the points given for playing along for other games in future? Just wondering if there are any that are difficult enough to warrant more points, but I'm sure there will be more easy ones.

      Delete
    5. I think it'd a good idea to get extra points for any game Trickster requires assistance for, but he hasn't needed any in quite some time.

      Delete
    6. I've got a seeeecret source for helping Trickster through Limbo of the Lost. Hell, I'll even play that one through with him (using a walkthrough, though, to avoid pixel hunting). Telling him "No, down left, more left. There is the 3 pixel, flush with background target you need to click" should get me a few CAPs, right?

      Delete
  10. Woot! I lost my CAPs AND Game Prize cherry AT THE SAME TIME!

    That's like calling dibs on both Victoria Justice and Scarlett Johanssen together in an orgy!

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    Replies
    1. Nah, I deflowered you last game! You got 20 CAPs for the What's Your Story entry. :)

      Now I'm off to Google to find out who this Victoria Justice is and how she could be spoken of in the same sentence as Scarlett.

      Delete
    2. "What's Your Story" doesn't count. It was more like a Lockpicking set when you get a Thieves' Guild Membership or the complimentary drink you get after paying for a club's cover charge.

      Delete
  11. Yay, I broke 200 CAPs!

    Can't wait for the Year That Was post!

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  12. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs is now available on both Steam and GoG (Previously it was a pre-order).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anyone who liked Penumbra and Amnesia played this yet?

      I loved the other games, but with a different developer, I'm not sure how A Machine for Pigs will compare.

      Delete
  13. Actually, I'm going to offer the game to Deimar: While I love reading Trickster's blog, I don't actually play many (or any really) adventure games. I love seeing them through, but as a rule the gameplay doesn't appeal to me.

    On that note, don't any get any points for giving you a game to use as a prize? I mean, no one wanted it, but that wasn't my fault!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Canageek, but I already got Loom (both a physical copy, the spellbook is awesome though a bit spoilerish, and on Steam), so I'll pass on it too

      Delete
    2. I've got it already as well. :p

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    3. Does anyone want a copy of Loom?

      Delete
    4. I do, but I'm thinking of getting it with the Indy Jones collection on Steam.

      What's more, I already got QFG.

      Maybe you should hold a Riddle Contest.

      Delete
    5. Poor Canageek; no one wants his games. I already have Loom on console, which I hope to actually blog about this time when I join in on the fun to note differences.

      Delete
    6. Ooh - can I reject a copy of Loom too.

      As with seemingly everyone else on the blog, I already own it.

      Delete
  14. On the topic of the game, for, despite the fact it is 1:21 in the morning I don't feel tired, I liked the story and setting of this one. It was serious and whatnot, though it had a sense of humour to it. It didn't feel Loony Toons for the most part. It sounds rather boring to play, but that could be because replaying non-strategy games isn't my thing.

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  15. Speaking of adventure games featuring detectives. Here's a link to the official trailer for Tex Murphy: Tesla Effect. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBbzzUBiUEg

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    Replies
    1. Fair warning: It contains spoilers regarding the ending of Tex Murphy: Overseer that's coming up in 1998.

      I do love the trailer though. ;)

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    2. Yes, already the trailer they had up for the KS campaign spoiled Overseer's ending with no warnings and right off the bat. That pissed me off as I was caught completely unaware. What were they thinking?

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    3. I stopped watching the trailer about a minute in to avoid spoilers for Tesla Effect itself - I've already bought the game so there's no point them trying to sell it to me at this point :)

      As for Overseer spoilers, yes it spoils the ending, but most of the game is unrelated to the spoiled ending so it doesn't actually spoil the plot of the game - hope that makes sense, it made more sense in my head before I typed it out.

      Delete
  16. I've not had a chance to read through it yet (too but putting together the end of 1989 post), but this looks like a very interesting conversation about the state of the adventure genre. The Adventure Gamer gets a mention too. :)

    http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=9141

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    Replies
    1. Man, that was long! Interesting read though.

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    2. Good gods!

      I've never read an interview THIS long before!

      It's like reading a biography!

      Delete
  17. I know I'm a little late to the party, but I was following along through most of the posts. Question for anyone out there using ScummVM on a MacbookPro... is there a way to make Colonel's Bequest draw the transition animation from screen to screen any faster? It's horrendously slow and I tried various graphics modes. Not sure if its Mac, or resolution, or ScummVM, or what. Any help would be great in case future games have the same problem. Thanks.

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  18. Hey everyone. I was reading an article and found this: Did any of you try 'taking a shower'? (Result: Warning, pixilated, skyclad women: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCu3txSxzaQ )

    ReplyDelete