The Colonel's Bequest
||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (September 2013)|
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2013)|
|The Colonel's Bequest|
|Release date(s)||October 1989
|Distribution||5.25" Floppy disk (10)
3.5" Floppy disk (4)
The Colonel's Bequest is a graphic adventure computer game published by Sierra On-Line for the Atari, Amiga ST and MS DOS in 1989. It was the first of the short-lived Laura Bow Mysteries series created by Roberta Williams, which used many elements from the original Mystery House theme. It was created with SCI0 and used 4-bit color (16 colors) and a typing interface. The sequel, The Dagger of Amon Ra, was released in 1992.
This Sierra game is one of the few that is more character-driven than puzzle-driven. Although solving puzzles is required to obtain a high score, it is more important to discover information about the characters' backgrounds and relationships with each other. However, regardless of the importance of these elements, it is possible to finish the game without solving any puzzles, discovering many important details about the characters, or even identifying the murderer.
Although some actions are recorded and scored at the end of the game, there is no apparent point system. At the very end, the game will provide the player with hints and information about things missed in order to achieve a higher score during the next attempt, hinting that the game is intended to be replayed.
Characters make plans to be in certain places at certain times, which allows the player to follow them. Characters may get annoyed with Laura if they catch her snooping on them or asking too many questions, although this is obvious only in dialogue and the plot is not affected.
Death lurks around every corner, but Laura Bow is almost never threatened by the mysterious villain because she is not related to the Dijon family. Staying consistent with other Sierra adventure games, most, but by no means all, deaths experienced by the player occur by accident or misadventure, such as falling off a balcony, being crushed by a falling chandelier, tripping down a dark staircase, or being attacked by alligators. The player may, however, be killed by the murderer in the later phases of the game. For example, the murderer's arm reaches out at specific locations and snatches Laura away. In another case, the murderer appears in the darkness and strangles Laura to death. One of the more notable non-accidental deaths occurs when the player simply attempts to shower; the murderer stabs Laura in a reference to the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho.
The game's unusual title can be accredited to Sierra's long-standing tradition of including "Quest" in the title of nearly every graphical adventure they published. A bequest is a legacy or gift handed down to someone in a will. Other "quest" games include King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Quest for Glory (which was originally titled Hero's Quest), Conquests of Camelot, Conquests of the Longbow, and Goblins Quest 3 (originally titled Goblins 3).
The Colonel's Bequest is set in 1925 and employs a distinctive, Art Deco style. The game's main character is Laura Bow, a Tulane University student, daughter of a detective, and aspiring journalist. Laura is invited by her flapper friend, Lillian, to spend a weekend at the decaying sugar plantation of Colonel Dijon. When the reclusive, childless Colonel gathers his quarrelsome relatives for a reading of his will, tensions explode and the bickering leads to murder.
Throughout the game, Laura remains stranded on the island, surrounded by suspects and potential victims in a classical Agatha Christie manner. Laura's task is to learn the family secrets, and ultimately, the identity of the murderer. There is also an optional subplot concerning a hidden treasure.
The storyline advances by a quarter-hour when new plot elements are witnessed. Sometimes a quarter-hour can advance in a few real-time seconds, if Laura happens to be in the proper place.
As with classic murder stories, the plot revolves around the characters, most of whom are either potential victims or potential murderers. Most of the game characters are named after prominent figures of the time, such as Rudolph Valentino, W. C. Fields, Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow, and Clarence Darrow. Most are heavily based on well-used archetypes.
- Laura Bow - Player character, journalism student and daughter of the detective John Bow.
- Lillian Prune - Laura's friend from Tulane. Her father died when she was young. She is also Ethel's daughter.
- Colonel Henri Dijon - A reclusive, rich, eccentric old man, who fought in the Spanish-American War and lives alone on an antebellum sugar plantation island.
- Ethel Prune - The Colonel's younger sister and Lillian's alcoholic mother.
- Gertrude Dijon - The snobbish widow of the Colonel's brother, and the mother of Gloria and Rudy.
- Gloria Swansong - Gertie's daughter and Rudy's sister. She was a Hollywood actress who'd gotten into some trouble and was suffering from some sort of disease.
- Rudolph Dijon - Gertie's son and Gloria's brother. He's a slick womanizer and gambler.
- Clarence Sparrow - Henri's sneaky lawyer and one of Gloria's previous lovers.
- Dr. Wilbur C. Feels - The Colonel's long-time and questionable personal physician.
- Fifi - The sexy French maid who lives with and "serves" the Colonel (and secretly, also Jeeves).
- Jeeves - Butler in the Colonel's house, who usually remains silent.
- Celie - Henri's cook from New Orleans, whose parents were slaves in the plantation. She is the only character who will befriend Laura.
|This section requires expansion. (September 2013)|
The game was reissued in 1993 to supplement the release of the sequel, The Dagger of Amon Ra. This version corrects some errors with the special effects. Notably, the fireflies in the opening boat ride and around the dock are more visible and move less erratically.
Computer Gaming World Computer Gaming World stated that the game's easy difficulty would likely disappoint "hard-core adventure gamers (i.e. inveterate puzzle-solvers)", but that it succeeded as an "interactive play" that was much more story- than puzzle-driven compared to previous Sierra adventures. The magazine praised the game's use of humor and audio, and called it a "forerunner of one style of future entertainment software".
Upon release, the game sold moderately well. Critics claimed the game was interesting and displayed a large amount of effort in production and story. However, it was criticized as being slow-paced, disjointed, and tedious as the player must visit several places repeatedly in order for an event to occur or not occur.
- The Colonel's Bequest: 1989 edition, 1993 edition.
- Wilson, Johnny L. (1990-02). "Manse Macabre / Sierra's "The Colonel's Bequest"". Computer Gaming World. p. 26. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
-  - 1990 reviews for the Amiga version at Amiga Reviews.[dead link]
- The Colonel's Bequest at MobyGames
- The Colonel's Bequest at the Internet Movie Database
- The Colonel's Bequest: A Laura Bow Mystery on the Sierra Chest