Saturday, 11 June 2016

Cruise for a Corpse - Class Warfare

Written by Joe Pranevich

Attempted murder!

Welcome back! Last week, our murder investigation took a sharp turn as Raoul had to save Suzanne from drowning. Someone had damaged the deck where she liked to stand, causing it to collapse and send her tumbling into the sea. We have a number of good leads on who would want to kill Niklos (in short: just about everyone), but why target Suzanne? She wasn’t in line for the inheritance so what would be gained by her death?

This post will wrap up the rest of Cruise for a Corpse, excepting a final reveal of the killer in the next post. Who do you think did it? I’d love to hear your theories in the comments (no spoilers if you have played through already). This final section returns to traditional “adventure game” territory so if you found yourself drifting through some of the long sections of dialog and clue-searching, this is a good spot to jump back on. Just as I did last week, I’ll summarize the clues and the suspects at the end of this post to help you make an informed decision.

Ready to go? Let’s play!

My first stop is to talk to Suzanne about her near-death experience. She’s shaken up and tells me that she knows one person that would want to kill her, but that person is already dead: Niklos. Before her passing, Agnes had written a letter to Suzanne telling her that Niklos was poisoning her with the “medicine” that she was being given. Suzanne claims that she only came on the cruise so that she could investigate Agnes’s death. We know from other suspects that Agnes was afraid of doctors. Can we take this revelation at face value? Either way, Suzanne asks me to fetch her cosmetics case from her room but when we arrive, it has been ransacked. Someone else is hunting for that letter?

And they were much less careful than I have been!

The cosmetics case is missing, but we find a music box in the mess. I can’t seem to do anything with it right now, so I head back to Suzanne… but she’s not there. Has she gone back to the bar? Has she been kidnapped or killed? I ask around, but the only new information that I learn is Rebecca telling me that Rose threatened Niklos with a gun. That doesn’t matter for what I’m working on right now, but I’ll file it away for later. I already suspected that Rose had learned the truth about Niklos’s manipulation of her life and this moves Rose up the list of potential murders.

Despite my best efforts, I get stuck again without leads and with nothing obviously new anywhere. I give up and consult the walkthrough again to find that there’s now a key in one of the bins in the laundry room. I really wish the game did not hide things in this way. It mostly serves to pad out the playing time and it makes very little sense from a narrative standpoint. I get that we shouldn’t find an incriminating object until the right time in the game to do so, but a key? And aren’t there better ways to keep the plot on the rails?

Dance, ballerina, dance!

Key in hand, I search all of the locked doors and cabinets that I know of on the ship to find one where the key fits, to no avail. Right when I am about to give up, I remember that the music box also has a keyhole! Returning to Suzanne’s room, I use the key and the ballerina does a little dance. It’s nice, but not helpful. I experiment and find that you can click on the ballerina to prevent it from moving before turning the key. It’s easy to miss, only a few pixels on the top that you can manipulate, but doing that opens a secret drawer containing a letter.

Why did Suzanne have this?

It’s… not the letter that I thought. Instead of being a letter from Agnes about the potential murder plot, it’s a note from someone that did a “little job” that Niklos asked him to do and is requesting payment. Which little job is this? How did Suzanne get this letter? Who hid it in the music box? All good questions, but I don’t find any easy answers. I ask everyone that I can about the letter but everyone denies seeing it. June 16 is only a few days after Mercedes’s death. Is that what this letter is about?

I’m too rich to die!

As soon as I arrive at the bar, I am interrupted by the captain (!!) and asked to come very quickly. Where the heck has he been hiding the whole cruise? I arrive on the upper deck just in time to find Rebecca holding Dick at gunpoint. Before I can rush in and save him, Daphne plays the hero; she throws a purse at Rebecca at knocks her unconscious. Frustratingly, no one has any new dialog options about what just happened. Even Dick doesn’t bring it up-- it’s as if the designers just forgot to write any dialog for this. All I can do is pick up Daphne’s purse and return it to her.

