The Colonel's Bequest
The Colonel's Bequest is a mystery/adventure game designed by Roberta Williams and first published by Sierra On-Line in 1989. The first game in the short lived Laura Bow Mysteries Series, players take on the role of Laura Bow, a student at Tulane University and aspiring journalist. Gameplay is similar to other Sierra SCI games, however The Colonel's Bequest is notable for having a greater emphasis on the characters and story rather than solving puzzles. The story is an Agatha Christie style murder mystery where players are tasked with determining who is responsible for a series of mysterious deaths. A sequel, The Dagger of Amon Ra, was released in 1992.
Story and Gameplay
Set in 1925, the game's story begins at Tulane University in New Orleans as Laura Bow is invited by her friend Lillian to spend the weekend at the mansion of her uncle, the Spanish-American war veteran Colonel Henri Dijon. The mansion is a former sugar plantation located on a secluded island; upon arrival at the now dilapidated estate, the Colonel gathers family and staff together for a reading of his will. Not everyone in the room gets along; fights soon break out, and as the night wears on there are several murders! Trapped on the island until morning, Laura needs to investigate to find out who is responsible. Relationships among the Colonel, guests, and staff are varied, and in typical mystery style everyone has a different personality and potential motive. Any of the characters encountered could be the murderer, and througout the game several may also turn up as murder victims. The cast of characters found in the game are:
- Laura Bow:
The player's character; A 20 year old journalism student at Tulane University, she is also the daughter of detective John Bow making her naturally inquisitive and an ideal person to investigate the crimes.
- Colonel Henri Dijon:
A eccentric, rich old man who was wounded in the Spanish–American War. He now lives alone (except for his servants) on his sugar plantation island and has just announced the details of his will.
- Lillian Prune:
Laura's friend and classmate from Tulane and Ethel Prune's daughter. She is the Colonel's niece and dresses in the style of a 1920's flapper.
- Ethel Prune:
An alcoholic, Ethel is the Colonel's younger sister and Lillian's mother.
- Gertrude Dijon:
Widow of the Colonel's younger brother, Gertie is snobbish, greedy, and bossy.
- Gloria Swansong:
An aspiring actress who loves money, jewelry, and rich boyfriends. She is Gertie's daughter and the Colonel's niece.
- Rudolph Dijon:
Gertie's son and Gloria's brother known for being a slick womanizer and gambler.
- Clarence Sparrow:
A sneaky character who is the Colonel's attorney; he's also responsible for managing the Colonel's business affairs and accounts.
- Dr. Wilbur C. Feels:
The Colonel's long-time personal physician, Wilbur is known for his questionable medical practicies.
The Colonel's sexy French maid, it's rumored she is using the Colonel to get to his money.
The Colonel's butler, Jeeves is tall, imposing, and usually silent. He has a reputation for not being friendly or helpful.
The Colonel's cook; although she is superstitious and said to dabble in voodoo, she's friendly and helpful.
- Beauregard: The Colonel's dog, Beauregard is a lazy old bloodhound; he can usually be found lying near his doghouse.
- Blaze: The Colonel's horse who was with him during the war. Blaze is also getting old and rarely leaves the comfort of his stable.
- Polly: A parrot who likes to sit on his perch in the parlor. He can sometimes be talkative if he's in the mood or properly motivated.
Gameplay in The Colonel's Bequest is very similar to other Sierra SCI games; players can move Laura Bow around the 3D environment and type commands to perform actions such as picking up or using items, talking with characters, and so on. In typical Sierra adventure fashion, there are a number of ways for players to die including the mundane such as wandering off of a path or, especially later in the game, by becoming a victim of the murderer! The entire game takes place on the island or in the mansion. Most of the locations in the game are immediately available for the player to explore further adding to the emphasis of learning about the characters and their story rather than puzzles or reaching new locations. A notable exception to this is the mansion attic. A key to this room isn't acquired until the end of the game where the final showdown occurrs; several endings are possible depending on actions taken and what the player has learned. The game doesn't feature a traditional Sierra-style scoring system; no points are visibly awarded throughout the game, however upon completion a rating is provided based on how many of the secrets were discovered. Since it is possible to complete the game without discovering all of the clues or even the identity of the murderer, hints are provided on things that were missed to encourage playing through the game again.
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