Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Dagger of Amon Ra - Thoroughly Modern Millie

By Deimar

Laura’s Journal Entry #1: "I just haven’t started off on my right foot in the Big Apple. I have been mugged, robbed and almost killed by a car. But I am not going to let that stop the daughter of John Bow. No, sir. This New Orleans girl is going to crack an important case, the theft of the dagger of Amon Ra from the Leyendecker museum, and impress Mr. Augustini, my new boss at the New York Tribune."

The introduction video shows us a murder taking place in a ship. An unknown man is sleeping in his room when a shadowy figure emerges, strangles him and proceeds to store his corpse in a trunk. Next we are presented with the arrival of a ship, presumably the same, to the docks of New York and see some of the passengers get off the ship.


Sweet dreams, my beautiful prince

First, we attend to a discussion between a fez-wearing Egyptian-looking guy and another fellow. If I had to tell from the voice acting I would say it is a conversation between Apu, the Quickie-Mart owner in The Simpsons and Snooby McSnob, the most pompous Englishman this side of the Atlantic. Really, you should play this game just to hear these two discuss about the dagger of Amon Ra. Because you see, the English prick (honorary title) just came back from discovering the dagger and taking it from its home land to his pocket. That doesn’t suit the Egyptian guy who insists the dagger should be in Egypt. The conversation gets heated to the point where the Englishman threatens the life of the Egyptian so he drops the subject.


It should be in a museu… erm… think fast, think fast… in Egypt!!

Next we have a red-headed stevedore getting a trunk off the ship, probably the same we saw earlier as he complains about the weight. Must be an important character as he has his own portrait. In any case, the owner of the trunk comes rushing to chastise the stevedore and tell him to hurry up as he has to meet a countess.


I would advice calling the stevedore union and make him sleep with the fish… solve this peacefully

And finally we get to our young and clever Laura Bow. Last time we saw our protagonist she had just cracked the case of the murders at colonel Dijon’s state. As an aspiring journalist, that is the kind of case a career is built on. So obviously all of that is ignored at the beginning of this game because what fun there would be if Laura was known because of that incident instead of just by virtue of being the daughter of John Bow. And here we are, with Laura just graduated from Tulane university and giving her farewell to her loving father, ready to start her life in the Big Apple.

I must say that even seeing it coming from a mile, I find this part of the introduction hilarious. You see, Laura’s father warns her about the dangers of the big city, including a strange advice about keeping money in your shoe that gets repeated several times by other characters and which I don’t know if it is an American cultural thing because I haven’t heard anything similar (although at some point during a week-long school trip my parents made me wear a pouch tied to my waist inside the trousers to keep the money safe). In any case, inside the train, a lady sitting next to Laura also warns her about all the thievery and dangers awaiting in New York. And of course, the first thing that happens after getting of the train is that Laura’s case is stolen, then she is mugged and has to get to the newspaper walking. And at the same time keeping a glowing attitude with something that I think resembles a New Orleans’ accent. Or at least to my foreign non-native listening ears sounds like a not very natural accent.


The sun will come out, tomorrow...

And we are almost reaching the starting point of the game. Laura enters the New York Tribune, her new job, where she is greeted by Sam Augustini, the editor of the newspaper. He tells her that she got the job because of his relationship with his father (he helped him with the story that launched his career) and that Laura’s first job is to cover the burglary of a “fancy knife”, the titular dagger, from the Leyendecker museum. Somehow that involves going to a fundraiser party that is going to take place at the museum that evening masquerading as a society reporter instead of investigating, talking to the police and the like. Well, what do we know, we are just a little girl, something that it's kind of hammered through this section.


To be honest, outside of this image Laura is never that short
compared to the other characters. I would say she is average at worst

Finally, we can now take control of the game as act 1 begins. We start at the newspaper taking charge of our new job with our own desk. Searching it yields a press pass after some hide-and-seek with the key to the desk’s drawer. Well, kind of a press pass actually...

