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Video Game / Laura Bow

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During the eighties and early nineties, the world of Adventure Games belonged to Sierra. Games series like King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, and Quest for Glory, established the company's love of quests, and in 1989 there was Laura Bow: The Colonel's Bequest, following in the same naming format of putting the word "quest" somewhere in the title of each game. The game was created by Roberta Williams of King's Quest fame, and borrowed elements from Williams' Mystery House, created in 1980 and known as one of the first graphical adventures.

The Colonel's Bequest used a traditional text parser and 16 color graphics, much like Sierra's other games of the time. The plot, which took place in 1925, involved protagonist Laura Bow, a graduate of Tulane University, being invited by her friend Lillian to her uncle's New Orleans plantation home, where relatives and employees have gathered for the reading of the old Colonel's will. Secrets and deceptions abound as the guests quickly start to disappear, and it is up to Laura to find out what is going on and solve the mystery before it is too late. Turns out she can't: almost everybody will die regardless of what you do, and none of the secrets and deceptions are at all related to the murderer.

Unlike most of Sierra's adventures, the game stood out in that it focused on gathering information and evidence by asking questions or overhearing conversations rather than the typical formula of putting two items together to achieve a goal, although there were a few item-based puzzles to solve that would help Laura obtain additional clues. The player was required to figure out for themselves what was going on by piecing together parts of the story. In the end of the game, you find two fighting people and get to shoot either of them, and will receive a "good" ending or a "bad" ending depending on which you pick. There were also many clues that did not have to be uncovered in order to win the game, increasing replayability and challenging the player to become an amateur sleuth; the good ending varies somewhat depending on what you found.


Another thing that made the game notable was that it ran on a time system that would change when Laura triggered an event every fifteen minutes, the entire game taking place over the course of one night. Because the game didn't tell you outright what you were supposed to do with the information you collected, it is difficult to know just what is going on on the first playthrough, and easy to miss important events if you triggered the next event too soon. Characters would make plans to meet in various places at certain times and could be followed or spied upon.

The second and last in the series, The Dagger of Amon Ra (1992), used VGA graphics and a point-and-click interface. It takes place a year after the first game, in New York, where Laura, now a newspaper reporter, is tasked with writing a story about the disappearance of an antique dagger from a local museum. Attending a benefit at the museum, she meets the various suspects, who quickly begin to die off one by one. This game had a similar time system but involved more straight-forward, item-based puzzles than the previous game. Like its predecessor, it also required the player to make their own conclusions in order to solve the murders. The identity of the murderer is not revealed at the end of the game, and instead the player is asked a series of questions in order to determine who the culprit is based on evidence collected. Both entries in the series have been released on GOG.


In 2019, it was announced that NineZyme Entertainment was in the process of developing a third game in the series, Laura Bow and the Mechanical Codex, tentatively slated for release in 2022.

The Series Provides Examples Of:

  • 100% Completion: Obtaining the “Super Sleuth” rank in the first game requires Laura to observe and discover everything her notebook expects her to. Made all the more challenging due to the fact that players cannot view the notebook’s contents until the end, making it virtually impossible to discover everything in a first run-through. Fortunately, the game will provide hints as to what you missed, pointing you in the right direction for replays.
  • Acquitted Too Late
  • Amateur Sleuth: Laura (and by extension, the players themselves) in the first game.
  • Always Murder
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the second game, O'Riley says he has to deal with murder, speakeasies, muggings, arson and grapes being stolen.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The first game reveals just how nasty some of the family members can be depending on how much dirt Laura finds on them.
    • Some of the second game's victims apply as well, particularly Pippin Carter and Watney Little.
  • Audio Erotica: The Flapper in women's lounge in the speakeeasy in the second game tells Laura she has a sexy voice.
  • Big Applesauce: The Dagger of Amon Ra takes place in 1920s New York City.
  • Big Secret: Almost everyone has one.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: In the first game, the revealed secrets make it clear the Colonel's family aren't on good terms.
  • Bookends: The Bad Ending of The Dagger of Amon Ra mimics the opening except with the layout of the room mirrored and Laura getting shot instead of strangled.
  • Bookcase Passage: In the second game, there's a secret passage to Carrington's office located behind Wolf Heimlich's bookcase.
  • Border Patrol: In the first game, alligators and surprisingly deep water prevent Laura from venturing too far into the surrounding swamp.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Happens in the floppy disk version of the second game. Should you fail the copy protection, Laura and other characters will chastise you before the game terminates.
  • Broken Bridge: The Museum in the second installment gets locked overnight, and none of the suspects are allowed to leave until the investigations are over. Naturally the keys get misplaced, the phone lines cut, and the murderer is inside.
  • Cassandra Truth: No one ever believes Laura when she warns them about the murders. In the first game, half of the estate's inhabitants have been killed before anyone believes that something's happening.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The derringer in the first game.
    • Several in the second, such as the sack of plaster and Heimlich's Morningstar.
  • Chinese Launderer: One in the second game.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The second game's murders are more elaborate than the first one's. Particular mention must be made of Ziggy (pierced by pterodactyl model, decapitated, with his head mounted on the wall of the life mask exhibit) and Yvette Delacroix (strangled by her hosiery, encased in plaster, posed like a statue and placed on display in the museum's art gallery).
  • Curtain Camouflage: Laura can hide behind a tapestry in the second game, which proves useful for eavesdropping.
  • Darkness Equals Death:
    • Don't go down that dark staircase underneath the mansion without a light!
    • If Laura goes through any of the secret passageway tunnels in the sequel without either lighting the lamp before she enters or while inside, she will be attacked and killed by bats, which is odd when these tunnels have no critter or any other danger whatsoever when lit. Subverted in the last tunnels near the end of the game as while while she doesn't immediately get killed for entering the dark area, she can't do anything productive either.
  • Dead Man's Chest: In The Dagger of Amon Ra.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Dr. Archibald Carrington in the second game.
  • Dirty Cop: The murderer in the second game
  • Dirty Old Man: Doctor Wilbur B. Feels of the first game.
  • Dramatis Personae: The first game is presented as if it is a stage play, introducing the cast this way before the start of act one.
  • Drop-In Nemesis: Various things Laura can do could cause the murderer to appear out of nowhere in the first game, including taking a shower, in an homage to Psycho, complete with a snarky Have a Nice Death. Which is kind of odd seeing as this could happen right at the beginning of the game, before Lillian snaps and begins her killing spree.
  • Dysfunction Junction
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Colonel Dijon appeared as an opponent in the first Hoyle game, which was released a few months before Colonel's Bequest. He claims to be an expert card player, but he's only considered an amateur at most of the games featured, minus Gin Rummy.
  • Evidence Scavenger Hunt: The point of both games is to find as much evidence as possible. The first one can be fair as you don't need to find everything, but the second requires you to back up your investigation with evidence.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: The first game as there is nobody in the mansion except for Laura and the Colonel's family. One aversion though... Gertie - since she is the first one to die, and has no motive to kill anyone except Clarence.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: Both French people are massive flirts, and the first one is actually a French Maid, ... ooh la la..
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: In true Sierra fashion, Laura will die if she so much as takes a wrong step, quite often in accidental but nevertheless cruel and brutal ways.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Both games.
  • Expy: The first game is a Darker and Edgier adaptation of the popular tabletop game Clue - turned into a narrative story as seen from the eyes of the detective. Though many liberties were taken in order to make it as engrossing as it is, most of the setting and characters are based directly on the tabletop game. Most notable are the characters of Colonel Dijon (Mustard) and Ethel Prune (Plum), the many secret passageways throughout the mansion, and the various weapons used by the murderer during the game (poison, pistol, dagger, and so on).
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: In the first game, walking down the center of the downstairs hallway will cause a chandelier to fall directly on top of Laura, crushing her to death.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first game, during the opening dinner scene, Gloria starts saying what she plans on doing with her cut of the Colonel's money, Ethel interrupts her and says that the Colonel will probably outlive her.
  • Funny Terrain Cross Section: In the first game, the underground passage to the mansion's secret basement contains a tyrannosaurus skeleton.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: In both games; the first is set at a wealthy Deep South plantation estate, while the sequel takes place during and after a formal reception at a New York City museum.
  • Guide Dang It!: Even more than a typical Sierra game, considering many of the actions required to get the best ending don't make sense.
  • Have a Nice Death: A cheesy message will appear whenever Laura is killed. The shower scene mentioned above gives you the death message "didn't Alfred teach you anything?"
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Both the heroine and her love interest in the second game are redheads.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: After the Dagger is stolen in the second game, the thief tries to stash it among the replicas in the gift shop.
  • Hidden Villain: Lillian, who you do not find out as the murderer unless you search very hard.
  • Homage: The aforementioned shower scene. "Didn't Alfred teach you anything?!"
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Despite not being a typical Sierra "Quest" game, the first installment is called "The Colonel's Bequest" to harken back to it.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Access to the plantation's old sugarcane fields is blocked off by these. Handwaved by the game's narration claiming that not only is the fence too hard to climb over, there's nothing Laura needs in the fields.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Laura in the second game.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Wouldn't be a Sierra game without many ways to fail.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: In the first game, every time Laura comes across a dead body or the signs of a struggle, everything is immaculately cleaned up moments after she leaves, making it hard to tell anyone what's going on.
  • The Jeeves: Lampshaded with the butler named Jeeves!
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: In both games:
    • Lillian had committed all the murders in the first game, yet was found dead in the garden. As it turns out, she had intended to kill Rudy, but Rudy had fought back and killed her in self defense.
    • Watney Little had killed Carrington in the second game but was then killed by O'Riley.
  • Lady Drunk: Ethel Prune in the first game.
  • Last Lousy Point: One of the required observations to obtain “Super Sleuth” occurs right at the end and is incredibly easy to miss. Instinct would have you proceed straight to the attic to investigate the scuffling sounds, but you need to make a detour into the Colonel’s bedroom first and see that the doctor’s bag has changed location.
  • Look Both Ways: In the second game, you need to look both ways before crossing the street, or Laura will be struck by a speeding car.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: In The Dagger of Amon Ra, you find two shoes in different locations, both surrounded by signs of a struggle. The first belongs to Yvette, the second to Steve. You have to give Steve's back to him at the right time, or he'll hurt his foot and the killer will catch up to you.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first game is pretty dark and serious, the second game has a lot of humor in it.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: Often the information is there, the game just doesn't tell you what it means.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Feels.
  • Multiple Endings:
    • In the first game, you either shoot the colonel, or do nothing and let Rudy kill him in the struggle, which is the bad ending or shoot Rudy and injure him, resulting in the good ending.
    • In the second game, it's get all the accusations wrong or even get them right without having found the necessary evidence to back up your claims.
  • Nasty Party: In the bad ending of the first game, Rudy lies that this was the Colonel's plan all along.
  • Never One Murder: Both games rapidly devolve into murder sprees which Laura must survive and investigate.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Olympia Myklos in the second game. Her boyfriend, Wolf Heimlich, shares some of her morbid interests as well.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot: In the first game, the parrot can actually tell Laura some bits of dialogue it overheard, after some coercion.
  • Not Proven: This happens in the second game if you fail to find enough evidence, even if you've already figured out who the murderer is. Even if you identify the killer but fail to convict them, Laura will eventually be murdered in her sleep. Averted in the first game; while your score will depend on the evidence you collected, it has only a minor effect on the ending, provided you made the correct final choice, since the killer is already dead.
  • The Not-So-Harmless Punishment: In the second game, Laura unwittingly stumbles upon a secret meeting of Amon Ra Sun Worshippers in the basement. They at first plan to sacrifice her outright, but then relent and allow her to answer a two-part riddle hieroglyphics.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Colonel Dijon of The Colonel's Bequest was apparently wounded and rendered unable to walk during the Spanish-American War. You can see him stand and/or walk under his own power at two separate points in the game.
  • Off-Model:
    • For the first game, Laura's appearance was modified several times during the course of development. In particular, her sprite was originally drawn with a flipped bob. After the flip was removed, not all of her animation sprites were modified to reflect this, resulting in Laura's hair reflecting its original style for certain scenes (such as anytime she enters the elevator).
    • For the second game, alternative sprites exist for Laura's walk cycles, some of them obviously motion captured. The motion capture sprites feature a slightly different design for her evening dress, and show a somewhat curvier Laura with longer hair. Though unused for her generic walk cycles, some of these motion capture animations were used for her supplemental movements, resulting in jarring transitions where Laura's appearance changes.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-Universe example for the second game: The Countess speaks with a haughty, upper-crust British accent while in polite society, but get her flustered and her natural cockney accent comes out.
  • The Ophelia: Lillian in the first game.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: Given the fact that the Colonel stated that his estate will be divided equally among everyone present who outlives him (other than Laura), the obvious explanation as to why virtually everyone winds up murdered is that the killer is hoping to increase their share of the pie. It's actually Lillian, who doesn't care about the money but wants to restore her perceived status as the Colonel's favorite relative by making her his only relative.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse
  • Perfect Poison: In the first game, a lethal dosage of sleeping powder is blended with alcohol.
  • Plucky Girl: Laura, of course.
  • Presented As Other Medium: The Colonel's Bequest's intro is presented as if it was a theater production, with the characters being introduced during a curtain call and the usual "have you played this game before?" message instead reads "Have you previously attended a performance of The Colonel's Bequest?"
  • Punny Name: Steve Dorian, who has a job as a — wait for it — stevedore.
  • Railing Kill: Walking against a railing which is crumbling will cause it to break. Laura will then fall over the parapet and die after hitting the ground.
  • Red Herring: The fact that Steve Dorian has red hair, like O'Riley, is clearly so that red hairs found at some of the murder scenes will misdirect players into thinking he's the killer. As well, Yvette's body being encased in a plaster statue is another example, as Steve makes it clear he's a budding artist and sculptor.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Lillian
  • The Roaring '20s: Both games are set in the mid-1920s.
  • Sanity Slippage: Lillian
  • Saved by the Coffin: Near the end of Laura Bow 2, Laura evades the killer by hiding in a sarcophagus.
  • Secret Relationship: All over the place in both games.
  • Shout-Out: Laura is based off of famed 1920's movie star Clara Bow.
    • In The Colonel's Bequest:
      • Some of the characters are references to Clue, most notably Colonel Dijon (Mustard).
      • There's a rowboat called the Minnow.
      • The chandelier falling is a reference to The Phantom of the Opera.
      • Just take a shower. The game even lampshades this in the death message. "Didn't Alfred teach you anything?"
      • There are two references to Mister Ed. If you ask Rudy about Blaze he will say "A horse is a horse". A subtler reference is Wilbur, who says he loves horses. Wilbur was Mr Ed's owner's name.
    • In The Dagger Of Amon Ra:
      • Rube refers to Laura as Bains, the antagonist in the first two Police Quest games.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Laura is a redhead, and her description in the first game states that she has green eyes. As the title implies, she's the main character.
    • Averted in the second game, where Laura clearly has blue eyes.
  • Side Quest: The bag of gems has nothing to do with the mystery, although it does add a bit to the good ending.
  • Slain in Their Sleep: Laura herself is murdered this way in the second game's bad ending.
  • Stage Names: Gloria Swansong is Gloria Dijon in the first game.
  • Super Drowning Skills: If Laura takes a mere step into any water, she will drown. She sinks in up to her head even though she's only ten inches from the shore.
  • The Swarm: There's three of these in the second game - rats, snakes, and flesh-eating beetles, all of which will kill Laura on contact.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: The premise of both games.
  • Tontine: The Colonel's estate is to be divided equally among those of his employees and relatives that outlive him. Within an hour of his announcing this, the number of people in said group starts dropping rapidly.
  • Triang Relations
  • The Unreveal: Your pursuer in Dagger of Amon Ra.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: It's easy to go through both games and have no idea what just happened.
  • Unwinnable by Design: The second game's chase scenes has a couple of points where Laura needs to get items to help you progress in the game. Miss only one of these items and Laura will pay with her life.
  • Updated Re-release: The Dagger of Amon Ra was first released on floppy disk and later on CD-ROM. Besides removing the copy protection, the CD release featured full voice acting along with some art changes, such as modified character portraits for Laura, Ziggy and Steve Dorian, plus improved lip-sync animation.
  • The Vamp: Fifi in the first game and Yvette Delacroix in the second. Both are French.
  • The 'Verse: A flyer at Tulane University in Gabriel Knight reveals Laura eventually married Steve and now gives lectures at Tulane on investigative journalism, linking the two series together.
  • Welcome to the Big City: In The Dagger of Amon Ra, when Laura Bow arrives in New York, a guy steals her suitcase while she's talking to a lady, then another guy asks for a dime which she's willing to pay, but then mugs her for all her money. He even exclaims "Welcome to New York, kid!"
  • Whodunnit?: The first game is about discovering who is offing the Colonel's relatives one by one.
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: A couple of deaths in the first game depict Laura's ghost departing this way, such as when she falls through the broken banister or tumbles down the laundry chute.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: The chandelier only falls on Laura if she walks down the exact center of the first floor hallway. Which is right where the front doors deposit her, causing plenty of accidental deaths when the player forgets to sidestep.

Alternative Title(s): The Colonels Bequest, The Dagger Of Amon Ra


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