Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Dagger of Amon Ra - Won!

By Deimar

If you have kept up to date with this playthrough, I have played The Dagger of Amon Ra to completion but failed miserably to answer the coroner’s questions. As I played the version of the game sold by GoG which uses ScummVM, I thought it a good time to replay the game using DosBox to try and beat the game and see the differences between the two versions. In that regard, there are not that many.

The first and most obvious one is, as Laukku pointed out, that there is no option to have both sound and text during the game. You have to choose one of them. Given that the quality of the recordings is not that great, that is more of a feature than something you can really miss but it is an odd option to leave out of the game. In fact, this time I played with only text to shorten the experience and because I don’t really think you are missing that much without the voices. I didn’t notice any other major differences but for a myriad of bugs, but I am not even sure this affects only the DosBox version. But I will get to them while recounting the game.

My plan for this second playthrough was to try and discover what I had missed by being a bit more thoughtful and persistent and not simply accepting time jumps as they come. Also, I just went ahead and read Illmari’s clues and a walkthrough after considering being “done” with every time slot so I don’t have to replay the whole game if I miss something crucial. Let’s see.

Like I missed commenting on this awesome piece of music

Act 1. Laura Bow: A Nose for News

Resume: Laura arrives at New York, gets a job at the Tribune covering the theft of the Dagger of Amon Ra from the Leyendecker Museum. She asks the detective in charge of the burglary, detective O’Riley, who turns out to be an arrogant misogynistic useless man and doesn’t seem to give a damn about the burglary. Also, he is the killer, but you should know that already if you have been paying attention. In any case, we meet other members of the cast such as Ziggy, a man with a shady reputation, and Steve Dorian, a stevedore who I still don’t know why is involved in any of this other than to serve as Laura’s love interest. In any case, the chapter ends when Laura manages to get a dress fit for the fundraiser party that is going to be celebrated at the museum at 7pm.

What I discovered for myself: If you recall my post about chapter 2, I complained about not knowing half the characters nor their occupation. Turns out, you can learn most of it in this chapter. Myklos, Yvette and Wolf are Lofat’s clients so when he is asked about the Leyendecker museum he talks about them and their names are available so you can interrogate other characters about them This yields no result but to know that Rube, your partner at the Tribune knows Yvette. Intimately. And so does Lofat. And the list keeps growing and growing. Also that Myklos and Wolf are involved.

My god. She out-fified Fifi!!!

The same can be said about Najeer. Talking for the first time with Ziggy he asks who sent us. I don’t really recall what I answered the first time, but this time I chose Rube and he was ready to talk. He even tells Laura about the riddles Najeer keeps asking him, which are the very same ones that will be asked to Laura later in the game. Nice foreshadowing.

I am not sure. Can this be considered foreshadowing or a simple spoiler?

Another thing of interest is the fact that Steve Dorian stops talking to Laura as soon as he learns that she will be attending the fundraiser party. He actually ask how much would it cost to enter. Isn’t he an adorable stalker? From my point of view, it still doesn’t make that much sense but whatever.

Here I found one of the “differences” between the two versions, something that Sierra games seem to share when in DosBox, the “out of handles” error. This error halts the game and prompt the error in DOS. Which sucks as this didn’t happen once in the ScummVM version, but happen to me at least thrice while replaying the game. I already said during my first playthrough that there were some odd spots where you can’t save the game. I can not say if it is something to do with DosBox but in this second one I noticed large parts of the game where you simply can’t save until you reach a specific location, which when considered together with this bug has been a bit excruciating.

What I missed completely: Apparently, nothing. Good start!! :D

Act 2. Suspects on Parade

Resume: Laura goes to the fundraiser party and meets a bunch of very strange and suspicious people. Between talking to the guests and listening to their conversations, she discovers the stolen dagger in hiding in the museum's gift shop but sadly she is kicked out before she can do anything. Steve also makes an appearance and kisses Laura. Sadly, the party has an abrupt end when Laura discovers the corpse of Dr. Carter Pippin, the man who discovered the dagger in Egypt, inside a sarcophagus with a fake dagger thrusted in his chest.

What I discovered for myself: Nothing really. There is a mention of grape juice in Carter’s corpse, which is a first clue to O’Riley being the murderer and having something to do with the theft. But other than that I didn’t find anything new. I even tried a different order for the actions, but it doesn’t seem to matter and you don’t get to listen to any other conversation than the ones I already mentioned.