Daphne says that she doesn’t think Rebecca had the guts to pull the trigger, but she felt that she needed to act anyway. She’s a hero! But in my conversation, I learn a very important detail: Niklos is nearly broke! He and Rebecca had been counting on Agnes’s money to continue their lifestyle and not getting it has hit them hard. This makes Rebecca’s motivations much clearer. It’s also time for another flashback!

She knows me so well!

Daphne describes to us what happened at the reading of the will: (She wasn’t there, so she must have heard this secondhand.) Niklos and Rebecca were invited to a private meeting with a lawyer where they learned that they were to receive almost nothing. Agnes bequeathed to them only 2000 French Francs, what she calculated her room and board would have been while she stayed in Niklos’s home. Apparently since Agnes had to build her fortune by hand, she did not want to help Niklos maintain his. (I do some searching online and find that two thousand 1920s Francs would be worth around $1500 dollars today. Even if that’s not quite right, it still suggests a trivial sum for someone so wealthy.)

Introducing… Dick!

The lawyer then continued that all the remainder of the fortune would be given to Dick Schmock. Niklos seemed not to know of Dick until he showed up at the lawyer’s office. That contradicts what Tom told us earlier, but he could have been wrong. According to Daphne, Niklos vowed not to allow Dick to get the money. That changes things up a bit. Could it be that Niklos (and Rebecca) wanted to kill Dick, but that he was killed first? Was Niklos’s death self-defense? But if so, why wouldn’t Dick have just come out and said that. And why would Rebecca keep up the plot? At this point, what could she possibly win by killing Dick? She’s not a blood relative to Agnes. Dick’s will, if he wrote one, wouldn’t have given her anything. This doesn’t seem very well thought out.

“The butler did it!”

As I walk around the ship the next time, we get a funny little segment where several passengers beckon me into their cabins to confide in me who they believe to be the real murderer. It’s a nice change of pace. Most of their theories are things that we know about already, but it’s fun to see the possible killers throwing others under the bus:
  • Rebecca says that it’s Rose who killed Niklos for the “best reasons”. Niklos conspired to have Rose’s ex-fiance blackmailed so that Tom could marry her, to secure his place in her father’s firm. Seems overly complicated, but we know Rose knew of the deception. 
  • Rose admits that she’s always known of Tom’s affair and that she believes Tom killed Niklos; she even spied him throwing something overboard last night. But even if Tom did it, she thinks that Rebecca shares the guilt for manipulating him. They both should be arrested. 
  • Father Fabiani says that Suzanne killed Niklos because she discovered, or at least strongly suspected, that he had killed Agnes. Since the priest is the reason that Suzanne was invited onto the cruise in the first place, I wonder if that doesn’t at least imply that he’d have been in on it. 
  • Daphne blames Father Fabiani because of his great loss at the poker game. I don’t see the point since he wouldn’t be able to recover the money that way, but revenge isn’t always logical. 
  • Julio doesn’t have any theories. Typical Julio...
When I’m done with all of the secret messages, I get one more: a note from Hector to meet him in his room.

It was the band! The speckled band!

I arrive to find that Hector has been stabbed and is near death. Just before he passes, he tells me that the corpse… wasn’t Niklos. What!? But just as he’s about to say who the murderer is, he dies. The game forces me to leave the room, but I return immediately to search but cannot find anything new. The box that I couldn’t get before still sits just out of reach with a message that getting it will make Hector mad. No, I don’t think that’s true.

What does it mean that Niklos is not the corpse? I suspected that something was up when the body disappeared and there didn’t seem to be enough blood. Was Hector and Niklos planning something and the whole cruise is just a ruse? He planned to get Raoul on board, trigger the “murder mystery” and have me do… what, exactly? I might not be on the right track since Hector said that the corpse wasn’t Niklos, not that there wasn’t a corpse. Or is that a translation error? I am so confused.

