Niche Game: Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon-Ra

Niche games: Âwe’ve all played them. ÂThey’re the games that you remember for a long time because they’re so unique. ÂSometimes they’re the only ones ever made like them. ÂOther times they were trailblazers for their kind of gameplay. ÂBut what they have in common is the bravery to try something new, allowing them to rise above the imitators. ÂEven though there might be newer games with shinier graphics, these games are still worth playing because they’re something different, something special.

The era of text-based adventures ended and was replaced by graphical adventures, and of those games, Sierra is king. They are the ones who created the King’s Quest series, the Space Quest series, Leisure Suit Larry, and the topic of today’s article: Laura Bow 2.

The first Laura Bow game was titled The Colonel’s Bequest(1989), which is set in the 1920s and revolves around college student Laura Bow, who wants to be a journalist. She accompanies a friend to attend the reading of the will of her friend’s reclusive relative Colonel Dijon. A murder occurs, and Laura is left to figure who did it.

Laura Bow II(1992) takes place several years later after Laura has graduated from college. She moves to New York City where she lands a job at a major newspaper. This being the male-dominated 1920s era, no one takes her very seriously, and there’s not even a ladies restroom in the office. She’s given a fluff assignment to cover the opening of a new Egyptian exhibit at a local museum. The assignment turns serious when a murder occurs, and everyone is locked inside pending investigation. Other guests begin dying one after another, and it’s up to Laura to once again figure out who did it.

There are plenty of other point and click adventures from this era that are truly excellent. Again, most of them are created by Sierra, so if you ever get the chance to check them out it’s well worth the time. The major feature that sets this one apart is Laura’s notebook. Each time she hears about a new person, place, thing, or idea, she automatically writes it in her notebook. From that point on, you can ask anyone you talk to about that entry. Of course, many people don’t have anything interesting to say. If you ask the drycleaner about the museum curator, he’s probably not going to be able to enlighten you. I thought this was a great way to add a little more variety to game conversations. In most of this sort of game, at every point in a conversation you only have 2 or 3 things you can say. But the addition of the notebook lets you bring up a much wider range of topics that made the conversations feel more varied.

The interface of this game is simple enough, all point and click. Each time you right-click, the cursor changes to a different kind of action, from an eyeball for “look”, a pedestrian for “walk”, a hand for “take/manipulate”, etc… Each time you left-click on an area, that action takes effect at that location (or tries to).

Besides the cool notebook idea, I really loved the sense of humor instilled in the game from the very beginning, in particular the manner of obtaining a press pass near the beginning is very funny (I won’t tell you the details to spoil the fun of figuring it out yourself). Also, the murders in a museum setting are always fun. Lots of cool artifacts from various eras surround and can be murder weapons, and I had fun just wandering from room to room and examining all the different items.

Unfortunately, I never completed this game. At the museum party, you must eavesdrop on other people in the crowd, but I just never managed to do that. I looked up hints online and did my best to do exactly what they said, to no avail, so I’m left standing around a dull party without much happening. I tried long and hard to defeat that and never succeeded. I would say it’s a glitch in the game but I never found anything online to suggest that other people had trouble, so it must just have been me.

You can die in the game, but it can’t happy in many places. As with many mystery games, most of the risk is late in the game when you’re on the verge of uncovering the killer’s identity. It never hurts to “save early save often” here but it’s probably not strictly necessary in most cases either.

I originally played this game as part of another collection of games released by Sierra. I don’t remember if it was the Space Quest collection or the King’s Quest collection. Either way, my frustration with the party scene was partially offset by the fact that in this particular edition you could skip ahead to the next act. This was good for me, so I could really explore the museum’s interior and get to the good stuff. Alas, since my game experience was disjointed already, I never really had the motivation to figure out the rest, but I did poke around and have some fun with it. Also, when skipping ahead, those saved games never had as complete a notebook as I did, so I missed the ability to ask about some of the things I had learned that game assumed I wouldn’t have.Getting your hands on this game isn’t too difficult. It’s old enough to be available on Abandonware sites, such as Abandonia. You should be able to run the game from there. Otherwise a quick eBay search brings up a copy of the game for a Buy It Now price of about $22, not bad. Otherwise, I think I originally played this game as part of a King’s Quest game collection (or was it Space Quest game collection), so if you can track that down it will be modified for modern operating systems already. I hope you have a chance to try this out, and maybe you’ll have better luck with eavesdropping than I did. Enjoy!