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The Colonel's Bequest

aka: Laura Bow 1, The Colonel's Bequest: A Laura Bow Mystery
Moby ID: 461
DOS Specs

Description official descriptions

The year is 1925. Laura Bow is a young student attending the Tulane University in New Orleans, and an aspiring journalist. Her friend Lillian invites her to spend a weekend in a mansion belonging to her uncle, Colonel Henri Dijon, a veteran of Spanish-American war and the owner of a large, but decaying sugar plantation on a secluded island. During the dinner Laura meets members of Lillian's extended family and their alleged friends. As Laura begins to explore the mansion and talk to its inhabitants, she unravels old family feuds and realizes some of those people - if not all - have their own plans and schemes. It all gets much worse when strange accidents and murders start to occur. Laura must investigate those gruesome events and find the culprit.

The Colonel's Bequest is a detective mystery adventure game very similar in style and presentation to Agatha Christie's novels. The game world is confined to the island and consists of numerous interconnected areas, such as various rooms in the mansion, garden, smaller structures, etc. The player is free to explore much of the game's world right from the beginning, with only a few areas being initially inaccessible. The game's clock advances a quarter of an hour each time Laura performs an action pertaining to the plot. Characters have their own schedules and clues are often obtained by discretely observing their actions.

The player interacts with the environment by typing verb-object command combinations (such as "Look Garden", "Talk Colonel", etc.). Some of the most common actions have keyboard shortcuts. The gameplay largely focuses on exploration. Much of the plot stays in the background and can be uncovered by talking to the characters about various topics (mostly other people). There is an inventory and a few puzzles, but they play a much less prominent role in the game compared to other adventures by Sierra. It is possible to complete the game without having discovered the entire plot or even without having identified the murderer. There is no scoring system, but after the game is finished the player is given a detective ranking and told about story branches or other elements that might have been missed.

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Credits (DOS version)

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Writing / Dialogue / Story

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 76% (based on 30 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 74 ratings with 6 reviews)

There's plenty to do in this top-notch detective game

The Good
Anyone who grew up playing computer games in the Eighties may have played the first four KQ games, and may have fond memories of playing them. Roberta Williams, the series' creator, said that she likes mysteries, and this should have been more apparent when she released Mystery House, Sierra's first game for the Apple II. So, just before she started work on the fifth KQ title, she released The Colonel's Bequest but she wanted her detective game to be huge.

The game is set in the Twenties, and we are introduced to Laura Bow, a student studying at Tulane University, right in the heart of New Orleans. Laura's friend Lillian comes and invites her to a family reunion at the old plantation house by the bayou. There, she gets to attend the family reunion and to hear what Lillian's friend, the Colonel, is doing with his will. She is also given the chance to meet the other guests staying at the house.

The game is, in some ways, similar to Mystery House, in that the game opens up by introducing each character, who are murdered one by one during the course of the game. But there's a lot more involved. You get to see characters interact with one another and eavesdrop on their conversations, as well as looking at objects up-close with a magnifying glass. All these things are important because the game gives you a rating on how well you performed, and you will see that rating when you completed it. The game is split into eight acts that last for one hour, and certain events only occur in that act.

I admired the game's copy protection, which kicks in at the start of the game. You see, it requires you to identify a fingerprint belonging to one of the game's characters instead of looking up a word on a certain page. Unlike most copy protection methods, this one is slightly difficult since all the fingerprints are too similar to one another. However, I found that the easiest way is focus on the center of the fingerprint, and see what figures you can make out. A bird can be seen in Clarence Sparrow's print, for instance.

You spend most of the game exploring the plantation house, noticing anything unusual like objects being transported from one location to another. Graphically, the plantation house is laid out nicely, with the different rooms on the ground floor, and the bedrooms on the floor above them. You have to do some tasks outside, which is a gloomy environment complete with dark clouds and lightning. To add to the dark atmosphere, wind, thunder, and insect noises can be heard in the background.

As I said, The Colonel's Bequest rates how good of a detective you were, and you can read notes based on the conversations you listened into, objects being transported from one location to another, whether or not a character has a crush on somebody, etc. Anything you have missed will how up as an incomplete list. but the game doesn't tell you what you missed. The game can be replayed by anyone who just wants to find everything.

There are a few moments that I like, including watching the fight between Rudy and Clarence near the end of the game. I also like the way there are two endings to the game, so if you viewed one ending already you can watch the other one by loading the game to a point before them.

The Bad
One thing that annoyed me was trying to unlock something with the only key you find in the game. You have to be very specific at what you type in the parser if you want Laura to unlock it, otherwise the game would complain that it's the wrong key when it is not.


The Bottom Line
In conclusion, The Colonel's Bequest is a well-done murder mystery, from the creator of the King's Quest series. It has everything a good detective game should have, such as investigating crime scenes, eavesdropping on other people's conversations, and looking at objects up close.