The strange thing is that as we re-explore the ship, Raoul can’t talk to anyone about Hector’s death. There is no new conversation options at all, not based on the private conversations we just had, not about Hector, and not about Rebecca’s near killing of Dick. Once again, it seems like the game just didn’t write dialog for this part, which is strange because of how much dialog we’ve had up to this point. But we quickly do find one thing new: we can finally get into the kitchen!

A new room! Let’s explore it!

The kitchen has a ton of things to click on and explore, but the only things of interest appear to be a can opener (which I pocket), a window into the dining room, and a service hatch in the floor. I feel positive that there has to be something I can feed the cat in here, but if so I cannot find it. Not even a can of tuna! I’ve been trying to feed the cat the whole game; he has to be getting pretty hungry by now.

Why does Niklos keep a giant birdcage down here?

The service hatch leads to a storage room, the space just behind the barred door that we saw in the beginning of the game. Why it is barred from that side, I have no idea, but there are a ton of great items in here: a crowbar, a loose floorboard, and a reel of film hidden in the floor. Finally, we’ll get to use the film projector we found in the smoking lounge! As we leave, I use my new crowbar to take the boards off the door, to make this room more accessible. Unfortunately...

Being dragged to certain doom.

Murderer: 3, Raoul: 0

No sooner do I pop the boards off the door than Raoul is attacked by a shadowy figure and dragged away. Our first death in the game! I had been pretty sure there wouldn’t be a way to die, but I was mistaken. Time to reload.

Would have been funnier if the cans were labeled “pineapple”.

I restore back and finish exploring the storage room. One of the crates can be opened by the crowbar and I find canned goods. Eureka! I have cat food! But when I use the can opener, I am disappointed to find not hearty and kitty-friendly crab meat, but grenades. I can’t actually pick them up, probably because Raoul doesn’t want to blow up the ship, but why is this cruise carrying stockpiles of explosives? There has been nothing in any of the backstories so far to explain it…. Or, is someone planning on blowing up the whole ship with all of us on it? Uh oh.

I head up to the smoking room next to see what is on the reel of film, but for some reason the projector doesn’t work. I do my usual routine of talking to everyone again, but nothing is new. Once again, I have to consult the walkthrough only to find that this time I’ve been bitten by a bug: time was supposed to move forward when I opened the crate, but it did not. I restore, open the crate again and it’s now 5:00 PM. I’m glad I gave up asking for hints because this is just awful.

A film projector and a desperate need for light.

With time moving again, I am able to find a screwdriver that someone has carelessly left in the engine room. Oh, I love these coincidences! Since the beginning of the game, there have probably been more than a dozen objects that hinted that I might be able to do something with them, if only I had a screwdriver: a lamp here, an access panel there. And yet, now that I finally have one, none of those things do anything. Even when it says right in the description that I need to use a screwdriver, the screwdriver does nothing. At least tell me that I have the wrong head! I quickly find one place where I really can use the screwdriver and it’s the obvious one: the film projector.

Can you do it while drinking water?

I suspect there is a little puzzle with the projector, but if there is I solved it by accident. After I open it, I discover that the reel is stuck. I fiddle around with the buttons and it’s working again. I suspect there is supposed to be more thought around it, but whatever I did solved it by accident. The film appears to be of a ventriloquist act by someone that looks a lot like a younger version of Niklos. Did Niklos have some scandalous liberal arts background before becoming an eccentric rich guy? Is a love of puppets his deep, dark secret?

Time advances again and now Daphne is standing in Dick’s usual spot in front of the mermaid. We still don’t have an in-game explanation for the code, or even anyone mentioning that they hear it. Is Daphne in on whatever it is, too? Are she and Dick both space aliens from the future and they use the mermaid statue to communicate with their robot overlords? Probably not. She hands me a note saying that Suzanne knows who the killer is and wants to meet with me. I suppose it’s not surprising that everyone has a theory at this point.

And Suzanne is dead, too. Damn.

North Korea? Nikita Khrushchev? New Kids on the Block?

