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Throwback Thursday – Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra

Throwback Thursday - Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra

Throwback Thursday – Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra

For every fan of detective mysteries, The Dagger of Amon Ra is a must play


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Note: This game was first released in 1992; review was originally published March 17, 2005

Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra is a sequel (not too surprisingly) to Laura Bow: The Colonel’s Bequest. In Colonel’s Bequest, young Laura Bow solved a string of murders on a remote Southern estate. In Dagger of Amon Ra, Laura has just finished her journalism studies and moved to New York. She’s had the good luck of securing a job as a reporter at the New York Daily Register News Tribune, aka the Trib. Her first assignment is to cover a burglary at the famous Leyendecker museum in New York. The missing item is the legendary Dagger of Amon Ra, only recently arrived to New York from Egypt over the protests of certain prominent Egyptians.

The entire game is divided into several acts. The first act is taking place in New York city and is something of an overture to the real story of the stolen dagger. Laura can visit several locations around the town, acquaint herself with the joys and perils of the big city, meet one or two important characters, and collect a few useful items that will be very helpful later in the game. This is perhaps a good time for a piece of valuable advice: If you’re playing The Dagger of Amon Ra, do not rush through the game. Take the time to carefully explore the surroundings and pick up everything that isn’t nailed down (always a good thing to do). The game is somewhat unforgiving and if you fail to find certain items, you will either miss important events and clues later on, or won’t be able to finish the game at all and will have to go back to an earlier saved game (you do save often, right?).

The second act is where the real fun starts, with Laura arriving at a fundraiser event at the Leyendecker museum. She starts mingling with all the important guests and museum staff, and isn’t afraid to eavesdrop whenever an opportunity presents itself. There’s just one problem – nearly everyone has a possible motive for the crime, and hardly anyone is decent enough to have a solid alibi, or even any alibi at all. Laura spends most of her time interrogating the guests and trying to piece together who’s working with who and against whom.

Laura can also start exploring the fascinating Leyendecker museum which is filled to the brim with an extraordinary number of exciting and exotic exhibits. This is where the game shines, because every item has a nice textual description, sometimes informative, sometimes funny, sometimes educational, sometimes detailed almost to the point of absurdity, and all of them worth reading.

As it tends to happen in detective mysteries, Laura Bow discovers that not everything is as it seems, and there is a lot of shady deals going on behind the scenes. Almost everyone seems to be hiding a secret, and some of those are very dark. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Laura soon finds the first dead body, and it’s very, very far from the last one.

The pacing of The Dagger of Amon Ra is excellent and the events are slowly gathering speed until the final crescendo where things get very hot indeed. The closing act of the game, and the shortest, is the coroner’s inquest. Laura has to present her theories about who committed all the crimes, and present any evidence she’s been able to gather. If you paid good attention to detail during the game, you should have a very good idea about the culprit (or culprits?). If you didn’t… poor Laura could be in serious trouble!

The Dagger of Amon Ra was released in 1992 and as far as the technology is concerned, it is a vast improvement over Colonel’s Bequest. It employs 256 color VGA graphics which does look grainy on today’s computers but was top notch when the game was published over a decade ago. The graphics are in the style of hand drawn cartoon, colorful and detailed. When you speak to another character, there is a close-up of their face, and many items in the game also feature close-up shots.

The music adds a lot to the game’s atmosphere. It matches the game’s period setting (1926) very well and many of the tunes are just nice to listen to. The game was available in two versions, floppy and CD-ROM. I unfortunately only played the floppy version, hence I can’t comment on the quality of the voice acting.

The interface is classic point and click, with graphical menu at the top of screen, just like in so many other Sierra games released in the early to mid-1990s. The distinguishing characteristic of The Dagger of Amon Ra is that the icons look like Egyptian hieroglyphs. Stylish and appropriate, since Egyptology plays an important role in the game.

One more technology related note: Due to the age of this game, The Dagger of Amon Ra may require special software (such as DOSBox) to play properly on newer computers.

The story of The Dagger of Amon Ra is rich and complex, and aimed at adult audiences. That’s not to say it’s an R-rated game, just that younger players might not necessarily understand all the nuances of the plot. The game lets you gradually discover the complex relationships between characters and discover the dirt behind the sparkling clean facade of the Leyendecker museum – if you’re not afraid to poke your nose where it doesn’t belong, and don’t mind the smell. The writing is very good, with lots of little jokes and a number of obscure references to other Sierra games, although overall the game is quite serious and not at all farcical (unlike so many other Sierra games). There’s also a fair amount of dialogue, but not too much, at least in my opinion. At first it’s not entirely easy to keep track of all the characters (aka suspects), but their number isn’t excessive, and a few murders here and there will whittle down their ranks anyway.

The puzzles are very well integrated into the game, which means that many of them don’t look like puzzles. As I mentioned earlier, thorough exploration of the environment is crucial in solving the game. Lack of attention to detail is sometimes punished with dead ends, although fortunately in most cases it is quite obvious that you must have missed something important. As in most Sierra games, the hero (or rather heroine in this case) can die many interesting, highly inventive, and even spectacular deaths, usually in situations that are obviously dangerous, yet sometimes abruptly and unexpectedly. Save early, save often, that’s the drill we love to hate.

I consider Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra to be one of the best Sierra games. It has a well developed plot with very good gradation. The tone is serious but not overly dry. The artwork was top notch when the game was released, and in my opinion holds up pretty well after all those years, and it’s been a while since the game’s release. On the downside, the dead ends make The Dagger of Amon Ra relatively difficult – which is not necessarily bad – and may be frustrating. For every fan of detective mysteries, The Dagger of Amon Ra is a must play. My overall grade for this game is an A-.

Final Grade: A-

Michal Necasek

Michal Necasek

Michal Necasek, called Mike or Michael by people who can't properly pronounce his first, let alone last name (that includes over 99% of Earth's population) is an experienced gamer and prefers adventure games to other genres. He started playing computer games a lot about 13 years ago when he got his first computer, a Commodore 64.Being a very inquisitive person, he always wanted to know what made PCs tick. Now, after ten years, he has a fairly good idea - good enough to earn him a salary as a software engineer specialized in low level graphics programming. Although he received considerable amount of education, his computer skills are largely self-taught. Born in then Communist Czechoslovakia, Michal is now earning dollars in California and enjoying it.

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