Well, there is one I did discover. How much I hate the conversation system. I already complained about it the first time but indulge me. There is a lot of hate here.

What I missed completely
: Nothing. Man, I’m on fire!!

Act 3. On the cutting edge

Resume: All guests are locked up in the museum and things start to go awry when corpses start piling up faster than the zombies in World War Z. Lucky for the intrepid reporter, she manages to recover the dagger of Amon Ra from a tank in the VATs room and discover the real Carrington’s corpse inside a trunk.

What I discovered for myself: Some things but of little consequence. I had to restore a lot in this chapter to replay the parts I had missed. And I found a second difference between the DosBox version and ScummVM. You see, there is a bug in the game, that I think is fixed in the ScummVM version. This bug makes opening the safe at Carrington’s office impossible, as you can click on the picture and it opens… and closes. Yes, it bars you from opening the safe behind. When I discovered this was a bug and not the game preventing me from destroying its plot too early I almost threw everything through the window. Lucky for me, I discovered that if you click like a madman on the picture, you eventually get the safe’s combination screen. The second time I used the combination the safe finally opened for me.

In any case, what I discovered were little details. For example, just at the beginning of the chapter we can find O’Riley looking at the pterodactyl that will eventually kill Ziggy and ask him about Dr. Carter’s corpse. He says the coroner, who apparently was at the party, took it. But if we go to the armour exhibit, the corpse is already inside the armour. It is a pity we can not confront him about this lie, but it is another strong hint that he is the murderer very early in the game.

I am pretty sure that his next move is marking with a big red X
in the floor the exact place where he has to place Ziggy to kill him...

We can also listen to a new conversation through the communicator at Carrington’s. This time between Ziggy and Ernie, but it is inconsequential, as it is just Ernie kicking off Ziggy from his office. It did allow me to notice however that the conversations I could listen to were basically the same I heard in the first playthrough at a much different time, so I guess the conversations are fixed and I didn’t miss much for discovering so late that I could use the communicator.

One of the things I learned in my first playthrough was to pay more attention at the schedules written in Carter’s notebook and from other sources. The first one is an appointment with Tut at 10.15pm in the Egyptian exhibit, which is the first jump in this chapter, starting at 10pm. Well, this proved more complicated than expected. This first jump is also the only one in the game that is not fixed by a static event like walking into a room or doing something. I had to restore several times because I kept jumping to 10.15 at several locations such as the VATs room or the picture gallery, which brings me to believe the time lapse is timed and happens after some amount of real time has passed. And the problem with that is that Ziggy’s corpse appears at that moment in the dinosaur exhibit, so you can’t meet Tut because that causes another time jump. When I managed to be quick enough to meet him, I was awarded with a not very interesting conversation between him and Laura, where he said Wolf called him to Carrington’s because of a call, but when he tried to answer the phone the line was dead. It’ is better than nothing I guess.

Are you sure? Because I vividly remember a detective and his
German pal interrogating everyone about this particular death...

Speaking of Ziggy, after finding his corpse I was finally able of finding his head in the human mask exhibit, just as I thought. I don’t know how I was able to miss it, as it has a different colour than the other heads, but it is there. You don’t learn anything new from it, but get to be questioned by Wolf and O’Riley. I noticed than in these interrogations O’Riley is always quite comprehensive with the girl that keeps finding corpses but I don’t understand why. Considering he is the killer, wouldn’t it be a perfect opportunity to pin the murders onto Laura?

You actually need to use the magnifying glass on the head
to realize it is Ziggy’s. The great reporter, everyone!

The encounter with the countess at the medieval exhibit was also way better this time, simply by following the indications of the coroner. If you walk up to her and ask what she is doing, she will spill the beans. She has been working with Carrington to steal the pictures in the museum. She gets fake ones that passes to Carrington in exchange for the real ones. Those are sold to private buyers and then the plan was to damage all the fake paintings in the museum to get the insurance money and cover the theft. She also talks about how Yvette probably made her late husband change his will (and another one for Yvette, I now wish I had kept the score) when pressed about the late count’s diary.

I am sorry. I don’t know why but this dialogue reminded
me a lot of this one and I couldn’t stop laughing

At 2am, we can be witness to a love encounter between Wolf and Myklos, but this only enforces what Lofat told Laura and serves no purpose I could see. I learned of this meeting through their conversation in the communicator.