We can also collect a baseball from a bin nearby and nothing else in the whole office. So it’s time to start chatting and get some information. Next to Laura’s desk sits Crodfoller T. Rhubard (the only explanation for the name I’ve found is this one) who is the person previously assigned to investigate the robbery. Consequently, he is kind of hurt if asked about the issue but in general he is a good guy. There are two ways of speaking to characters in the game. The first one is through the all mighty bubble icon as in every other Sierra game of this generation, which leads to greeting the person you are talking to. If you want to ask about something in particular, you have to use another bubble icon which brings up our notebook. This is actually Crodfoller’s notebook, where he started gathering information about the burglary, but as now we are in charge of the investigation he generously passed it onto us. There are several categories in the notebook, characters, places, things and misc.. The only not self-describing is misc. which contains several topics such as the burglary, egyptology and little else.


I guess Laura feels the need to write down the name of the city she
is in in case she forgets… And this is our young smart detective... 

Crodfellah has little to say about anything really. Just introduces some characters like the director of the museum, the guy who discovered the dagger, the main detective working on the case and a shady character named Ziggy, a stoolie which can be usually found in a local speakeasy disguised as a flower shop. I have to say that I am learning a lot of 20’s slang from this game.

With nothing else to do, I decided to explore the city. And the city explored my inners as the first thing that happened was that I was ran over by a car for not looking both sides before crossing the street. Classic Sierra, how much I loathe you. Anyway, just crossing the street from the newspaper we reach the police station, conveniently placed so young reporters don’t have to walk too far to other non-plot-relevant stations. A homeless man is sleeping under a newspaper, a copy of the Tribune for sure, next to the door but when I try to take a look at the newspaper he simply rolls over and hides it. Inside we meet the sergeant who could provide some information except he is too hungry to talk with us. However, he allows (or just doesn’t mind) us to see detective O’Irish… erm… O’Riley, the one in charge of the investigation of the burglary of the dagger. As the Egyptian and the Britton, O’Riley is a complete stereotype and simply dismisses us as soon as we tell him we want to take a look at the file.


I have looked a lot at this image to find a four-leaf clover, a leprechaun and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but I haven't had any luck. I hope there is at least a scene where while running from the police we lose them in the middle of a St. Patrick’s day parade...

When leaving the station, the homeless is no more there, but he left the paper which contains a coupon for a sandwich at some place called Luigi’s. So that’s must be the solution to the hungry sergeant. Now off to find Luigi’s… which is just a vendor that now appears outside the tribune. That was easy… too easy… In any case the sergeant doesn’t know that much, but tells us the password for the speakeasy.

One of the pieces of information Crodfocker told us was that to use a taxi we simply need to show the cabbie the press pass and he will take us whenever we want to go. Another convenience for a girl with 0 dollars to her name. Outside every location there is taxi stop so I simply call one and tell him to go to the flower shop which serves as front for the speakeasy by simply opening my notebook.

The zone outside the shop is not very fancy, and I couldn’t find anything useful to do there but for the side entrance to the shop. After knocking, someone asks me for the password which we duly wrote down in the notebook. Inside we can find Cabaret minus Liza Minnelli and nothing of interest but Ziggy, a bald man sitting alone who talks about “The Sun Also Rises”, apparently a novel. I don’t seem to be able to get anything from him and I have no clue what he is talking about, so I leave the zone and decide to cross the street risking my life to see what’s at the other end.


I have no idea why any of that is relevant but someone
should detain this guy before he becomes Dr. Evil

And at the other end we simply find the infamous Lofat’s laundry. There are some boys burning ants with a magnifying glass just outside the shop. I just knew that should be ours, as we were lacking some tooling in the detective department. After talking with all of them, the eldest, Biff, seems to be fond of baseball players, and I manage to exchange the baseball for the magnifying glass. Lofat however seems to be quite less useful so I simply move.

I decided to hop on a cab and go to the next place on the list, the docks. The cabbie drives me while telling me how he uses to drive a kid called Isaac Asimov… Which I simply mention because as soon as we get off the car we meet Dorian, the stevedore from the introduction and he begins to drop some interesting facts about 1926, the year the game takes place.

