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The Dagger of Amon Ra (DOS)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  *Katakis* (37843)
Written on  :  Jul 03, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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Excellent detective game set in a museum

The Good

In 1989, Sierra employee Roberta Williams finished her last mystery game, The Colonel's Bequest, starring Laura Bow as the main character. This game had her exploring a mansion, snooping around its rooms, eavesdropping on conversations, and discovering dead bodies. Three years later, another Laura Bow game was made called The Dagger of Amon Ra, which is more or less like its predecessor. Roberta started creating the game, but due to time constraints, she was forced to quit the project and hand the reigns over to Bruce Balfour. But Roberta checked in on him to see if the gameplay was similar to TCB.

Fresh out of college (Funny, I thought that it was university, according to TCB.), Laura decides to work for a major newspaper, the Daily Register News Tribune, in New York After saying goodbye to Laura, her father advises her to keep money in her shoe at all times. On the train to NY, she talks to a lady sitting beside her, who explains that thieves stole all her money while on a vacation, and advises her to be careful. After she steps off the train, the same thing happens to Laura, but she does her best to ignore the incident and head on over to the newspaper. There, she gets introduced to her boss, Sam Augustini, who asks her to write a newspaper article about a burglary at the Leyendecker Museum.

To help her, Augustini gives Laura permission to attend a charity fundraiser being held at the museum. There, she finds out that a valuable Egyptian artifact, the Dagger of Amon Ra, has been stolen, and that the security guard on patrol let the thief slip in and out of the museum. Laura agrees to investigate, but the further she gets in the investigation, the more dangerous that it becomes.

The game is divided into six acts. In the first act, you basically go around New York, using the aid of a taxi to travel between destinations. Acts 2 through 5 has you exploring the Leyendecker, using the detective skills that you acquired in TCB to uncover anything out of the ordinary. Like TCB, this involves you snooping through offices, uncovering dead bodies, and listening in on important conversations. The only exception is that you also have to question those who have attended the fundraiser to see if they have anything to say that might be relevant to the investigation. This involves you referring to your notebook, and selecting a topic that may refer to other people, locations, objects (that you picked up along the way), plus shit that you examined throughout the game. In the last act, the coroner asks you some questions based on your investigation, which you must answer correctly. False accusations and inconclusive evidence can get you killed.

Amon Ra is set in the year 1926, and everything in the game looks the way that it did back then. Mostly all the characters wear cheap clothing and the buildings look old. The graphics are in 256-color VGA, so most of the environments look good. The music reflects that of the era, particularly the I Want To Marry An Archaeologist that plays in the Speakeasy. But the music mostly include jazz-style tunes and some sensual ones.

A CD-ROM version of Amon Ra was also released, which includes full speech throughout the game. You can hear the growl and speech of the museum's resident dinosaur, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, who is about as funny as the Brontosaurus from Sam & Max. I enjoyed listening to Rocco the Taxi Driver who offers you travel (“Greetings, Madam. I can motivate you to your destination.” / “To what destination would you like to be motivated, Madam?” I also enjoyed listing to Ziggy's annoying voice. Leslie Wilson provides the narration for the CD version, but it's not unusual to have a female narrator. Virginia Capers provided the narration of Gabriel Knight. The CD-ROM includes both MS-DOS and Windows versions of the game.

My highlights for this game include finding the impostor's body impaled on a stuffed porcupine; running away from the killer in Act 5; listening to the security guard's accusations that Laura is the killer, due to the fact that she is always first at the murder scene; and stumbling into a secret ceremony, where the chants are nothing like those in real-life.

Users of the floppy version have to face some copy protection which requires you to refer to the documentation that comes with the game. The question relates to an Egyptian god, and you need to pick one of twelve gods that are relevant to the answer. If you answer incorrectly, you will most likely be thrown out to DOS.

The Bad

In Amon Ra, you use the ASK icon to interrogate people, which is done by clicking on the topic of interest then clicking the EXIT cursor anywhere on the screen to have Laura ask away. This is tedious, considering the fact that you cannot select multiple topics, so you have no choice but to repeat your action. I like the idea in Gabriel Knight, where you also have the ASK cursor handy, but clicking it on someone brings up an interrogation screen.

There is a bug that comes up at the very start of Act 2, and is activated when you save a game and then restore it. Instead of loading up, you get “Oops! You did something that we weren't expecting. Whatever it was, you don't need to do it to finish the game.” error message. I always did not know what this error means. It's like you were meaning to do something, but the game didn't like it. The only way that I could not get this message is by saving at a different location. Fortunately, this bug is not activated in later acts.

In TCB, if you do all the required tasks in a specific amount of time, the clock will usually tick over to the next 15 minutes. In Amon Ra, however, this method does not work. You can do nothing for a while and the next 15 minutes will tick over, meaning that you are likely to miss important events that are relevant to solving the investigation. It is recommended that you do NOT spend a lot of time looking at the lovely shit inside the Leyendecker.

In some situations, Amon Ra wouldn't let me access the control panel so that I can save/restore my game. This usually happens when I get a close-up view of an object, then exit out of it, or when I enter some offices. I didn't have that situation in other Sierra games that I played so far. I have no idea why this happened, but it just did.

The Bottom Line

Amon Ra is the sequel to TCB. You do the same shit as you did before, but unlike TCB, you can also question people that usually uncover interesting information. At the end of the game, you get questioned yourself on your investigation, on what conclusions that you have made. Everything in the game, the sound and graphics, reflect those in the 1920's era, just like the first game. This game is worth a try. It's a shame that Roberta did not produce more than two Laura Bow games. A third game might have been a lot better than its predecessors.