Written by Joe Pranevich
|Inspector Lestrade, I presume.|
Last time, we started our investigation into a series of “mummy murders”, three dead archeologists all connected to the excavation and transportation of a mummy to London. We had looked at two of the murders but were just starting to investigate the third. So far, we have one very good suspect (a strange reporter) but no motives. The game is afoot, as they say!
Just to recap, what we know so far:
- Murder #1 - Dr. Ebenizer Turnbull. He was murdered in the tomb he was excavating in Egypt in March, but I have very few details.
- Murder #2 - Andrew Weatherby. He was murdered en-route to London around April 5. He and Windibank were transporting some archeological finds on board the Eastern Empress at the time of his death. He was very seasick on the journey and spent much of the time in his cabin while his wife and a suitor (Mr. Uruburu) may have used that time for some indiscretions.
- Murder #3 - James Windibank. He was killed in the British museum, strangled by mummy wrappings.
Way back in the introduction video, we learned that Windibank’s murder was being investigated by Scotland Yard so my next stop will be to see Lestrade. He is such a prominent figure in the Holmes canon that I had hoped he would be a “major” character here, but he doesn’t seem to be acted or presented much differently than any of the other “Regulars” that we’ve seen so far. To add insult to all the Lestrade-lovers out there, the Yard has made nearly no progress at this point. It’s a waste of our time.
|Up close and very personal with a mummy.|
With the authorities being no help, our next target is the scene of the crime itself: the British Museum. That turns out to be very fruitful:
- Windibank was strangled using mummy wrappings but not the mummy’s wrappings. They were similar, but care seems to have been taken not to damage the mummy that was returned from Egypt.
- Windibank’s body was discovered in the mummy’s sarcophagus, but the assailant didn't move the mummy first. The two bodies were stacked on top of each other.
- The museum was open at the time of the murder, but the new exhibit was closed. However, security was not tight enough to say that no one got in or out of the restricted area.
- Henry Witherspoon, a guard, discovered the body. Strangely, he is not in our London directory so we cannot talk to him directly.
The final detail I learn also inspires my next stop: Windibank was an employee of London University, not the museum. Time to talk to his bosses.
|To be… or not to be.|
|Mr. Watson visits an ordinary forensic scientist.|
Talking to the guy at the university filled in details about the circumstances of the first murder, but we’re no closer to solving the third. My next stop is to Scotland Yard’s crime lab; H. R. Murray there is one of Holmes’s “Regulars” and might have some evidence from the crime scene that will be helpful. Mr. Murray confirms that the fabric around the victim's neck was thousands of years old but was not the real cause of death! Windibank was strangled the old-fashioned way, with the wrappings put there afterwards for effect. He also discovered monkey hair on the wrapping. I think we all remember who was trying to resurrect a monkey mummy not too long ago… Murray is also looking at the murder on board the Empress, although this may not be in his jurisdiction. In that case, the mummy wrappings had dog hair on them. That could point to Mrs. Fenwick being the second murderer, but that seems unlikely. We know her dog was in the cargo hold; it could have left hair around the scene.
At this point, I know it was Travis. He did it because he wasn’t selected to come to Egypt with the group and was jealous of the success of their expedition. Let’s take it to the judge!
|Not Judge Wapner.|
This is the first time I’m seeing the judging interface, so I’m not sure exactly what’s involved. I’m first asked to select who committed the first murder; I have to pick that person’s name from either the directory or my notebook. I select Travis and the judge seems happy about that!
Next, the judge asks me to select his motive from a brief list:
|Oooh. Difficult questions.|
And honestly, that has me stumped. None of the motives match up with the jealousy angle that I theorized. It’s possible that he felt that the tomb should be left undisturbed given his love of Egyptian culture and “science”, but then why would he have volunteered for the trip? We haven’t heard anything about press access being an issue, nor about questioning the doctor’s credentials. We also haven’t heard anything about Travis ever meeting Clarissa Weatherby, though it’s not impossible that she slept with all the archeologists on the trip. I’m stumped. Rather than guess wrong, I select to leave and Holmes apologizes to the judge. Back to the investigation!
