Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Laura Bow

Go To
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.

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, which is still underway.

There is also an unreleased Fan Game Laura Bow 3: The Manhattan Murders and a parody game Lorna Bains in The Coming of Age.

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.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The ghost of Sarah Crouton will appear drifting out of her grave and pointing towards something. Is she telling Laura to leave the cemetery? Is she gesturing to the chapel, where the Bible (and the first clue to the location of the treasure) is hidden? Or is she pointing at Laura herself, in a “you must do what I could not” sort of way?
  • Always Murder: There are some other crimes going on: Notably, the second game has the theft of the Dagger as well as an art forgery run by the Countess and Watney Little, with Ziggy as the middleman. But murder is primarily the chief concern.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the second game, O'Riley says he has to deal with murder, speakeasies, muggings, arson and a lack of grapes at the corner market.
  • Artistic License – History: Let’s just say the history of Egyptology presented in the second game is HEAVILY fictionalised, often for comedic effect. Writer Josh Mandel admitted they didn’t exactly have the budget to conduct extensive research.
  • 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. Figuring them out is how the player gets score in the first game.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: In the first game, the revealed secrets make it clear most of the Colonel's family aren't on good terms: Gertie's family gets along with each other, and that's it.
  • Book Ends: 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, they’ll either accuse her of mean pranks or think the swamp is playing tricks on her eyes, if they even bother to check in the first place. It isn’t until 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.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Being set in The Roaring '20s, there is some casual sexism thrown around. This was all done on purpose to help establish the setting.
    • Through examining the museum exhibits, one mentions an African tribe called the "Hottentots". Even in the nineties (When the second game was made), people would probably NOT want to describe them as such (these days it's considered a racist slur towards the Khoekhoe tribe), but the game is set in the 20s, so it's possibly deliberate.
  • Developer's Foresight: A lot of thought went into covering various possible situations in the first game with how much freedom it allows the player. To name just a couple:
    • If you never enter the secret passages, eventually you will find the secret door behind the grandfather clock left ajar.
    • Near the end of the game if you do not pick up the skeleton key, the attic door you would unlock with it is already open.
    • Several random events that involve glimpsing a shadowy figure implied to be the murderer or being killed by them are specifically coded to never happen in situations where the murderer is definitely somewhere else or already in the room.
    • In the attic, it's possible to be killed by the murderer by stepping onto certain pixels. However, it's also possible, on the same screen, to interact with a chest containing the colonel's old clothes— the same ones the murderer wears. Logically, the clothes cannot be worn by the murderer and be in the chest at the same time. Thus, interacting with the clothes prevents the murderer from killing you in this way until you leave the screen.
  • Dirty Old Man: Doctor Wilbur B. Feels of the first game.
  • Downer Ending: In the second game, if Laura fails to find both the dagger and the murderer, she will lose her job as a reporter, and someone will sneak into her home later that same night and kill her.
    • A lot the of characters' epilogues will either be changed slightly or dramatically for the worst.
    • The ghost of Dr. Pippin Carter decides to haunt Laura forever, viewing that as a fair punishment for her failure.
    • Yvette Delacroix's plastered body will not have an attributed artist, since her murderer was never found.
    • Wolf Heimlich loses his job as the museum's chief of security, and commits suicide a year later.
    • Dr. Ptahsheptut "Tut" Smith was forced to commit suicide with a fake dagger, as a result of the real dagger still being missing.
    • After firing Laura, Sam Augustini was later mugged and killed with a fake dagger, blaming Laura for his death.
    • Steve Dorian becomes saddened by Laura's death.
    • Laura's father, John Bow, was so shocked by his daughter's failure and then her subsequent death that he suffered mental breakdown, and spent his remaining years in an asylum.
  • 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 no one in the story is particularly fond of each other and everyone has a reason to kill anyone else, except for Laura. 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. Especially funny in The Colonel's Bequest as you can walk into a room to brief snippets of whatever the occupants are talking about before they notice Laura's presence. It's not until she enters one of the secret passages and looks through the spy-holes that the other characters obligingly reach the meat of their conversations.
  • 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.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Turns out Laura can't save the people in the first game: almost everybody will die regardless of what you do, and none of the secrets and deceptions are at all related to the murderer.
  • 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.
  • Hammerspace: Par for the course for Sierra, but the second game pushes this to the limit. Laura’s tiny purse is apparently capable of holding an Egyptian Mummy!
  • 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?"
  • 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. The Colonel will tell you if you save him at the end of the game, and when you find Lillian's dead body, you can see she's wearing the cape you saw the murderer wearing earlier.
  • 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.
  • Impersonation-Exclusive Character: In The Dagger of Amon Ra, Laura never actually meets Dr. Carrington; rather, the one she meets is conman Watney Little, who had murdered and impersonated him (the same murder which was shown during the game's opening), and was taking advantage of Carrington's relative Fish out of Water status in New York to get away with it. Though this ends up biting him in the ass when O'Riley recognizes and blackmails him.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In The Colonel's Bequest, Laura manages to shoot either the Colonel or Rudy with a pocket derringer at the end of the game. Pocket pistols like that are notoriously inaccurate with very little muzzle velocity to speak of so it's a wonder she even hit anything.
  • 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 locations.
  • 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. Yvette's, meanwhile, is merely a piece of evidence.
  • 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 Even Bothering with the Accent: Detective O'Riley in the second game is clearly meant to sound Irish, but other than the slightest modicum of a lilt, his accent is extremely flimsy. Played With with Lo Fat in the same game, who suffers from the same trope, but despite having Chinese heritage and running a Chinese laundry, is stated to have been born in New Jersey.
  • 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, the first of which is an optional clue.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • You can find a note asking Ernie Leach to do "a fast fencing job". It is referring to building a literal fence. Ernie has nothing to do with the thefts or the murders.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • Standalone Episode: Like many murder mystery series featuring the same protagonist, The Dagger of Amon Ra requires no knowledge of The Colonel’s Bequest to be understood. The events of the first game are only briefly alluded to in a single line of dialogue.
    Laura: I may not be a detective, but I’m terribly clever! I’ve solved murders before.
  • 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 Summation: The finale of the second game has the coroner asking Lara various questions about the story's events, including who was responsible for each murder, prompting you to give one of these. Your answers determine what kind of ending you get and what happens to the characters afterwards.
  • 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.
  • Toplessness from the Back: When Laura takes her ill-advised shower in the first game, the player sees her undress to her bra and panties before she turns away from the camera to remove her unmentionables.
  • 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:
    • Technically averted in the first game; at no point will Laura encounter a situation where she cannot view one of the time-jump events, so she can always make it to the end. However, you’ll be punished with a very low score if you don’t have her properly investigate everything, and certain side-quests can be permanently missed if the right actions aren’t performed in time.
    • 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


Laura Bow

"Laura, please don't feed the animals!"

How well does it match the trope?

4.2 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / NeverSmileAtACrocodile

Media sources: