|Its no mystery that this is a great adventure game!|
Original Release Year-1992
It is a sad fact that the adventure genre is dying off rather rapidly due to a general lack of interest from this newer generation that has been raised on action games with little regard to story *cough, Call of Duty cough*. For those that don't know; traditional adventure games are games for computers, and are also known as"point-and-click" games due to the mouse being the main method of control. In these games you maneuver a character through several backgrounds and attempt to move the story along through finding and using objects, solving puzzles, and talking to people as opposed to killing things like in other video games. Out of all the companies that made these games perhaps no other company had as much influence on the genre as Sierra On-line, whose main entry to the genre is the beloved King's Quest series, but in addition to King's Quest; Sierra also produced several other adventure games such as Phantasmagoria, and the Laura Bow series.
The Laura Bow games are murder-mystery games centered around the titular young reporter as she finds herself caught up in mysteries that she must solve before the killer catches up to her. These games are infamous for being incredibly difficult and often requiring multiple playthroughs in order the get the best ending due to the amount of miss-able clues in the games. The subject of this review is the second and final game in the Laura Bow series, known as The Dagger of Amon Ra, and if it seems a little strange that I am reviewing the second game first it is because I have yet to complete The Colonel's Bequest and will do so sometime in the future. Also it is interesting to note that while the The Colonel's Bequest was designed by the queen of adventure games herself: Roberta Williams, she only served as a creative consultant for The Dagger of Amon Ra which is rather hard to notice given how this game so resembles its predecessor.
The year is 1926, prohibition is in effect, crime is at an all time high, people are dancing the Charleston, and the Great Depression is lurking in the shadows ready to strike three years later. As the into rolls we are shown a quaintly sleeping man in a cabin on a ferry headed for New York; when all of a sudden a shadowy figure creeps into the room and strangles the sleeping man before dumping his corpse into a trunk and walking back out (duhhh I wunda if dis is gonna come inta play lata in da plot). We are then shown the newly graduated Laura Bow who is hitching a train to New York to work for a well-received newspaper, her father warns her of the dangers of New York and gives her some advice before bidding her farewell. Upon arriving in the big apple she is unceremoniously given the "New York greeting" and is mugged just seconds upon arrival, but this won't stop Laura Bow as she heads off for her first day of work, and is given a rather tricky first assignment on the recent burglary of the Leyendecker Museum in which the newly discovered Dagger of Amon-Ra has been stolen with no evidence or clues left behind. As Laura digs deeper into the case; this simple burglary turns into a multiple homicide bloodbath which poor Laura must survive while attempting to find the dagger, unmask the killer, and prove her worth as a journalist.
Being an adventure game the story is very important to the game's overall score, and it does not disappoint. There are twists and turns in the plot which must be payed close attention anyway as the player will be asked a series of questions by the coroner at the end which will determine the game's ending. The game feels a lot like an Agatha Christie novel as it seems like everyone has something to hide which likely ends up causing their demise and only through close attention to this plot will the player hope to truly complete the game as even if you already know who did it, there is no guarantee you will have the evidence to prove it.
Like King's Quest VI the game uses the SCI1 engine which allows for more advanced VGA graphics (advanced for the time anyway) and discernible sound effects rather than the beeping electronic sounds of previous games. The backgrounds are hand-painted and look pretty darn good for its time, but nevertheless the game still feels rather dated in the sound department; especially in the CD-ROM version of the game which has laughably bad voice acting. This shouldn't bother any old school gamer, but if anyone is turned off by dated graphics then you need to grow up and accept that games of the past did not have HD graphics and are still great!
Also similar to King's Quest V and VI is the point and click interface; the mouse cursor can be changed to different icons that represent touching/handling, conversing, questioning, looking, walking, and using an equipped item; you can move the cursor to the top of the screen to select an icon or cycle through the icons with the right mouse button. Basically you move Laura from screen to screen trying to advance the plot and find key items and evidence which will require poking around in various areas.
You will definitely need to be careful with what you touch in the game as you may contaminate evidence or even get yourself killed, it is always safer to look at something and judge whether it is safe to touch or not; on the same note you will need to be very thorough in your investigation as you may miss critical evidence if you just gloss over certain areas; in short you will need to look at everything with your eye and magnifying glass before you touch something if it is necessary. The same goes for questioning suspects as you must ask them EVERY SINGLE QUESTION IN YOUR NOTEBOOK! No matter how superfluous or unrelated a certain topic might seem to be, it may reveal critical information about the case and the suspect's relation to it. Fortunately when it comes to item usage, this game does not have a lot of "Sierra logic" to it (defeating Yetis with pies, or turning snakes into horses) so each item is used in a situation that you would expect it to be used in (giving a sandwich to a hungry person, using a water glass to eavesdrop on conversations behind doors, etc)
As with the case in most Sierra games as well as real life you will die.......several times in fact....(okay maybe not real life). Death awaits around nearly every corner in both the most obvious and unexpected places so it is very important to save and save often to avoid having to replay large amounts of the game to get back to where you were; there are enough save slots to make a few in each of the games five chapters (six if you count the coroner's questioning) so as long as you save often then you should be fine.
Now here comes the bad news for those who do not like to think......there are many puzzles in this game. Some of these puzzles are as simple as trading objects for other objects, or using the right object in the right place, but others take more thought and careful observation of your surroundings in order to decipher the answer. Beware because failure to complete some of the puzzles (one in particular near the end) will result in Laura's untimely demise so once again make sure to save frequently just in case you missed the answer.
The game can come off as being very unforgiving due to the minuscule amount of direction you are given, as well as the many miss-able clues in the game that can curse you to a bad ending, and I do not deny that it took me several playthroughs before I finally finished the game with the best ending, but in this difficulty comes great satisfaction in solving these puzzles; just because a game does not hold your hand does not mean it is poorly made, in this case it assumes that the player is a competent thinker who can figure things out for themselves (even if it does take them multiple playthroughs), in short it treats you like a real detective.
Despite the seemingly family friendly graphics and animation, this is NOT a children's game. The game has some very gruesome deaths for both the player as well as certain suspects that include decapitation, impaling, and many other bloody deaths. There is also a degree of tension and horror to the game as you discover each of the killer's victims before finally encountering the murderer yourself, which might frighten young ones (assuming that they get that far). In addition to all this there is some rather suggestive dialogue as well as several awkward sexual scenes (like getting hit on by a lesbian in a speakeasy) that children will definitely not understand (nor should they). While the game lacks an ESRB rating I think it would be safe to assume that this one is for the adults.
Unless you get the bad ending and have to try again there is sadly not much to warrant another immediate playthrough. If you know how to solve everything then you can breeze through the game in as little as four hours. I really cannot take off any points for this though as this is standard in almost all adventure games though.
The Dagger of Amon Ra is a great game for any fan of point and click adventure games as it has a great plot, a strong female lead character who is not sexualized in any way, and a diverse but logical myriad of puzzles to solve and items to collect. However the difficulty makes it a little hard to recommend to someone who has never played an adventure game before.
4/5 A great game for any fan of adventure games.
Wanna play it? Look below for information on how to get the game.
There are two versions of the game; a floppy disk, and a CD-ROM version. The CD-ROM has slightly superior sound and graphical quality, but has incredibly shoddy voice acting so I'd choose the floppy disc version unless you can find the CD for a cheaper price.
Where to find
Amazon.com- The game can be found used on Amazon for a small price.
Abandonia- The game is abandonware so you can download it perfectly free from this site. The files are hacked to where the copyright check is disabled (you can click anything and still get through) but it is only the floppy disc version.