On the other hand, it is quite entertaining listening to Wolf’s life. I demand a spin off!!

And I couldn’t find that many more things by myself. To be honest, it is a bit disappointing, as the game seems quite linear. Instead of going straight to where I knew there would be action, I intentionally went the other way every time and the game simply feels empty when you step out of the railroad before you, which as I stated before is not even a railroad as sometimes you have to wander to the next interesting thing.

What I missed completely: After seeing the size of Ilmari’s list of things I missed the first time I was worried. Specially after finishing the game and realizing there were a lot of things I simply didn’t know. And this is the chapter to learn about them. Frankly, I am a bit angry with the game, as they are quite verging on the pixel hunting variety of puzzles.

First, let’s talk about secret passages. There are a ton that I missed. Well, or maybe just two. There is one going from Myklos’ to the VATs room, which can be opened by moving the horn of the skull on Myklos’ desk. The second one takes you from Wolf’s to Carrington’s. It is opened by pushing a button behind some medals at Wolf’s. What purpose do they serve? I don’t know. Maybe show you how the killer moved through the museum, but that doesn’t make any sense considering he must have known the museum better than the people working there.

What’s even funnier is that the game won’t even let you
open the passage if it senses there is a character at the other end

Then we have the instance where I totally forgot I had something in the inventory I didn’t get to use during my first playthrough. You see, there is a carbon paper inside Yvette’s garbage. I took in my first playthrough but never managed to do anything with it. I tried using it with the coal and the notebook in hope of being able to read what was written over it. But no, the answer was to use Yvette’s light to read it. This is a case of a puzzle where you have to know how to read a carbon paper and I didn’t do my due diligence and investigate about it outside of the game. I think it would be good if the game offered some kind of clue on how to read it but I digress. The paper is simply a note to Ernie talking about his fencing job.

And then we have two items that infuriate me. Well, mostly one because it is the critical to the plot while the other is not even mentioned anymore. Do you remember that Carrington’s spelled the letters C.P. with blood when he died? I assumed those were initials for the man who killed him or something. It turns out it is “Crime and Punishment”, the title of the book in his library which contains the police file of Watney Little, a con man who just escaped from jail. This explains who the fake Carrington is, and the note on the file stating a blackmail explains that he was working for someone, presumably O’Riley. When you click in any other book other than this one you get a generic response. A very generic response, which suggest there is nothing to do with these books. Maybe is just me, but I can’t say this is good design.

I would say a police file of someone with such a long career would be easily noticed inside a book..

The other item is a book in Wolf’s that contains a garter and a note from Yvette (score +1). How can you find this book? You can’t. At least not easily. There are two columns of books and several rows. The trick here is that each column is split into two also, although with no graphical difference between the sections. What do I mean with that? If you look at one column and row, you get a close up of the books there and a description telling what that section is about. This is usually the same for a specific column and row except when you click on the lower row left column. If you click on the left of the “cell” you don’t see anything special. But if you click on the right, you can see a book will the hill facing inwards. I really think I can call this some foul play. There is no reason to think clicking there will give a close up different from clicking anywhere else. Hell, there is no reason you should be clicking like a madman through this library. And the garter is not even given the dignity of triggering an interesting dialogue from neither Yvette or Wolf.

And the game won’t even let me show it to Myklos for laug… erm… for justice!!

Act 4. Museum of the Dead

Resume: I find it quite hard to resume what interesting things happen in this chapter. I guess that Yvette and the countess die, and Steve's disappearance is noteworthy but it seems like this chapter is completely devoid of meaning and seems an extension of the previous one.

What I discovered for myself: That there is another way to bug the game. After giving the meat to the beetles, there is a little scene that occurs at some point in the first screen of the basement that shows them carrying the meat through the door. If you happen to try to open the door before this animation is played, the game gets bugged and you are unable to continue. Another point for the ScummVM version. Other than that, there is nothing new to be learnt in this chapter.

They actually make another appearance during the cult of Ra
segment. That’s a long travel for meat eating bugs just to have lunch...

What I missed completely: Nothing.

Act 5. Rex Takes A Bite Out of Crime

Resume: A hooded figure chases Laura through the museum but she manages to avoid him, finds a sect of worshippers of Ra under the museum and befriends them, rescues Steve and solves the case by trapping the murderer between the jaws of the talking T-Rex at the dinosaur exhibit.

