Friday, 23 August 2013

Game 34: The Colonel's Bequest - The Presence of the Dead

Laura Bow Journal Entry 4: "How horrible! I found Wilbur's body in the chapel! He'd clearly been hit in the head with a very heavy object, and I hope I never see such a sight again in my lifetime. I'm beginning to fear that my lifetime may not actually be very long, as now another family member has gone missing under strange circumstances. This time it's Gloria, and once again the things I've heard clearly suggest that Clarence could be involved. I wish the remaining guests would be more forthcoming with information! They're all either drunk, tired or downright hostile! Well, I guess Lillian isn't...but she's acting more than a bit odd right now, reading books to dolls in the playhouse and all. What a terrible night this has turned out to be!"

 Act III: Where Laura Realises That She's Dead, Simultaneously Explaining Why Everyone Has Been Ignoring Her

I don’t actually know how many acts there are in The Colonel’s Bequest. I’ve purposely not looked it up so as not to affect the way I play the game. I imagine there can’t be too many though, as the amount of characters drops by one at the end of each of them. Act III began with Wilbur suddenly disappearing from the library. I immediately set about investigating the room, firstly focussing my attention on the magazine that Wilbur had been reading. "It’s called The Racehorse Quarterly. Upon examining the open page you see a picture of a beautiful thoroughbred named Sunny Boy. The name Sunny Boy has been circled in red." Clearly Sunny Boy was the horse that Clarence and Wilbur had purchased with the 100K they’d stolen from Henri. I wasn’t able to pick up the magazine, so I tried to figure out what the items were that were strewn around on the floor. There was some sort of bar, and what could possibly have been blood just off to the side of the carpet, but typing look at “bar” or “blood” came back with nothing. It was then that I noticed that one of the pokers was missing from next to the fire, and compared screenshots from earlier in the game to confirm that view. Yep, there were definitely two before and now there was only one!

 Sounds like he might as well have crossed it out

I typed “get poker” and got the following message: “As you retrieve the fireplace poker your eyes happen to fall upon some small pink feathers scattered upon the floor.” Aha! I’d solved both mysteries at once! I looked at the feathers and was told that “they look like they may have come from a pillow...or...a feather boa!” Clearly I was supposed to think that Gloria had been involved in Wilbur’s death, as she has a pink feather boa on her at all times. I didn’t believe that for a second though, particularly as I was convinced she would be the murderer’s next victim. It seemed to me that the killer was leaving misleading clues to put whoever found the bodies off their scent. If I was correct, then I could pretty much rule out anyone that seemed connected to each act of violence. I stopped thinking ahead though and got on with my investigation. I wasn’t able to pick up the feathers, and couldn’t find anything else of interest in the room, so I left to test a theory. If I was right that Gloria would be the next victim, which would therefore point the finger even more firmly at Clarence, then if I walked into a screen with Gloria on it, the clock would appear but nothing would happen (she would only be killed at 10:00pm).

 Because they weren't at all noticeable on the blue floor prior to that

I saved my game and entered the billiards room, since that was the last place I’d seen Gloria. She was still there, sitting in the chair in the corner. Just as I’d expected, the clock appeared, but nothing happened! Gloria was going to be the next victim! I’d missed finding out where any of the other remaining house guests were located between 9:00 and 9:15 though, so I restored my game to 9:00 and went looking for them. I also intended to tell anyone I came across about Wilbur’s death, and to show them items I had in my possession. I really hadn’t had much luck getting valuable info out of anyone yet, so I wanted to put more effort into it. The first guest I found was Fifi, who was reading a book in her room. She didn’t believe me when I told her about Wilbur, and didn’t seem interested in the things I showed her. I moved on to Henri’s room, where I found the old man in his wheelchair, smoking a cigar as usual. He was as gruff as he had been every other time I tried to talk to him, and gave me little to nothing. I entered the other guest rooms until I walked in on Clarence and Rudy mid-conversation (the clock ticked over to 9:15). “This ain’t for you, kid!” was all Rudy had to say, meaning I was going to have to spy on them from a hidden room.

 Either I'm reading the game well or the creators are toying with me. Perhaps both!

Can't say I want anything you're offering anyway!

