Monday, 28 August 2017

Game 89: The Dagger of Amon Ra - Introduction

Written by Deimar

Deimar, there is a game that falls right up your alley, they said. And so I have come back to you, ready with my insatiable love for death animations and low budget unipersonal projects. And what is this game that will suit my tastes? A murder mystery that promises to mix the intense thriller of Hugo II: Whodunit with the gruesome deaths of any Elvira game: The Dagger of Amon Ra.


Where Laura needs to investigate her own murder!! Who saw that coming?


The Dagger of Amon Ra is the sequel to 1989 The Colonel’s Bequest, which is basically a game of Clue but with more deaths. In spite of not being a huge seller by any measure of success compared to the other titles in Sierra’s library, they deemed profitable to create a sequel for Laura Bow, as The Colonel’s Bequest had the distinction of being the game with most positive reception at that moment, measured by the amount of mail received praising the game. Specifically, among a public that wasn’t being specifically targeted: women. As stated by Roberta Williams herself in issue 95 of Computer Gaming World (CGW), “her theory was that women were more inclined to snoop around and piece things together a little at a time, while men wanted to be in control”. Without entering to consider the truthfulness of that statement, I can almost picture Ken Williams analysing the data and dreaming about dollars in an untapped market before greenlighting the sequel.


I guess women are also more interested in guessing the right time to feed the dog?

I must confess I am not a big fan of Roberta Williams’ work. It has something to do with King Quest V and the hate towards mice, snakes and pies that it filled me with. Trickster’s experience with The Colonel’s Bequest didn’t help make me change my point of view. Just reading about the often unfair deaths and possible dead ends, which are a staple of Sierra style, together with the tediousness of having to know what every character is doing at any given time to complete the game made me decide that I was good without having played it. So here I am with my fingers crossed hoping the sequel is not as its predecessor.

Lucky for me, Roberta took a step down in this game and let others do the designer job, keeping a producer role in the game to make sure the game keeps the same style and attracts the same public. So, who would be the one in charge of getting behind one of Roberta’s most beloved projects? None other than Bruce J. Balfour who… erm… made that thing… you know, that famous thing… (checks mobygames quickly)... oh… Neuromancer. Erm… maybe I spoke too soon about being lucky. In any case, playing The Dagger of Amon Ra should prove a completely different experience from playing The Colonel’s Bequest, as Balfour’s take on the game is described as a more traditional point and click style, whatever that means. I hope it means that there will be less of missing key dialogue from not feeding the parrot, but it seems to me that this departing from the original formula made the game less attractive to its target audience and so the reason there is no Laura Bow III. Well, that and that the game won a CGW award as the seventh “Least Rewarding Ending of All Time” in 1996. Boy, we are in for a ride.

The game came out on floppy and CD, with the CD adding voice acting from the development team or any other person that just walked by them. The cast includes Balfour himself as well as Josh Mandel (which depending on your sources had some involvement with the development, but this is quite unclear), Scott Murphy or Jane Jensen. This is the version I will play, not only because I want to listen to the acting of the Sierra staff but also because is the version GoG is selling. Interestingly, the “manual” that comes with this version seems to be a description of the Leyendecker Museum, which I guess will be the main location for this game, wrote as an actual museum guide. I found the manual somewhat interesting and boring at the same time. Some digging brought me to the conclusion that this document came in fact with the floppy disk version as an anti-pirate measure but I haven’t been able to locate the proper original manual. You know, the one where you are told what the game is about and how to play it. So, I will leave the story so far for the first post. Without further ado, let’s play The Dagger of Amon Ra (and guess who will be the guilty part in the murder/robbery/whatever we are going to uncover!!!)


I bet it will be Dick. He is kind of a d… bad person.

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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

22 comments:

  1. I held off playing this game for many years due to the negative review at adventuregamers.com, and finally played it only a few weeks ago. I agree with them that this is much weaker than Colonel's Bequest. 47

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  2. I'll split the difference between Colonel's Bequest and Cruise for a Corpse on this guess, rounded down because doing so reminded me of Cruise for a Corpse: 44.

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  3. I'll guess... 53.

    And the murderer will be the priest - and not because he's crouching due to the bloke next to him taking the only chair. It's his eyebrows - they're too far above his eyes - my policy is to never trust a man who can fit two more sets of eyes between his glasses and his brows.

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    1. Something's been bugging me since I read this post.

      The last picture looked familiar.

      Did you try to sneak a screenshot of Cruise for a Corpse in a Laura Bow post?

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  4. I rather liked this game, or at least the first half that I played. 50.

    I doubt very much this will approach the horror that was "Cruise for a Corpse". That game was a dud.

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  5. Both Laura Bow games are, to my mind, pretty terrible from an objective assessment. So much you can arbitrarily miss, no guidance, and the second game is chock a block with dead ends and some miserable timed sequences.

    Which is, of course, preamble to say that I love these games and would play through them again in a moment's notice. In fact, I'm thrilled to see they're finally on GOG and will be buying them shortly as I haven't owned a legit copy for years.

    And no, I cannot tell you why I'm fond of these games, other than my general love of Agatha Christie. In fact, with Dagger I'll often just grab an FAQ and cheat my way through it... but I'll still have fun! It's perplexing, I admit, to say nothing of inexplicable, but I wish this series had kept going.

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  6. Damn it, I already know who done it... and I never even played the game! Stupid youtube let's play.

    Well, since that the case the dice says... 59

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  7. I have to admit that I am seriously in love with this game - and I've always had a secret crush on Laura Bow. Logically, there's then only one score I can guess - full 100.

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  8. For some reason I don't think this will rate very well - 42

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  9. Longtime reader, first time commentator...The answer is 42.

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  10. Lots of low-ish scores, but I'll try and be more optimistic with a 58.

    Tempted to play along, if I have the time.

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  11. If Colonel's Bequest got a 54 then maybe this will get a 56 ?! That's my guess...

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  12. I actually liked the game a lot, great presentation, I´m guessing 62

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  13. I'm not sure this will do as well as the first one. I'll guess 52.

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  14. I quite like the atmosphere in this game, but I think I recall getting thoroughly stuck on my last attempt at a playthrough some years ago, quite possibly hitting a dead-end.

    Neutral 50 for me

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  15. I remember really liking this game, but it is a huge 'hot and cold' game - you'll either absolutely love or loathe it with few people resting in the middle. I'll go 55, and wish I had the time to play along!

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  16. I just went ahead and bought the game on GoG, with the intention of playing along, but I'm not sure if I have time for it at the moment. I did install the game and start it up, though, and.... maybe it's just me, but I feel that the graphics of the second generation Sierra games ( PQ2, LSL2-3, QfG1-2 ) are holding up better than the next. I imagine some motion capturing was used, and possibly backgrounds were painted, then digitized, but the poor resolution makes it all look a bit - for lack of a better word - smeared.

    At least the previous generation graphics look like they were made for the resolution they're presented in, so they appear cleaner. Then again, maybe it's just me.

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    1. >motion capturing

      In the context of 2D animation, it's called rotoscoping. And yes, it looks blurry compared to proper pixel art.

      Furthermore, at this point Sierra started having the character sprites scale with perspective, and in Amon Ra they sometimes become *larger* than their default size, which looks even more blurry/pixelated. (I played the floppy version in DOSBox.)

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