Unfortunately, I’ve reached a bit of an impasse. I know the killer of (at least) the first murder but not his motive. It happened in Egypt weeks ago and the two guys that might be witnesses are dead. It’s a perfect little crime, so how do I crack it?
|Watson is off finding clues by himself now…|
In desperation, I start to run through the rest of Holmes’s “Regulars” to see what they might contribute to the case:
- Jasper Meek, the Chief Medical Examiner for Scotland Yard, reveals that the murders were committed with strong but bare hands. In each case that he looked at, the deaths were instantaneous as the trachea and vertebrae were crushed. The wrappings were added later to mask the real cause of death.
- Quentin Hogg, a local crime reporter, tells me more about the two Arab men on board the ship: Fahmi was an importer while Al-Saud was an agent of the Ottoman empire. It’s interesting, but doesn’t seem to connect to the case.
- Porky Shinwell, a bartender with his ear to the underworld, tells me that someone was smuggling in some kind of bird artifact on the Eastern Empress. Is this whole subplot just an extended Maltese Falcon reference?
- Langdale Pike, the expert on the London social scene, provides some details on two of the murdered men. Turnbull refused to marry and “take his place in society”. Windibank did marry, but he once caused a scandal by autopsying his deceased dog and had a run-in with the “anti-vivisectionist league”, whatever that is. Louise Fenwick-- one of the passengers on the ship!-- threatened to kill him over it.
- The Somerset House, the mysterious “S.H.” in the introduction, is a hall of records for things like wills. We learn that Turnbull left all his stuff to the Egyptology department, but Windibank and Weatherby both willed all of their possessions to their wives. That seems unsurprising.
|Hey! You can visit dead people.|
Lacking any other good ideas, I pick the victims’ names from the directory and discover that you can still visit their homes even if they are dead. Turnbull seems to have been quite boring and only owned books and maps, but we are reminded again that he is the son of an Earl. Windibank’s wife tells me that her husband was excited for the trip and did not believe in curses because he was a man of science. Yet again, none of the leads get me anywhere.
I search through the paper again and find some articles that I missed:
- Feb 6 1888 - Letter from the Earl of Downey, Turnbull’s father, complaining that the Times said he was not qualified to unearth antiquities.
- Aug 17, 1888 - Article about Turnbull’s lecture series. Windibank and Weatherby were both mentioned in the article.
With no more leads, articles, or ideas, I decide that trial and error is my only recourse. I head back to the judge and make a guess: “C”, that the victim had questioned Turnbull’s credentials. That worked!
This one is again very tricky. We know that Travis and Weatherby got into a “war of words” on the ship about his beliefs and that seems the most likely cause. We don’t have any evidence of Weatherby even having an interest in journalism nor anything about their dissertations to suggest it could be either of the middle options. It might possibly be the jealousy issue again, but Travis was much more likely to kill Turnbull for that reason (because he made the selections), rather than Weatherby (someone who was selected instead). I select “A”... and am disappointed. The judge tells me that I’m wrong and we have to start over again. Rather than go back and dig up more clues, I re-play to that point and select “D”. I don’t quite buy that argument as a great motive, but the game says that it’s right. Onward to the third murder.
|It’s like taking the SATs...|
Once again, I select Travis as the murderer and am correct. Since he did the other two, it was nearly impossible that he wouldn’t go for the hattrick. The judge says that we are correct and asks us to pick his motive. This time, I know exactly what to pick: “B”. He wasn’t picked for the expedition, but Windibank was. That is correct! I completed the first case!
|I am pretty sure that I suck.|
With the case closed, I am given my score: 646 points. Remember that the score is based on how long it took you to solve the mystery and a higher score is worse than a lower one. Since Holmes managed to get it done in 26 points, I have to assume that I sucked. I did end up talking to a lot more people than I needed to, especially once I started scrambling to discover a motive.
|… of the first chapter.|
Thankfully, I’m also given a little denouement video where Holmes explains how he solved the case. He was a lot more efficient than I was:
- He immediately deduced that it would be the same person doing all three murders. Since one of the murders was on a ship, that limited the number of possible suspects.