I went to do exactly that, yet was surprised to find an item sitting on the floor in the hidden room. It was an old cane that someone had obviously left behind. I picked it up, immediately thinking I might be able to use it to ring the bell at the tower. Peering through the eyes in the portrait, I witnessed the following: Clarence: “Who is this so-called director that Gloria’s seeing now?! Why, I oughta punch his lights out for getting between me and my gal!” Rudy: “Gloria was never your gal. Just because she went out with you a couple of times, you thought you owned her? Well I got news for you, buddy! sister doesn’t need to settle for the likes of you! As a matter of fact, you were nothing but a mere dalliance for her!” Clarence: “Dalliance! HAH! Why, YOU’RE the one who can’t make a commitment to anyone. You’re just trying to sink Gloria down to your lousy level!” Rudy: “You ain’t good enough to kiss the ground she walks on! You’re nothing but a low-class jerk!” Clarence: “Quit buttin’ in between me and Gloria! This is none of YOUR business! I’ll handle it the way I want and I WON’T be asking YOUR permission!” Rudy: “I’m warning you, Jack! If I see you near my sister again, I’ll cut you up into little pieces and feed them to the dog! GOT IT?!!”

Someone else that knows about the hidden rooms, no less!

Note to self...check Beauregard's bowl regularly

Well, that was one brutal argument! The pattern of the game so far is to knock anyone off that gets on the wrong side of Clarence (regardless of whether he’s doing the killing or not), so this might not end too well for Rudy. Once it was all over, Clarence hopped into bed for a sleep, while Rudy left the room for an as yet unknown destination. I continued through the house, trying to find the location of everyone now that it was 9:15. After confirming that Henri was still in his room, I made my way to the top floor to see if Fifi was still there. She was, but so was Rudy! The progress clock appeared and moved along to 9:30, so I settled back to enjoy Rudy versus Fifi, round two. Rudy grabbed the maid and kissed her, at which point she pushed him away and shouted “Stop!! Stop eet! Leave me alone!!! Get out of my room NOW!!” At first he was merely taken aback, but then he stormed out of the room shouting “You’ll regret that, you little vixen!” It was all very dramatic, and I was keen to talk to Fifi about it, hoping I might get something interesting out of her. Unfortunately, it appeared to me that the game was trying really hard not to give me any opportunities to talk to anyone. Fifi hopped into bed for a rest, and refused to speak to me about anything. I logged the event in my spreadsheet, and moved on.

I really hope Rudy turns out to be the murderer. I want to punish this guy somehow!

I found no-one in the parlor, but simply being there reminded me to try giving Polly another cracker. I’m starting to think that I’ll be able to get a new piece of information out of Polly every act. This time the bird said “She’s after me! AWWKK! So afraid!” Hmmm…who might have said that? The “she” could have been any of five characters too, as Fifi, Celie, Gloria, Lillian and Ethel were all still alive (so was I for that matter). I continued my hunt for house guests, but couldn’t find Lillian, Ethel, Rudy, Jeeves or Celie anywhere in the house. I therefore stepped outside, heading into the cellar firstly to make sure Jeeves was still there. He was, doing general household chores for a bit before seating himself on the sofa. As usual, he showed no interest in answering any of my questions, and generally wanted me to leave him alone. I did, and made my way west of the house where there were still a few locations I hadn’t visited yet. The first one I came to was a cute little playhouse, complete with a swing hanging off a rope tied between two trees. I thought I’d try using the swing (just to see if I could), but rather embarrassingly fell straight through it! To avoid further embarrassment, I entered the playhouse to see what / or who was inside.

AWWKK! Polly know attacker? AWWKK!

I'm not sure how I'm supposed to ask questions around here when literally no-one will talk to me!

Swing Fail

Lillian was there, and so was the progress clock, ticking over to 9:45! My friend seemed to be reading a book to the dolls laid out on the floor, which I assumed was something she’d done previously as a child. Occasionally some of the words appeared on the screen, such as “So she stuck the key in the lock and...” and “She thought she was alone but...”. I looked at the book she was reading and found that it was entitled Bluebeard, and despite this being an apparently important moment, I wasn’t able to interact with anything in the room or talk to Lillian: “It would appear that Lillian is more interested in reading a book to some old dolls than talking to you! It would probably be best to leave her alone right now.” How strange! Why was this important? Was it the first sign that not everything is right with Lillian? Perhaps I was just reading into things too much, and the whole thing meant nothing at all. I left the playhouse, and made my way north to the bell tower. I was keen to find out whether I was able ring the bell now that I had the cane. When I arrived though, I found a very, very drunk Ethel, stumbling around holding a glass. If I tried to talk to her then she just slurred nonsense at me, so I decided to follow her.

 If you think that's odd, you should see the things I have to do to entertain my three year old!

Hey Ethel, I don't suppose you know why Lillian is reading a book to dolls in the, Ethel?

Ethel stumbled west to the chapel, before changing her direction and going south, past the stable. She continued on that trajectory until she reached a swampy section in the south-west corner of the estate. There was an owl there, but I wasn’t able to interact with it or anything else in the environment. With little other choice, Ethel began following the fence to the east, reaching the edge of the driveway before taking a sudden north-west direction across it. We soon arrived at the playhouse where Ethel’s daughter Lillian was, but just as I thought she might go inside, Ethel wandered off the right of screen. I followed her, but when I reached the next screen she just wasn’t there! I figured I must have taken a slightly different path to her and just lost her, but restoring and following her exactly led to the same result. Disappointed, I made my way back up to the bell tower, only to find that Ethel was there again, beginning the whole route ad infinitum. I let her go, and instead tried to use the cane on the ring. It looked like I would be able to do it too, but the bell itself was still rusted and jammed. I was going to have to do something about that first, although I had no real idea why I would want to ring the bell anyway!

 Now surely Ethel can't be the killer. She can't even walk!

 It wouldn't have surprised me if she'd wandered into the swamp

I still hadn’t found Celie or Rudy (he appeared to have left the house after his fights with Clarence and Fifi), so I continued my search, starting with the chapel. I got a surprise when I entered it, as Wilbur’s body was lying in a pool of blood! I searched the corpse, just as I'd done with Gertie’s, confirming in the process that the doctor had died from “a tremendous blow to the head”. I also discovered Wilbur’s monocle, which I picked up and took with me. With nothing else to do, I left the chapel and entered the cemetery next to it for the first time. There were numerous tombstones, as you would expect, and two large tombs at the back. The one on the left had the name DIJON above the door, which was Henri’s family name, while the other had CROUTON, which I couldn’t remember coming across previously. When I took a closer look at the tombstones, I was told that they ranged from “the large monument of patriarch, Francois Crouton and his wife Claudette, to the simple grave of Sarah Crouton, who was 17 when she died in 1871.” I had no idea whether any of this has any relevance to the game, but noted it anyway. I then tried to enter the tombs, finding firstly that the Crouton tomb door was sealed, but secondly  that I was able to enter the Dijon one. My excitement dissipated quickly though, when I walked straight back out: “It’s just an empty tomb. One day, this will be the final resting place of Colonel Dijon.”

 Well, he isn't going to need it now is he?!

Oh I get it now! Colonel Dijon is a piss-take of Colonel Mustard from Cluedo!

By this stage there was only one location on the map that I hadn’t explored on the western side of the island (I hadn’t really gone east at all yet), which was the carriage house. I walked south until I reached it, noting that “old crates have been piled before one of the doors”. I tried moving them, climbing them, opening them etc., but nothing worked. I entered the old house, finding that “parts of a decrepit carriage lie in the right corner and a small rowboat, named MINNOW, rests in the left corner”. I immediately found an oilcan sitting on the bench, which I eagerly added to my inventory, thinking I finally had what I needed to ring the bell and possibly do something with the armour too! I checked out everything else in the room, uncovering a crowbar in the carriage, making this little visit well worthwhile. I realised at this point that there was a particular location I hadn’t been to yet where I was almost certain to find Celie. To the northeast of the main house, the map had Celie’s House marked right next to a chicken coop. I went straight to it, determined to cross another guest’s whereabouts off the list for Act III. Her shack wasn’t exactly five stars if you get what I mean, but I walked up to the door and tried to enter.

 It's very unlikely the crates in front of the door were mentioned for no reason!

Aha! An oilcan! That oughta help me make some progress! Right?!

I was told that “it’s not nice to enter people’s houses without being invited”, so I typed “knock on door”. A voice called from within: “Jest a secon’.” Then Celie opened the door, querying why I might be bothering her at this time of the evening. I wasn’t actually prepared to answer that question, so I just typed “tell Celie about Wilbur”. Her response was “I ain’t got time fer you right now, Missy. ‘Scuse me.” I knocked a couple more times, but no matter what I asked, her answer was the same. Oh well, at least now I could account for Celie! That left only Rudy to find, but I’ll cut to the chase and say that I didn’t find him anywhere. I’ve been gradually revealing the environment in The Colonel’s Bequest with each post, so I’ll save the remaining screens for Act IV. At this point I spent about thirty minutes restoring back to each fifteen minute period, making sure that I knew exactly where everyone was and what occurred. I also tried to think of ways I could utilise some of the items I’d collected, such as the cane, the monocle, the poker, the handkerchief and the oil. My only “successes” led to my own death! After putting oil on the bell, I then pulled the ring, only for it to come away from the tower and fall on my head. Then I tried applying the oil to the armour’s rusty hinges, which caused the axe to drop onto me and literally cut me in half!!!

I got bronchitis! Ain't nobody got time for that!

