The Colonel’s Bequest: Murder Most Foul   3 comments

I technically “finished” the game; once I settled in (and made liberal use of the “increase speed” key when walking around) it took about 2 hours to get to completion. The plot “plays itself” in a way (more on that in a moment) so it’s not hard to solve the murders even with sub-par play. I left enough loose ends that I don’t consider myself done just yet.

Note that from this point there are many spoilers.

ZERO

From a game-designer-theory standpoint, the message upon picking “About” from the menu is fascinating.

There isn’t a “quest,” as such. Your goal is to get to know the story and the characters; to understand what’s going on; and to survive the long night. We feel that “The Colonel’s Bequest” is a true interactive STORY rather than a game and every effort was put into giving you the sensation that you are part of the story.

This text was helpful to me in that once dead bodies start to show up in this game, they keep coming; I thought perhaps I was missing actions I needed to stop the carnage, but I realized the story to an extent “plays itself” — the intent is you just learn as much as you can in order to make a wise decision in the endgame.

There have been many essays on the use of the word “game” and I don’t plan on writing a new one, but I would say it’s a pity that every interactive media meant for leisure is shoehorned under “game”. I know I’ve been insistent on calling Renga in Four Parts “interactive poetry”. I haven’t seen much other interactive poetry go beyond clicking on hyperlinks as a mode of interaction; I theorize this is because so many other interactive actions belong to “games” so poets are shy to try them. What about a poem the reader can walk around in? (And if doing that “turns it into a game” for you, why?)

In any case, I think nearly everyone in a modern context would still recognize The Colonel’s Bequest as a game — it’s got traditional adventure puzzles and a high score, even — so I’m comfortable still calling it that.

ONE

The characters are:

Laura Bow, the hero.
Colonel Henri Dijon, the owner of the estate and the one who announced his intent to give his inheritence to all present.
Lillian Price, Laura’s friend and the Colonel’s niece.
Ethel Prune, Lillian’s mother.
Gertrude Dijon, widow of the Colonel’s brother.
Gloria Swansong, Gertrude’s daughter.
Rudolph Dijon, Gertrude’s son.
Clarence Sparrow, the Colonel’s attorney.
Dr. Wilbur C. Feels, the Colonel’s physician.
Jeeves, the butler.
Fifi, the Colonel’s maid.
Celie, the Colonel’s cook.

Nearly all of them will be dead by the end of the story.

TWO

The game is divided into 8 “acts”. Each act represents an hour of time, and every quarter hour you get a reminder of the time. However, it’s not “real time” — time only advances with certain events, like hearing a conversation or seeing a body. It’s not possible to just wander a corner of the map and come back to find the story finished. This fits with the game’s conceit as a “play” — time stalls in place while the scenery is being changed, so to speak.

In gameplay terms, this can be quite frustrating. Once I wandered the map multiple times for a full 15 minutes without finding anything new. (It turned out the next event was in the bathroom, which had nothing else happen before this time.)

The uncertainty about advancing time can foil efforts to “search as much as possible for new stuff before it goes away” — on a number of occasions I had time advance (without wanting / meaning it to) and lost access to certain clues / conversations in the process.

THREE

The first body I found was Gertrude, Gloria and Rudy’s mother. Last I saw her she was sleeping, but now she had “fallen” out of a second story window.

Searching the body didn’t yield up much information. Gloria herself happens to be just inside, and you can go there and >TELL GLORIA ABOUT GERTRUDE; she’ll step outside, pop back in, and tell you “that was mean.” In the short span the body isn’t visible, it gets “cleaned up.”

This ends up being a common theme through the plot — telling people about the bad things going on is entirely fruitless. They don’t even bother to check. It hits upon one of my least-liked tropes of literature, where the hero knows something and everyone else thinks they are crazy. I mean, I can understand this is a totally normal reaction with UFO landings / ghostly monsters / walking squids but the characters stonewall so much here the realism drops off a cliff. Really, you *aren’t* interested in this rolling pin I found with blood on it?

(Ahem.) In the meantime, I kept overhearing conversations and finding more ways people don’t like each other. The Doctor knows some medical secret of Gloria’s. Gloria was dating Clarence but drops him for a director. The Doctor and Clarence plot together to recover $100,000 that Clarence stole from the Colonel to buy a racehorse. Rudy and Clarence get into an actual fistfight at one point. Everyone thinks Ethel drinks too much.

To be fair, Ethel spends a lot of the game either drinking so much she can’t respond to questions, or wandering drunk like she is in this screenshot.

Murders continue. The next person I found was the Doctor, dead by the end of Act III in the Carriage House by the horse. Just like Gertrude, his body disappeared by the time I came back.

At one point, I found Jeeves cleaning up some evidence of a struggle. I asked him about it, and he just claimed he was doing what he was told. This aroused strong suspicions in me that a.) the Colonel himself was behind the murders and b.) he was getting help in cleaning up the results.

More people die, and I discovered the bodies in this order: Gloria, Ethel, Clarence, Lillian.

It was nearing the end of Act VIII, and I had found a key on Lillian’s body. Next to her body was a gun and one bullet; I took both. Entering the house I could hear a scuffle upstairs. Going into the attic (which I previously couldn’t unlock) I found the Colonel and Rudy in a struggle holding a hypodermic needle. This is where you get the choice.

FOUR

Who was responsible, Rudy or the Colonel? Which one should you shoot?

This is the elegant way of asking “who is guilty?” Do you believe the Colonel’s announcement of the inheritance set off a desire to kill among the already-morally-askew family, or did the Colonel lure his family in as a way of ending it?

I’m not going to spoil things here just yet. When I get to my next post of “Finished!” I probably will, but I’m holding off because there are plot holes I am currently frustrated by which may turn out to simply be gaps of knowledge.

I know I have gaps because a.) there’s a score at the end of sorts; I’m only halfway up to “Super Sleuth” and b.) also at the end you can look at Laura’s notebook, which includes pages like “Person With Surprising Secret” and “Ultimate Location of Most Bodies” that are marked “INCOMPLETE”.

I’m also missing “Person Befriended”, which leads me to some last thoughts for now …

FIVE

… I struggled a *lot* with communicating in this game. It uses a relatively free-form ASK/TELL type system (ex: >ASK LILLIAN ABOUT ETHEL) but the vast majority of what I tried was either not understood, or stonewalled off by the character. The Colonel (who you would think would be interested in dead relatives) just snaps at you if you try to communicate anything. Right before Clarence dies, you can try to tell him about murdered people and he says what nearly amounts to default responses, but then you find (after he’s been dragged off) that he was writing in a diary about a sense of dread. In theory, that’s dramatically appropriate; in practice, my attempts at interactivity were being thrown into the void.

Posted August 18, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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3 responses to “The Colonel’s Bequest: Murder Most Foul

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  1. “Note that from this point there are many spoilers.
    ZERO”

    When I first read that, I actually interpreted that as “Note that from this point there are many spoilers- ZERO.” I realized my mistake when I got to “ONE”.

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