Wednesday 8 June 2016

Cruise for a Corpse - Death by Carpentry

Written by Joe Pranevich

Not dead, just drunk.

Last week, Raoul and I made some headway into our murder investigation by confirming that Niklos’s wife was cheating on him with his solicitor. We also know that Tom is desperately in debt, yet still buying jewelry far beyond his means to support that affair. As far as I’m concerned, this makes Tom and Rebecca as our prime suspects. And yet, there is still a lot more story to unravel. We also know that Father Fabiani has a gambling problem and may have extorted from his church, Suzanne is an alcoholic, Hector may be a former criminal, and Dick is a mysterious stranger that no one knows very well. Will the real murderer please stand up?

This week’s post covers the remainder of the “9 hours with no puzzles” that I mentioned last time and it has-- gasp!-- an actual puzzle so keep your eyes peeled. The game is pretty scatter-shot at this point in terms of the random things that Raoul is discovering, so apologies in advance that this post is all over the place. In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve beaten the game now and will try to wrap up the story next week. That means that you can be less careful with spoilers, but PLEASE do not spoil the ending. We’ll do something special with the final rating this time: I’m going to stop just short of the big reveal next week to give everyone a chance to chime in and pitch who you think did it. No cheating! It should be a lot of fun.

Since we’re now juggling nearly a dozen characters and you aren’t spending as many hours with them as I am, I’m also going to end the post with a quick summation of each of the suspects and why they might want to kill Niklos. If you want to avoid the play-by-play, feel free to jump to the end. Now, on with the game!

Eye of newt, toe of frog, that sort of thing.

I start this week off with a round of exploration, but I don’t have to search too hard to find a big reveal: Suzanne has passed out in her room, leaving the door unlocked. Since the last place we saw her was the bar, I’m guessing that this is just a bit of an over-indulgence on her part. That doesn’t stop me from taking advantage of the situation to search her room where I discover a prescription tucked away inside her cosmetics case. Raoul says that there’s a lot of medications on there, but since he doesn’t understand them, neither do we. Her room also contains a box marked “Fragile” that Raoul is too afraid to get down off the shelf as well as something that the game says will require a magnifying glass to see clearly. You’d think a police inspector would have one of those with him, but apparently we weren’t prepared for murder on a vacation cruise. And finally-- and perhaps most importantly-- there is a screen in the middle of the room that I can hide behind to spy on whomever is on the other side. That may come in handy!

My next stop is to search the bar to see if Suzanne left anything incriminating down there while she was getting sloshed. There’s whisky on the counter and the glass that she used, but no clues. We can pick up both. My guess is that I can use the bottle or the glass (perhaps with water in it) as a magnifying glass to see the mysterious something in her room, but no dice. I hope I’m on the right track. Time advances and it’s now noon, so off to explore again.

I hate this “puzzle”.

Suzanne has returned to her spot on the top deck, but she’s angry at me and won’t talk. Does she half-remember that I searched her room? I’m not sure. I go through the whole ship, poking and prodding all the usual things, but I come up empty-handed. My guess is that I need to get Suzanne to talk to me so I start trying things.

This is, without a doubt, one of the most offensive “puzzles” in the history of adventure games. How can you get Suzanne to talk to you again? All you have to do is give her-- a struggling alcoholic that has been in and out of hospitals-- a drink. You might say that I’m overthinking this, and maybe I am. I have no illusions that she is “dry”, after all I just found her passed out in her cabin. But only minutes after she blacked out for drinking too much, here I am serving her shots of whisky to loosen her tongue. I abhor this puzzle.

Once she’s good and drunk again, she opens up. The prescriptions that I found were for Agnes. Niklos had given her end-of-life care at his mansion and she had only passed away two months prior. She was a wealthy woman and had a sizable estate to give away in her will, but Suzanne won’t tell me what was in it, only that Agnes got the “last laugh” on everyone. Have I finally discovered the plot to this game? Is Niklos’s murder just a blind and it’s really been about Agnes’s fortune the whole time? Perhaps someone stands to benefit from both passing away at the same time?