Oh man! Mother Goose this is not!!!

Oh come on! Even a small victory would be nice!

Two other things of note occurred during this period. Firstly, when I revisited the cemetery, a white ghost arose from one the graves and pointed at me! It was quite creepy really, although it disappeared really quickly and my attempts to look at it were met with “You don’t really believe in ghosts, do you?!” I have no idea whether it was just there for shock factor or actually plays a role in the game. Secondly, I managed to get into the elevator from Henri’s room when the old man wasn’t there, but then found that I could only go down to the library. I know it can go up, as often when I look in the shaft I’m told that “The elevator seems to be upstairs”, but when I tried to ascend I was told that “the darn elevator won’t move!” Feeling a bit harshly done by, I finally made my way to the billiards room to close off Act III. As expected, the progress clock appeared along with the word “Act IV”. Gloria was gone, and I was informed that “Things look suspicious here! You can see pieces of a broken record on the floor by the Victrola and a small pile of pink feathers near it.” I’m really hoping that I start to have more success in Act IV, as I don’t feel like I’m influencing things at all.

Was she pointing at me or something else?

Every time I feel like I'm on to something, I find out that I'm not

 Somehow I don't feel quite as bad that Gloria is missing. Does that make me a bad person?

This is what I make of Act III
  • Lillian spends the entire hour in the playhouse, reading Bluebeard to her dolls.
  • Ethel spends the entire hour wandering around the estate grounds, drunk out of her mind.
  • Henri remains in his room from 9:00 to 9:45, but then goes to an unknown destination.
  • Fifi reads in her room until Rudy arrives and tries his luck with her. She slaps him and sends him away, after which she lies down and sleeps for the remainder of the hour.
  • Rudy has a fierce argument with Clarence in their room, after which Clarence lies down and sleeps for the remainder of the hour. Rudy goes upstairs to assault Fifi, then leaves for an unknown destination.
  • Jeeves spends the entire hour in his room in the cellar, either sleeping or doing chores.
  • Celie spends the entire hour in her shack.
  • Gloria spends the entire hour in the billiards room, until someone assaults her and takes her away (presumedly dead) around 10:00pm.

Is that a broom in your hand Jeeves? Hey, you stay away from my evidence, you hear me!

Session Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 30 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!


  1. You may have noticed that my posts are a little less regular, yet a fair bit longer than normal. Is that working for everyone? I've been trying to do one post for each act, which has caused the higher word count.

    1. I was beginning to worry that you'd gotten fed up with the game. I noticed you started going act by act. I think there's less notable events as the night wears on.

  2. You know, you can right-click to look at things. You'd known sooner what the items on the floor were.

    1. Yes, I'm aware of that and have made good use of it throughout. I do tend to try my luck with the parser first though before using the mouse button if and when I can't figure out what something is.

      Force of habit I guess.

  3. Also, I HATE THAT BELL.

    I hate I hate I hate... *bursts into tears*

    1. I could have SWORN I used the cane on the ring. Why did it work for you? I hate the text parser! Well at least the bell didn't fall on my head because of it.

      I actually didn't know about right-click until my second playthrough, and couldn't figure out what that rod was. I thought it was another cane, and "look at feet" didn't work while "look at ground" only described the rug.

    2. Phrases that work include "ring bell with cane", "pull rope with cane", "pull bell with cane", "pull ring with cane", and "ring ring with cane". There's possibly a couple more, but I've forgotten them. I know, because I wasted so much time with that bell. :,(

      I actually like text parsers, because they theoretically allow for more complex interactions and puzzles. Then again, sometimes it's difficult to make the game understand you, because it hasn't been playtested well enough.

    3. Yeah, I was trying the more generic "use" command that's suggest in the MANUAL. Is guessing the accepted words really part of the fun in these games? I'm pretty sure this is why I never got past the first screen in Fahrenheit 451.

    4. No, it is usually considered a fault, if some obvious way to say the same thing is forgotten and the player is forced to guess the words. "Use" is a bit of grey area - in some games it is accepted (most Sierra games allow it), others always demand a more specific command, so that players wouldn't just walk around trying to use everything.

    5. Here is a very good article by Yahtzee how the simplification in adventure game interfaces resulted in the "keyring syndrome", overuse of linear inventory puzzles. It also mentions how parser games rarely let you get away with "use X on Y" type of commands. He's got other articles in that "Depressingly Common Adventure Game Design Flaws" series, I recommend reading them too.

    6. Oh man, Fahrenheit 451 is one of the best books ever written, was it a graphic adventure? I though tit had a text adventure based on it! Would one of you start a text adventure blog already? That is a task that could be finished, there are only like, 3 a year being made right now!

