The Colonel's Bequest: A Laura Bow Mystery

Developer/Publisher:  Sierra Online
Year Released:  1989

Review by Rosemary Young (August, 2004)

It's 1925 and Laura Bow sits on a bench in the university grounds studiously turning the pages of a book. Along comes her friend, Lillian, who invites Laura to accompany her to her Uncle Henri's estate for a family reunion. Laura is reluctant at first but when she hears that it's a 'creepy old place' that clinches it.

Two nights later at Misty Acres she is seated at the dinner table along with Lillian, family and friends. Colonel Henri Dijon appears and announces the terms of his Will. On his death those at the table will share his millions equally. Should any one of them 'go' before he does, then his legacy is to be shared between the survivors.

Thus the stage is set for greed and jealousy to rear their ugly heads, and, literally, for a rush of backstabbing in one form or another. The setting is, indeed, a stage and the game plays out in 8 Acts as you accompany Laura on that fateful night.

Investigative reporter
Written by Roberta Williams, The Colonel's Bequest is the game that introduced Laura Bow, trainee reporter, in 1993 and was followed a few years later by Ms Bow's second adventure, The Dagger of Amon Ra. This one, however, was one of the first investigative style graphic adventures, and though it certainly does show its age with primitive EGA graphics, text captions rather than voices, and a largely keyboard driven interface, it still has a lot to offer. It has that 'innocence' about it that characterised the early graphic adventures, but the characters surely don't share that innocence as you begin to learn more and more about them.

The amount of fun, in fact, quite makes up for the more cumbersome keyboard interface, and there are shortcuts to help with constructing conversations and for inventory access, saving, loading etc. There is also some mouse support. For instance you can point and click to move Laura around and a right click allows her to 'look' and gets a description of objects and saves typing this commonly used command.

Take a look around
As the first Act opens Lillian leaves Laura alone to poke around the house and grounds and amuse herself. Laura detects that something is amiss and she recalls her daddy's words: Honey, if things don't feel right, they probably AREN'T. Observe the situation closely, yet be unobtrusive. Explore your surroundings quietly and carefully. Try to question the others without raising suspicion. Notice small details. Take lots of notes. And above all, be careful.

This is sound advice so it's a good idea to put it into action. The gameplay consists of talking to the other characters as you diligently carry out your search of Misty Acres. And soon you'll discover that your fellow houseguests have plenty of secrets that they don't want to share. The only means to learn more in this respect is the indirect approach. Find a way to eavesdrop. As well taking care of conversations, directly and indirectly, there are clues and keys to find and friends to make including a few of the four legged and feathered variety. Various objects will help out here to cement these friendships, and there's also a forgotten diary and a cryptic note to find pointing you towards hidden secrets in a treasure hunt that adds to the game.

Time marches on
The game progresses with the passing of time in 15 minute intervals. Significant events move the clock forward and a clock face overlays the screen to alert you to a new time period. This means that something might have happened so there might be some evidence to find elsewhere, a footprint or a fingerprint, or even a body. Expect a few untimely deaths before the end of the game. A change of time may also signal that characters have moved around. If they are in a different location, and still alive, there might be another event, or clue, or another interesting conversation to catch.

Thus your movement through this game is governed by where you go and when. You may not see everything before the end and you may not even arrive at the most desirable ending so that in the final scene Laura will lament that she might not have got it right. To show you how well you've performed a gauge with five levels ranging from 'Barely Conscious' to 'Super Sleuth' marks your spot. You can then review your notes and see what you missed.

I must conclude by saying that The Colonel's Bequest is still very playable after all this time. I should warn you though, to save often because there are various ways for Laura too to meet a sticky end. When I made it to the end game with a less than perfect performance the memories of my first time through The Colonels Bequest came flooding back. Back then I took note of my inadequacies and replayed the game filling in the blanks. I didn't have time on this occasion, but there is certainly some replay value here if you're like me and can't abide anything less than perfection! It takes some patience to manoeuvre your way through the evening's events but you can have some fun doing it. Have a look if you can get hold of this game, and if you want to turn back the clock for a while.

This game was played as part of the King's Quest Collection which includes 7 King's Quest games along with two Laura Bow's and Mixed up Mother Goose. There is a Windows (95) and a DOS install but it played just fine in Win 98. See the Help pages for information on getting old games to run in Win XP. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 2004. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
DOS & Windows!