I rush around the ship to find someone that can shed more light on this, but no one wants to divulge this family secret. After asking just about everyone else, it is Father Fabiani who finally spills the beans: Agnes willed almost everything she owned to her son, Dick. Time for the game’s first flashback!

Little Orphan Dickie

He had very nimble fingers.

In the beginning, Agnes fell in love with a young man far below her station. Her parents disapproved. It was a scandal! And yet, they were intimate and Agnes gave birth to a son, but her parents forbade the union. She was forced to give her son up for adoption and join a convent. Agnes must never have forgiven herself if she was willing, at the end of her life, to give all of her considerable fortune to a man that she had not seen since infancy.

I track down Dick to confirm this, but he is tightlipped about it, only responding, “It’s me”. He explains that he was tracked down after her death to satisfy the will and that he had never met Agnes in life. With this interlude complete, the time is now 12:30 and I am off exploring again.

A Conspiracy to Murder… Someone Else

Who cares? Did you kill Niklos or not?

On my next circuit, I happen to be spying through all of the windows looking for things going on when I get a break: Tom and Rebecca are fighting in his cabin. Thanks to the magic of plot convenience, they are fighting over the money that I just learned about. Rebecca is very angry that Dick managed to get all of the money and threatens to kill him. I’m confused by this: I get that she’s not grieving over Niklos’s death since she has been unfaithful anyway, but won’t she be getting Niklos’s money? Why does she care if Dick gets Agnes’s, or is it just a matter that the more money the better? Time advances to 12:40 and I’m off to search the ship again.

This time though, I end up stuck and must consult the walkthrough. It seems that I had to search Suzanne’s closet again to discover a newspaper clipping hidden in her clothes. It wasn’t there only a few minutes ago when I searched her room, but that is pretty normal for this game and I’ve complained about it enough. The clipping is a report on the automobile accident that killed Niklos’s first wife, Daphne’s mother. That is a very strange thing to be carrying around with you on a cruise, isn’t it?

Our older readers may remember that news was once printed on paper, a flat white substance made from tree fibers.

This must be important because time moves forward again, but how does this help the murder mystery? Why is Daphne’s mother’s death important to Raoul (or to us)? More importantly, on my next cycle through the ship I find Rose for the very first time! She’s the poor woman that Tom is cheating on with Rebecca and I literally have every question to ask her.

I have literally dozens of questions to ask you...

Rose doesn’t come off as strong-willed, in contrast to Rebecca. She doesn’t know about Tom’s financial difficulties because he had made her agree not to discuss "his work" with him. I rattle off every question on every topic since the beginning of the game, but she has only a few nuggets that seem pertinent: Niklos waited years to tell Daphne what really happened with her mother (what did he tell her instead?), she is aware of the expensive bracelet but believes that Tom bought it for Niklos, and… drumroll please… the “hospice care” offered by Niklos to Agnes at the end of her life was just a way to get her to bequeath her fortune to him. Why am I not surprised? You really have to feel bad for Rose. Tom is a conniving womanizer and she seems to be a genuinely nice person that doesn’t stand up for herself enough. I hope she sues his pants off.

The Sky’s the Limit

Making my rounds again, I find an expensive pocket watch in Father Fabiani’s room, hidden in the closet. Why is that evidence? I have no idea, but Raoul is convinced that must be a clue. I ask my suspects about it and get some very suspicious answers: some people say it’s Fabiani’s watch while others claim it to be Niklos’s. Which is it? Julio seems to have the best explanation, plus another flashback!

No limit Texas Hold-Em existed in the 1920s?

To make a long story short, Father Fabiani used to be invited to Niklos’s poker nights, though how he could afford to play in that league on a priest’s salary is beyond me. During a particularly crazy game, Fabiani bet literally everything he owned-- including the watch-- on a single hand… and lost. Niklos took the watch and that’s the end of the story, but is there more? Did the priest also wager all of the bell tower money? That would explain how he was able to play in that league as well as how he lost the money, but if that’s the case Julio doesn’t say. Did Niklos feel bad for winning all that money and “donated” it back to the church afterwards? That doesn’t seem to be in his character.