- He saw from the newspaper that the Empress was in Bombay at the time of the first murder, so the murderer was not a member of the crew.
- Since he knew the murderer was on the Empress but not a crew member, he got the passenger list. Travis was on the list.
- He then realized that Travis was the reporter who wrote about the first murder.
- Clarissa Weatherby was another suspect, but she only had a motive to murder Weatherby and not the others. The whole bit where Holmes asked her to open a jar of toffee was to test her hand strength. She wasn’t very strong, so she couldn’t have strangled all those men.
- Travis studied under Windibank at London University and wanted to be chosen for the expedition. He was furious when Weatherby was chosen instead.
- Travis had written a “vicious” article questioning Turnbull’s credentials to lead the expedition, to which Turnbull wrote a “harsh” response. This very public war-of-words in the London Times might have been enough to drive Travis to kill.
But the last bit with the “vicious” article and “harsh” response has me scratching my head. This is clearly where I was supposed to get the information from for the first set of questions, but I still can’t find what I might have missed. The closest I can find is this article in the paper:
|Not the (Duke, Duke, Duke) Duke of Earl|
This article, from the February 6, 1888 paper is a request for a retraction to a previous article that questioned the Earl’s credentials. We have to assume the previous article was written by Travis, but it doesn’t say. It was written more than a year before the present action of the case-- was Travis even a reporter at this point? More importantly, the retraction is requested by the “Earl of Downey”, Turnbull’s father and not Turnbull himself. We know that he’s the third son of the Earl, so even if his father had died since Holmes put together his files, he wouldn’t have become the Earl. Unless there is another bit of evidence that I’m missing, I’m going to end this case deeply frustrated. It’s put together so well, and yet I just don’t feel we can make the final intuitive leap that seems required for the story.
Did anyone else find a clue here that I missed? Is it a missing article? Or is this a “bug” in the case? Is this bug (if it is one) corrected in the remake?
Is this an “Adventure” game?
So, having played through one case (and probably one-third of the game), I want to pause for a second and ask the obvious question, “Is this an adventure game?” And… I think it is but just barely.
Adventures mean a lot of things to a lot of people and they vary considerably from the earliest days of Adventure to the most recent titles. But I think they have three things in common:
- Adventures reward exploration. Adventures take place in every possible locale and every possible genre, but they always reward exploration. Maybe you need to explore every room to get to the end of the game or maybe there’s just a fun detail that the developers put in, but exploration has been a part of the genre since the beginning.
- Adventures have a progression and usually a rising of tension. You unlock more of the world as you complete puzzles; your actions matter in cause and effect.
- Adventures have an emphasis on thinking over action. While many titles have arcade-style minigames, the primary thrust of an adventure is to use your quick head instead of quick fingers to proceed to the end.
Fantastic games play around with these aspects, but Consulting Detective violates two of these rules in a number of ways. Exploration is punished in this game, resulting in a lower score. And that is too bad because the subplot with the Ottoman agent and the smuggled artifact was one of the high points of this case. The “correct” way to solve the game ensures that a player would not find those details. The game barely has progression: you can talk to anyone at any time and no dialog changes because of clues you’ve already picked up. Want to ask a suspect about a new lead? Well, too bad. There is some progression as you have to talk to people to get names of others to talk to, although you could in theory just pick randomly and stumble onto a lead. The judge acts as another gate; he will only accept the case after you’ve seen a certain number of clues. (I’m not sure exactly how he is unlocked, but I checked and you can’t go to the judge immediately after starting.) This is absolutely a thinking game, so I have no complaints there. But one out of three-- does that make it an adventure?
I am going to keep playing through the end. There’s enough here that it counts as an adventure in my book but just barely. I almost want to just ignore the score and talk to everyone that I can because the little side details are so charming! But for my next case, I’m going to try to play it “by the book” to solve the case with as few clues as possible just like Mr. Holmes. Off to the next case!
|Up next: more murder!|
What do you think about my three rules for adventure games? Am I missing something big? Am I off the mark? Especially as we get out of the Sierra era, do the old rules still apply?
Time played: 1 hr 35 min
Total time: 3 hr 25 min
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s 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!