So let me get this straight. These people have built a complete effigy in the basement of museum with no one noticing its construction or the tens of people coming and going through a barred door or to the boiler room... 

What I discovered for myself: Nothing new. Wasn’t expecting to find it either.

What I missed completely
: Nothing.

Act 6. The Coroner’s Inquest

Resume: The coroner invites the police, all witnesses and Laura’s boss to hear her explanation of the case. I rock.

What I discovered for myself and What I missed completely: I discovered that there are still a lot of things I don’t know. Here I was, after playing the game for a second time, using the hints provided by Ilmari and a walkthrough and I still was not able to explain why the things happened the way they happened. I mean, I am pretty certain that O’Riley was the one that killed almost everyone but the real Carrington. But there is a second question to every murder, the why. Why did he kill Dr. Carter? My guess is that it should be out of jealousy, as he was last seen flirting with Yvette and he was killed when he was supposed to meet her. But no, the walkthrough says I should answer “For financial gain”, and after checking with the coroner, that’s actually the right answer. How’s so? He had already stolen the dagger. What does he have to gain by killing Carter who has not given any sign of knowing who stole it? This is the central mystery of the game and it doesn’t even bother to provide an explanation for it. Not even for the red herrings in that murder such as the woman footprint or the Egyptian ankh. And the plot suffers from it.

And the game pays homage to the pompous annoying guy!! Learn your lesson, kids. Be a prick. Someone might kill you but then you can be buried in the very same tombs you sacked!!

And the other murders? Ziggy, Ernie and Watney Little knew who stole the dagger, so they were a liability. And Yvette was a matter of jealousy. The countess? No idea. There is no indication that she knew anything about the burglary. Maybe she knew it had to be Watney Little, as she brought him in, but other than that, she didn’t know a thing about the relationship between Watney and O’Riley. And why not kill Steve? He simply knocks him out, presumably because he was with Yvette when O’Riley attacked but then… shouldn’t he be dead out of jealousy or to cover that murder? And why allow Laura to continue her inquiries through the game when he could have stopped her both violently or by imposing his position as the lead detective of the case.

Yes, really charming. You should be dead. Just saying...

I am sorry if I sound a bit bitchy, but the main purpose of a mystery story is to be logical. That we can understand what happened and why either by piecing the story by ourselves or because “the detective” gives a long explanation in the end and it sounds plausible. What differentiates a great detective story from a good one is that the reader can usually piece the clues together with the detective and not be surprised by information that was kept from him until the last pages. Hell, even the spoof comedy “Murder by death” makes fun of that trope. But it is not as if this game hides information. The information simply doesn’t exist, and no leap of logic could take you to understand why Carter was killed. As Carter’s assassination is the stone that sets this avalanche in motion, this weakens the whole plot. Add to that the things we don’t know why happen and the story weakens even more, and with that the game.

But going back to the game, I will have plenty of room to ramble in the final rating post, all ends well. Laura exposes his theory with the help of Tut, who appears as the star witness testifying he saw O’Riley kill his brothers, worshippers of Ra. I don’t know why on Earth would he admit to being a member of a sect that makes human sacrifices to a police officer or the need of doing so, as it should be more than enough for Laura and Steve to testify how O’Riley tried to kill them before getting trapped on the mouth of the T-Rex. In any case, Wolf and Myklos get married, Laura gets promoted and married to Steve, Carter can rest in peace, Tut finally gets the dagger and nobody ever mentions the crazy sect under the museum nor are there any consequences. Oh, and no one murders Laura in her sleep. Game over. FINALLY.

At least I got my Scooby Doo line. Now I can end in peace

First playthrough: 8h30m
Second playthrough: 5h33m
Total Time: 14h03m


  1. Good post. I like that it also works as a summary of the game as a whole, as my ability to remember details from a month ago aren't the best.

    As for differences between Scummvm and Dosbox, yeah, part of what ScummVM attempt to do is add conveniences such as fixing remaining bugs and allowing us to save in places the original game won't as well as allowing text and voice at the same time.

    As for why the original game chose not to allow voice and text at the same time, I assume it was a technical reason - maybe it would use too much memory or something, as a lot of early voiced games had this limitation. (King's Quest V, for example)

    1. >As for why the original game chose not to allow voice and text at the same time,
      >I assume it was a technical reason - maybe it would use too much memory or something,
      >as a lot of early voiced games had this limitation. (King's Quest V, for example)

      Or maybe they just didn't think of it at the time.