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SummaryThe excellent sequel to TCB – more involved and bloodier
The GoodWay back in the early Eighties, Sierra On-Line was quite new to the computer industry. There were only two people running the company: Ken and Roberta Williams. Both of them created the first graphic adventure game ever. Titled Mystery House, the game saw the player trapped in a Victorian mansion along with nine other people. They must find who is killing them off before they themselves are the next victim. It was the best-selling computer game of all time.
Nine years later, Roberta herself created her second detective game called The Colonel's Bequest, a game starring a university student named Laura Bow going around doing what real-life detectives do best: asking questions, searching for clues, and investigating murders. The game uses a real-time feature where events take place at certain times. It also features multiple endings, and the game encourages the player to try it again in case they missed any clues the first time around.
Now, we get to The Dagger of Amon Ra, the sequel to TCB released in 1992. If you brought the game back, you probably notice that the text above the title mentions Roberta's name. Ironically, Roberta wasn't even involved with the project due to time constraints. So she handed the reigns over to Bruce Balfour. However, she still worked as creative consultant, so she made sure that the quality of the game was on par with the first one.
After graduating from university, Laura lands a job in New York as a newspaper reporter. Her assignment: write a newspaper article about the theft of the infamous Dagger. Her boss gives her permission to attend a charity fundraiser being held at the Leyendecker Museum. There, the museum is in lockdown due to some suspicious activity that occurred that night, and everyone, including Laura herself, is a suspect. The characters are easy to warm up to, with Wolf Heimlich being the amusing one of the lot.
The Dagger of Amon Ra delivers a point-and-click interface, which makes things easier. When talking to characters, you use Laura's notebook to ask them about other characters; and not only that, but you can also ask them about places Laura visited, things that she picked up, and any miscellaneous stuff. And you don't even have to type anything in. It is rather interesting to hear what characters think of others.
The gameplay mechanics are the same as TCB, but Dagger is more involved. You have to search through people's offices and gather evidence. You also have to draw your own conclusions based on conversations and the evidence you gather, and use that at the end of the game, where you have to face up to the coroner.
The game focuses heavily on Egyptology, and it is obvious that Sierra did a lot of research. Click the eye cursor on almost any object in the room, such as the Rosetta Stones in the Egyptian exhibit, and you'll get the history of that object. It is much easier if the history was read out to you in the CD-ROM version, instead of just having it read. There are also hieroglyphics in some rooms, and at one point, you need to translate some of the hieroglyphs to solve a puzzle near the end of the game.
The graphics reflect the Egyptian setting quite well, and there are some smooth animations, like Rex the talking dinosaur with his mouth moving. The murders are a lot gorier than the first game, with more than one instance of blood pouring out the victim. Some of the victim's faces are horrifying, especially Ziggy's and the Countess'. You also get to see some of Laura's gruesome deaths. Seeing the bad ending to the game was confronting the first time I watched it.
The music in the game also reflects the Egyptian theme quite well, and it sounds more realistic when it is coming from the Roland MT-32 sound module. The CD-ROM version delivers speech, with most of the characters voiced by Sierra employees. The narrator has a bit of an attitude when you do inappropriate things with the bodies, such as touching Yvette Delacroix's breasts or trying to pull down Dr. Carter's tuxedo pants. I am not sure whether that the Archeologist song was present in the disk version. It's been a while since I've played it.
What I enjoyed about the game is that chase scene in Act Five. The music keeps you on edge as you make your way through the museum, trying to escape the killer. One wrong move, and you may be killed. Also, I enjoyed playing through the second act, eavesdropping on group conversations. The funny thing about this is that Laura is acting conspicuously.
The BadSometimes, right from the beginning of the game, the game refuses to let you restore from a previously saved game. You get this message “You did something we weren't expecting” and the game just terminates, even if you're playing on a slower machine. It seems to be location-based, so the only way I can get by this problem is by saving the game at different locations.
More often than not, I found the control panel disabled so I could not even save the game (when you can take control of Laura) when I want to. I would have liked to save just before I found a body or when it's time to attend an important meeting.
There aren't any patches to fix these problems, either.