So how did Father Fabiani get the watch back? Was he rifling through Niklos’s stuff after he died? If so, did he take anything else? Or was he just trying to recover something precious to him? Maybe we’ll find out soon.

The Rest of the Crazy Family

Are you avoiding paparazzi on this ship?

On the next round of explorations, the game finally unlocks two characters that I have been searching for since the beginning of the game: Daphne and Rebecca. In case you are getting confused, Daphne is Niklos’s daughter from his first marriage, while Rebecca is his second wife. I’m quite relieved to see Daphne alive since the closest that we came to seeing her so far is when Julio was in her room and refused to let enter. I thought then that she might have been murdered too, and I’m glad she survived… even if she dresses like she’s avoiding the tabloid press.

Since both Daphne and Rebecca have been missing since the beginning, I have dozens of interview questions to ask both of them, so it’s a bit of an info dump.

Daphne tells me that:
  • Rebecca was married to Niklos only six months before starting to cheat on him.
  • Rose had a previous suitor before Tom, but it ended badly. 
  • Dick received all of Agnes’s fortune. I had previously been told that Daphne had also received a little piece. Who is lying?
  • Dick and Rebecca argued about the inheritance. Niklos invited Dick onto the ship as an apology.
  • Agnes was scared of doctors and trusted Niklos as a go-between so she would not have to deal with them. 
It’s like the floodgates have opened up!

While Daphne seems to be a fairly normal person, Rebecca comes off as incredibly stuck up. She’s angry at Daphne for putting love ahead of marrying Julio's money, plus she is very condescending when discussing Suzanne and Hector as they are only the “hired help”. She suspects that Niklos had learned about Dick prior to the reading of the will, but had kept his existence a secret. Why would he do that? I don’t know, but it clearly didn’t help any.

I also learned a few other scattered things on my next loop around:
  • Daphne was not invited to Rebecca’s and Niklos’s wedding. 
  • Father Fabiani was also not invited to officiate it.
  • Niklos’s first wife was named Mercedes.
  • The car that she died in was purchased as a gift by Niklos right before. Because of this, Niklos blamed himself for his wife’s death.
Time advances and it’s now 1:20 PM!

Hiding the Evidence

No one likes a dirty murder scene.

The most shocking thing I discover on my next tour of the ship is in Niklos’s office: Hector has been cleaning! Is that okay? No, of course it is not. We haven’t found the murderer yet and it seems to me that Hector is destroying evidence. I’ve been sure that the butler did it since before I knew this game had a butler, so this is a good confirmation of Hector’s guilt. I can also ask him some questions, but he doesn’t add much.

Does Hector have a war injury?

But while Hector is cleaning, I can explore his cabin to see what he’s been hiding. There are a few strange things: a box above his closet with the initials “B.D.” on it, the number “3” hidden behind a fold in the wallpaper, and some straw in his bed. We also find that his left shoe is more worn than his right, suggesting a war injury. That could add some weight to Niklos saving his life in the war, as we’ve been told. Raoul refuses to touch the box on the closet for fear of breaking it so let’s hope the murder weapon isn’t in there. 

Secrets of a Jilted Lover

The most depressing conversation of this cycle is with Rose. She’s convinced that her relationship with Tom will improve once she gets pregnant. I just want to slap her, hug her, or both. Father Fabiani confides that her previous suitor, a man named Raphael Lambert, had been discovered in a brothel and that is why her engagement had been called off.

You don’t carry gun ads in your purse?

Raoul also discovers that Rose left her handbag unattended on the upper deck and so takes the time to snoop around. When we search it, we find an advertisement for a gun! Was Niklos killed by a gun or a knife? I don’t remember now. Do we even know? Rose catches me snooping and insists that she was giving the gun to Tom as a present, not planning on shooting anyone with it. I’m not sure I believe her, but the time advances to 2:10 PM.

What a convenient discovery!