    7. Canageek: Last year 3 IF games were released for the Spring Thing competition and 28 IF games were released for the annual Interactive Fiction Competition. That's already 31 games for 2012 - and that still doesn't include those released outside major competitions.

    8. Yeah, I was referring to the text adventure game.

      The only issue I have with needing something other than "use x on y" is the manual doesn't illustrate any other interface. There aren't any examples of doing something 'with' an object. With some experimentation it looks like "use x to pull y" works. I'll try to keep that in mind if I join for another parser game.

  4. Ha, I thought the same thing about Celie/Sweet Brown. Maybe you came down to the carriage house for a cold pop? :)

    1. I'm glad someone got that! :)

    2. Probably my current favorite Internet sensation. Most things that go viral is some moron saying or doing something dumb or ignorant. This just a good ol' religious, down home, no nonsense woman telling it like it is. Makes me chuckle every time.

      When I read your response, I laughed and my wife asked "Are you playing that Sweet Brown video again?"

  5. And the list of things not done just grows:

    Tvivat obar gb Ornhertneq naq frnepuvat uvf qbtubhfr gb svaq Pryvr'f zvffvat wrjryel, ergheavat vg gb Pryvr naq trggvat vagb ure funpx
    Svaqvat pebjone va pneevntr ubhfr, svaqvat pernxvat sybbeobneq va gur puhepu, bcravat vg jvgu pebjone naq svaqvat ovoyr
    Bvyvat gur ivfbe naq svaqvat gur abgr sebz Fnenu'f cneragf
    Hfvat zbabpyr nf n zntavslvat tynff
    Frrvat Uraev jnyx
    Svaqvat gur uvqqra xrl va gur fznyy pnaaba naq hfvat vg gb zbir gur ryringbe gb nggvp

    Fortunately most of these can be done later

    1. This worries me greatly! I feel like I'm totally missing the point in this game.

    2. You shouldn't be overtly worried, I don't think lot of people have found out everything during their first playthrough. Some of these require overtly diligent observation and some just luck of being in the right place at the right time. Some things you've almost figured out, but not precisely right.

    3. I'm kinda hoping that Trickster would at least make his way to the scene where lbh frr nyy gur qrnq obqvrf qhzcrq va gur pryyne. Gur jnl vg'f rkrphgrq znxrf vg irel zrzbenoyr.

    4. V qb jbaqre jul gur cvyr ng gur obggbz qbrfa'g oernx lbhe snyy ol gur yngr tnzr. V thrff gurer'f ab jnl bhg bapr lbh'er qbja gurer gung jnl gubhtu, juvpu vf nabgure zlfgrel.

  6. I don't normally notice your Britishisms (Aussieisms); they were a bit more obvious this time. "Cluedo" is known as "Clue" in the U.S., so I had to look Cluedo up to see if it was a modern variant. Nope, it's the same game. "Taking a piss" is vulgar in American English - It literally means urinating, and has no other implications. I'm aware of the British meaning, but the phrase still surprises me whenever I see it in print.

    The "Minnow" rowboat is clearly a reference to the SS Minnow in the 1960's Gilligan's Island TV series. I'm sure there are many other anachronistic pop culture references in the game.

    Restoring the game to make sure you know about everything that happens at a given time is perhaps good for your blog, but I'm not sure it is in the spirit of the game. I expect Roberta expected players to play multiple times, discovering different clues each time. If I made a game like this today, it would be Heisenbergian - Your actions would impact the game, so that a murder that happens at 10:00 pm in one play might happen at 3:00 am or not happen at all if you did something different. I think Colonel's Bequest is time-linear, however, so your approach is fine.

    I slightly remember the suit of armor and the axe death. I think Doug Herring animated it and showed it off to everyone. I also seem to recall that it was used in another game as one of the Sierra in-jokes.

    1. My Britishisms probably have more to do with the fact I work with predominately English (and Irish) colleagues. For some reason my industry is filled with them!

      "Taking the piss" is something that Australian's seem to be taking on though.

  7. I don't know if it's relevant, but if I remember correctly Bluebeard is a story about a man with a locked room in his house, which his wife is forbidden to enter. But her curiosity gets the best of her and she steals the keys and enters, only to find the room full of the bodys of her husbands previous wifes. They too were too curios for their one good.
    I'm nor sure if the moral of the story is the old misogyn pandoras box or eve and the apple you know. But anyways. You know.

    1. I just took it as a reference to the pirate who as known for torturing people!

    2. Canageek: You must be thinking of Blackbeard.

    3. Kind of funny that this is what the French people might read to their children at night.