I guess I’m not surprised when I get to Suzanne’s room and find out that she’s been killed. Whomever was trying to take her out in a subtle way must have just given up and taken the direct approach. But who would benefit from both her and Hector being dead? What connects them? Maybe Suzanne knew or suspected too much about Agnes’s death; was Hector involved in that as well? Certainly as Niklos’s butler, if he was mistreating his aunt Hector would know, right? Just before her death, Suzanne carved the initials “NK” in into the floorboards with her fingernails. What is she trying to say? I’m leaning towards Niklos not really being dead, but I’m not sure what he gains by this whole ruse if that’s the case or why he would need to kill Hector. Is there a different murderer and so Niklos staged his own death so that he’d be off the board while he worked out who the real killer was?

I explore the ship again and still no new dialog options for any of the suspects. I feel like the developers just stopped the “interrogation” portion of the game, but for one that was so focused on dialog up to this point, having no one talk to you about what is happening is a drastic shift. Did they just run out of time?

Where are we going, anyway?

On this trip around the ship, I find that for the first time in the game, the captain’s quarters are unlocked! I’ve only seen him during cutscenes and times when I couldn’t interact with him, but a few seconds of exploration reveal that I’ve seen more of him than I thought: he’s been disguised as the engineer that I find working on the engines. Why exactly would he do that? Is it just a hobby or was he trying to keep an eye on the ship and her passengers without being noticed? It’s an interesting idea. I also learn that he dreams of being a train conductor rather than a ship captain.

Could it be… a secret passage?

His cabin also contains the missing book! You might remember that in the beginning of the game, we found that Niklos’s bookshelf had a puzzle where you had to rearrange a section of books on a bookshelf. We couldn’t solve it then because it appeared as if we were missing a book or two. Inside the book is a map to a hidden room on the ship with the phrase, “INCAL”. Is it French? Googling it only comes up with the “International Conference on Aluminium”. Perhaps it is just a nonsense password. I head back downstairs and rearrange the books to spell out that phrase and a secret door opens up!

An offer I couldn’t refuse?

What happens next is very confusing and I’m not sure I “get” it. Raoul enters the secret room and someone tells me that we betrayed the Godfather and have to pay the price. Does the assailant think that Raoul is Niklos? In any event, this unlocks a new little combat minigame: left button to dodge, right button to punch. It takes me two tries to win, but in the end it wasn’t very difficult. Searching the hitman’s body, I find a mafia contract on Niklos’s life. Why would the mafia want him dead? Is this why Niklos would fake his own death? Did the hitman kill Suzanne and Hector or did someone else? Niklos? The questions keep piling up. And how did some random mafia guy get onto the ship and end up in Niklos’s secret compartment? How does any of this make sense?

The rest of the room is no less confusing. It contains a hidden stage and the puppet that I saw on the film, plus a makeup table. We’re able to pick up the puppet, but not much else. The room is plastered with posters for Ostrovich, but who is he? Niklos’s long lost brother? Why would Niklos create this theater-shrine to him on his ship?

Creepy.

Searching the ship yet again, I find Daphne in the smoking lounge and show her the puppet. She flashes back to a dream that she had as a child. She dreamt that she heard her father fighting with someone. He yelled out, “Stop! Dimitry, don’t be a fool.” She ran into the room, only to find that the puppet had killed her father. But when she awoke her father was still alive… but different somehow. He put her in a boarding school a few days later.

Before I can ask any more questions, the Captain appears and informs us that we have arrived at our destination. Raoul, of course, cannot let anyone off the ship without arresting the guilty party. He brings everyone into the room and now it’s time to decide: who did it? And what is “it” that was done? Since Hector is dead, we can’t blame the butler. Who else could it be?

It was… still the butler?

Now we’ve reached the end of our little story. All that remains is to pick which of these individuals killed Niklos and-- we presume-- Suzanne and Hector as well. Rather than finish the game this week, I’m going to let you decide. No peeking at spoilers! Who do you think did it? Write your guess in the comments below and I’ll reveal the answer next week!