But the real plot progression happens a few minutes later. Tom was dumb enough to leave his cabin unlocked, so Raoul and I get to explore it in more detail. And what was Tom dumb enough to bring on the cruise? A letter from “Lola”, the woman hired by Niklos to frame Rose’s fiancee! She feels guilty for her part in the plot and wants to confess. The whole thing was manipulated by Niklos to discredit Rose’s previous fiancee so that she could marry Tom. That’s a stupid idea, but why would Tom even bring this with him? That’s more stupid. Does Rose know about this letter?

Attempted Murder

Woman overboard!

Before I can ask either Tom or Rose about it, I return to the top deck just in time to see a terrible accident: Suzanne was standing in her usual spot, leaning on the railing, when it snapped and the whole segment of the wall fell into the sea. I throw her a life preserver and she’s fine, albeit a bit wet. But the next bit makes me excited that something meatier may finally be happening in this game:

That’s no moon!

It was sabotage! Someone tried to kill Suzanne! Is it the same murderer? Or do we now have two? I hope I can solve it quickly, before the killer tries to off someone else by hoping they lean against a railing in exactly the right spot.

But with that, I am going to end this session. We’ve seen a ton of plot advancement but not a lot of adventure gaming this week. I feel like I know these characters very well; I just wish there was more of a game built up around them.

Who Would Want to Kill Niklos, Anyway?

Web of intrigue...

Since the game is getting a bit complicated at this point and most of you have not invested >12 hours with these characters, I think it’s time to assemble the evidence as I have it. I’ll update this a bit in the next post as well.

Cast of Characters:

Daphne - Daughter of Niklos and Mercedes, his first wife. She died when Daphne was six. 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: Minimal, but she presumably stood to inherit some of his fortune and she certainly wanted him out of her life.

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: None that I have found so far.

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 discussing killing Dick to get access to Agnes’s fortune.
Motive for Killing Niklos: Huge. She presumably stood to inherit much of Niklos’s fortune on his death, plus already has a beau on the side.

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: Huge, though somewhat less than Rebecca. He owes Niklos a great deal, but if he sees an angle where he can marry Rebecca then he can get access to his fortune that way.

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: 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.

Suzanne - Family friend, formerly Agnes’s maid. (Agnes was Niklos’s aunt.) She struggles with alcoholism. Someone clearly wants her dead, but why?
Motive for Killing Niklos: Minimal. She might have felt that Niklos was trying to get Agnes’s fortune and she may have hoped to get a slice of that for herself, but with it going to Dick it seems like she wouldn’t gain anything now.

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: None. He just received Agnes’s fortune and would not stand to gain anything if Niklos died.

Hector - Niklos’s personal butler, travels with him everywhere. He and Niklos may have served in WWI together and Niklos may have saved his life. He was the first person to discover Niklos’s body and so could most easily have been the murderer.
Motive for Killing Niklos: Niklos gave him the cabin next to the engine room. Also, butlers always “do it” in games like these.

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: Possibly Niklos was blackmailing him or somesuch over the gambling debt.

Got all that? There will be a quiz at the end. But until then, see you next week!
Time played: 4 hr 55 min
Total time: 18 hr 35 min

Inventory: Thank-you note, Paper, Prescription, Engagement notifications, Pocket Watch, Envelope, Soap

Deaths / Reloads:
           4 restarts due to game crashes (6 total)
           0 deaths


  1. Tree fiber? They made fiber optics out of wood? ;)

  2. Excellent write-up. I'm looking forward to the speculation over "who did it" come the next post.

    Two minor comments: as I understood it, the newspaper clipping about the accident killing Daphne's mother was in Daphne's closet, not Suzanne's. (They share a room.). And I think, though am less certain, that the letter from Lola about Niklos framing Rose's first fiance was in Rose's belongings, not Tom's. (Again, they share a room.).

  3. Apologies for the higher-than-usual typo count. I went ahead and fixed the few that I saw. I'm blogging this week while on vacation with my main computer out of commission so not everything is as I would like. This means I don't have access to my save games to verify things so I can't confirm Voltgloss's comments that some of the objects were "owned" by different people than I suspected. He is right that it's sometimes hard to tell what is what in the shared rooms and I very well could have gotten some of it wrong.

    Next week, I'll be traveling for work but at least I should have my main laptop functioning again.