The game is split up into eight acts, with certain events only occurring in specific acts. Each act gets more intense as you discover more and more dead bodies. Nearly all the guests are murdered, which makes you keep thinking that you are next.

The gloomy atmosphere blends in with the detective nature of the game, and the copy protection is superior to the other methods Sierra used in the past. The points system is replaced by what I call the 'performance monitor', in which your actions are recorded and written down in a notebook that you can view at the end of the game. It provides you with hints on what you missed, so if you feel up to it you can replay the game to achieve a good detective rating.

DOS · by Katakis | カタキス (43086) · 2013

Top mystery game.

The Good
| Mystery |
The game starts casually but immediately pulls you into the web of intrigues, danger, and suspense. You play Laura Bow, a young girl whose friend calls her to come at a spooky old mansion to keep her company with all the oldtimers that will be on the gathering. She doesn't know why they were all summited, but she convinces you it just might be more interesting than studying for biology exam. And indeed it does become, the moment you sit on the table with the rest of 'family', and plot starts ticking while suspects and 'victims of accidents' are piling.

| Meet Laura Bow, the Noise Detective |
The whole game starts kinda late, I believe it was 8pm or so, and consists of about eight acts. Each act lasts one full hour in the game, and is triggered as you witness specific elements. However, that is only to make the game easier. But if you wanna be a full-time detective, you must try to gather all the clues and to connect the strings eventually, since once you finish the game, you get to see a nice set of what all you did discover, and what all you missed. So don't play to end, like I did, but play to understand. However, being an outsider of the family ring, people will not run to your aid or likeness, so you'll basically have to do everything on your own. Just to be greeted by surprising twist in the plot, highly unexpected and well fitted, for whichever ending you choose, and there are more than just right one.

| Parse This You Sonovagun |
This was the first game to add to my collection that had something else than just mouse user-friendly interface. It has text-parsing, and I enjoyed using that even more than just clicking with a mouse up on a certain object of a person. And parsing was fairly well done, and overall entertaining. Not too hard even for newcommers like me (hey, don't blaim me for being too young in the time of text adventures). Combining your own wit with your sight is what makes a real detective out of you, and gives you all the answers.

The Bad
| I Wanna Play |
Well, one thing does make a trembling annoyance in the distance. You can collect clues, proofs, ideas, and what all not, but you cannot share them. I mean, you can, but it's just as talking into the wind. You can easily die in the game, yet you cannot try and stop any murder in particular. You cannot do any action that might even the odds.

The Bottom Line
| Technicality |
'Tis an outstanding mystery game with lots of adventuring on a rather small ground. I always found fascinating topics in "whodunnit" style, and this game really made a miracle out of it. It has great graphic, especially due to fact it uses 16 colors only. Uses either mouse or keyboard for character movement and interaction with objects and NPCs, and has neat sound effects and music samples whenever they appear. Plus, it offers intriguing story that will keep you guessing and probably second-guessing until the very end. Whatever more can you expect from a decade old game (duh, rethorical).

DOS · by MAT (241150) · 2012

One big cliche but still fun

The Good
The music was some of the most spooky music in a PC video game at the time. The graphics really helped set the mood. The addition of time to the game (time only passes when you trigger a certain event) adds a new dynamic, even though it's only a cosmetic aspect of the game.

The Bad
The classic Sierra problem of "you can't continue until you do X" problem might leave you totally stuck in the game. At back when this game came out 15 years ago, there was no Internet/AIM/IRC to turn to for help, you would HAVE to call for paid help or buy the hint book.

The Bottom Line
A classic for it's time, and it seems to have aged fairly well. Playing this game brings back memories.

DOS · by Travis Owens (6) · 2004

[ View all 6 player reviews ]

Trivia

Copy protection

In one of Sierra's more creative copy-protection schemes, The Colonel's Bequest came with a red-lined foldout with "fingerprints" of characters in the game. Using a special red-gel "magnifying glass," you would identify these fingerprints for entry before being allowed to start the game.

Fifi

In the sequence in Fifi's room while she get ready to meet her lover-boy Jeeves, when she goes behind the screen to change type in "Open Door" and you can see Fifi in her underwear.

Laura Bow

Laura Bow, the heroine, was modeled after Clara Bow, a well-known actress from the 1920's.

References

Once Laura is in the washroom, type in "Take Shower". Laura strips, gets in and scrubs away while the hooded killer slips in and murders her in a parody of the horror classic Psycho, complete with high-pitched violins playing.

Information also contributed by Itay Shahar and uclafalcon

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Eurythmic.

Amiga added by POMAH. Windows added by Cavalary. Atari ST added by Belboz.

Additional contributors: Trixter, Jeanne, formercontrib, Patrick Bregger, Nate Ridley.

Game added November 23, 1999. Last modified June 25, 2024.