Dorian has some interesting things to say about Dr. Archibald Carrington III, the director of the museum. Or more specifically about his trunk. The heaviest trunk he has ever carried and with a very disgusting smell. And he seems to be a connoisseur in trunks, having operated so many. He also mentions the good Mr. Carrington left with a woman who was waiting for him, the countess Waldorf-Carlton.


You could try playing through some 25 year old games and
sharing your experience from a modern perspective. Just saying.

When I got back to the cab, the driver is different. This one has a very loose sense of hygiene. And being an adventure gamer, I have a very loose sense of private property. So after realizing that I can move the trash around, I discover a ticket for Lofat’s. Before going there I stop at the Tribune to ask Crodfunding about the countess and Dorian but he is of no help. Way to research, mate. The ticket gets us a formal dress which could be used in a variety of occasions… such as a fundraising party. There is actually a board in the newspaper that advises employees to wear appropriate clothes to the events they are covering, so I guess I accidentally have solved that riddle. I decide to go to the museum to prove this theory but apparently it is not 7pm yet so I can’t enter.

I spent some time wandering from place talking to people about the new topics discovered but and trying to guess what to do now until I realize I missed something at the speakeasy. There is a door at the back of the room which leads to the women lounge. There is a woman here waiting for countess Lavinia Waldorf-Carlton, although why a countess would visit such a place to meet with a woman in the lounge is a mystery to me that I will probably have to unravel at some point. She also tries to hit on Laura but in spite of my best efforts there doesn’t seem to be a way of accepting her offer. I notice that there is a screen here that could allow me to change into the new dress.


So that’s what happens in the women’s lounge. I have always wondered...

And with that, we advance to act 2. I feel like I’m missing a lot of things and that I should probably know more about Ziggy and the countess, but I have decided to keep going with what I discover to see how I end the game (probably knowing nothing) and then replay it being more systematic before advancing acts.

Session Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

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!

7 comments:

  1. Wait, you're playing the voice-acted version, right? (Yes, because you commented on the voices.) And your screenshots show text too! I only played the floppy version, but the Adventuregamers review mentions "the inability to have both voices and subtitles". Looks like yet another ScummVM feature.

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    Replies
    1. You are absolutely right. I ran the game with DosBox and there is no option to have both the text and voice at the same time as in ScummVM. That's seems like a major screw up!

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  2. I feel bad for that homeless man he could have used that free sandwich coupon.

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  3. I was 14 when this game came out. The idea of putting money in your shoe to have something left for a cab or a phone call if you are mugged was something I remember my mother telling me to do when I went on a roadtrip with friends. I think it was just crazy paranoia in retrospect, but it was a common bit of advice given at the time, at least in my neck of the woods.

    I think I remember even having a friend that was mugged in New York that kept a $20 that way, but maybe he was just a liar and telling a good story.

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  4. What you missed:

    Fhecevfvatyl yvggyr guvf gvzr. V thrff lbh qvqa'g fnl gb Mvttl gung lbh jrer frag ol Pbqsybjre Euhoneo, jub unccraf gb or Mvttl'f tbbq sevraq. Ur'yy or n ybg zber erfcbafvir gb lbhe dhrfgvbaf nsgre gung naq lbh'yy or noyr gb nqq fbzr arj anzrf gb lbhe abgrobbx.

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  5. I have to say, the aesthetic of this game is great. I hope we can all say the same about the puzzle design when all is said and done.

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  6. Just reached Act 2 and I'm surprised to find myself enjoying this quite a bit more than I expected. The puzzles have been on the easy side so far but it works very well for casual play.

    My only complaints have to do with the clunky interface. Whoever thought that forcing you to open your notebook, find the right page, pick a single topic and click to exit EVERY TIME you want to ask a question was a good idea?

    And that silliness of having to show the cabbie your pass EVERY TIME you want to switch locations, sheesh.

    ReplyDelete