Here are an updated list of suspects from last week:

Where did you get those awesome sunglasses?

Daphne - Daughter of Niklos and Mercedes, his first wife. Mercedes died in a car accident when Daphne was six-- and Niklos may have arranged the “accident”. She is somewhat estranged from her family and was not invited to her father’s second marriage. Her father is trying to control her romantic future, pushing an unwanted relationship with Julio, a Spanish playboy with a family fortune.
Motive for Killing Niklos: YES. If she discovered or suspected that Niklos killed her mother. If she did not know Niklos was nearly broke, she could also have done it for the money.

She wasn’t dead! Surprisingly!

Julio - Daphne’s suitor, a racecar driver & collector with a lot of money and time on his hands. He’s not all bad because he helped to raise money to fix the church for Father Fabiani.
Motive for Killing Niklos: NO. None that I have found so far.

Who does your hair?

Rebecca - Niklos’s second wife, but cheating on him with Tom. She’s not a nice person, very class-oriented. She showed almost no emotion with Niklos’s death, even seen kissing Tom less than a day after her husband died. She also does not seem to be above murder and is seen trying to kill Dick, but she also doesn’t seem that smart since doing so would probably not land her a fortune.
Motive for Killing Niklos: YES. Her relationship with Tom makes her want to escape her marriage. Her condescending attitude towards the “help” might also have swayed her into killing the lower-class Suzanne and Hector, if they got in her way.

Do we ever see him standing up in this game? That’s not a wheelchair.

Tom - Niklos’s solicitor, seems to be deeply involved in his finances. Niklos and Tom are close as the former even helped to “arrange” Tom’s marriage to Rose by discrediting her former fiance. We know he’s in deep debt yet buying expensive presents for Rebecca, so he either has poor money-management skills (unlikely) or there is something deeper going on. He is seen discussing murdering Dick to help Rebecca gain access to Agnes’s fortune.
Motive for Killing Niklos: YES. Killing Niklos may allow him to be with his lover, Rebecca.

Going to San Francisco?

Rose - Tom’s wife, a quiet woman that just wants to settle down and have kids. She may know that Tom is cheating on her and she recently purchased a gun… which she claims was to be a gift to Tom. Something about Rose doesn’t add up.
Motive for Killing Niklos: YES. If she discovered that Niklos and Tom conspired to discredit the man that she loved to force her into marrying Tom, there may be hell to pay for both of them.

Nice tux. Who does your dry cleaning?

Dick - Long lost son of Agnes, put up for adoption as an infant and only rediscovered recently. He has few relationships with any members of the family and seems to be disconnected from the politics. We know that Tom and Rebecca want him dead, but Niklos seemed to want him to get closer to the family and invited him on the cruise for that.
Motive for Killing Niklos: YES. He may have discovered that Niklos planned to kill him to get Agnes’s fortune so wanted to beat him to the punch.

I bet he runs a mean parish BINGO game.

Father Fabiani - Friend of Suzanne and Agnes, frequent guest of the family and even invited to Niklos’s poker nights. He’s a compulsive gambler and his problem has been discovered by the church. He may have blown all the money for a church repair on a poker game only to have Niklos “give” it back to him. He was the last person we know of to have seen Niklos before he died.
Motive for Killing Niklos: MAYBE. Niklos may have been blackmailing him over the gambling debt.

None of them have a clear motive for killing Hector or Suzanne, so there must be more going on. The big reveal coming up soon!

Time played: 4 hr 35 min
Total time: 23 hr 10 min

Deaths / Reloads:
          3 restarts due to game crashes (9 total)
          2 deaths

15 comments:

  1. I've played the game, so I won't be doing any guessing. Instead, I'll just point out that a tin of canned crab holding a more sinister content comes right from a Tintin comic (in fact, from the very same comic, which had the boat named Karaboudjan).

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  2. Dick vowed not to allow Dick to get the money.

    This is either a typo or needs to be phrased differently 8)

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  3. Julio has no apparent motive? It must certainly be him.

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  4. Well, beginning to read I started to think that maybe Niklos still was alive, and then the game pretty much says it. Although I suspect that Niklos actually was killed long before the game started and usurped by "Dimitry Ostrovich" who seems to be at least some kind of actor due to the dressing room. So basically someone we know nothing about and is introduced in the last second as a twist. And as a final note I would say Dick Smock was the first victim so that "Dimitry" could usurp his fortune instead since Niklos fortune was run dry, which would explain why "Niklos/Dimitry" was so keen on having him onboard. So as of now "Dick/Niklos/Dimitry Ostriovich" is the murderer... if that makes any sense.

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    1. Does that mean that Dimitry was playing both parts, and Raoul never met the real Dick?

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    2. I like this theory. Sounds pretty Agatha Christie'ish. Can I just second this?

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    3. @Reiko
      Well, if I reread the introduction post correct Raoul never meets any of the passenger, except the butler, before the murder, which would be a perfect opportunity to get rid of Dick and assume his identity. So yeah, he plays both parts, except the dead corpse of Niklos who will be played by Dick.

      @Torch
      Yeah, I probably watched to much Poirot with David Sauchet and that is often the case. The surviving victim is the murderer or he/she was somebody else that tried to hide the identity... often to hide an earlier marriage so that an inheritance could get to them. I usually figures them out by recognising the most famous actor of the cast. Can be a bit tricky though when it comes to actor famous before the 80's or those who becomes famous later on.

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  5. Having played along already (and thus knowing the answer), I'll instead provide this tidbit of bizarre game info:

    There's an alternate way to deal with the mafioso hitman in the secret compartment. How? After opening the compartment but BEFORE entering it - so, while you're still standing in Niklos's office, before you even know there's a threat in the compartment - you "throw" the soap. Yep, the soap from the ship's bathroom, that Raoul could "throw" in Niklos's office to no apparent effect. When you do that with the compartment open, Raoul slides it along the floor into the compartment; and when you enter, the hitman is already knocked out, apparently having slipped on it.

    Guess you could say Raoul...

    (dons shades)

    ...really cleaned his clock.

    YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH

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  6. I have two thoughts on guessing the resolution of the game. One: the answer is more complex than just choosing from the list of suspects at the end of the post. Two: I don't think we have enough information to figure out exactly what happened. In other words, there will probably be additional revelations about motives and relationships, without which the murders don't make sense. That said, I too like the Dmitry theory above. I just don't see why he would kill Hector and Suzanne too. Maybe they discovered that "Dick" wasn't Dick.

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    1. Well, Hector might finally have figured out that his saviour was killed a long time ago, but before he could act Dimitry knocked him out. Suzanne says as much as she believes that "Niklos" is alive and if that was exposed the Dick disguise and usurpation of inheritance would be harder or even impossible.

      Damn, if this isn't the case it will be like in Poirot The Third Floor Flat were he in a mystery play deduces the butler doing the deed, but the play then gives the audience new information pointing at a completely different direction.

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  7. OK I just finished this with the help of a walkthrough. I hated this game and didn't even try to piece the story together. Way too many pixel hunts, glitches, arbitrary event flags, boring characters, clunky interfaces and other annoyances. It was all roaming the ship for the next available item or event.

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  8. I looked at a walkthrough several posts back, to see if the game really is as linear as the posts were suggesting (it is), so I can't play along. I probably wouldn't have guessed right anyway, though.

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  9. The canned goods were not of the golden crab variety. What a shame.

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  10. "Mercedes died in a car accident"

    But what make was the car that she died in? If it was a Mercedes, clearly it was prophetic child-naming. If it was another brand, it was clearly murder due to jealousy of free advertising every time someone asks her name.

    Or maybe I'm looking too much into an unimportant fact in a mystery story...

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