Colonel's Bequest: A Wistful Study on a Forgotten Gem
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Join Josh as he mows Parker's grass and presents a video game review!
Millennials and Nostalgia. Is there any greater combo out there? Well maybe Chris Hansen and taking a seat right over there but not much else! As 80’s babies, we really seem to love our childhood entertainment and almost to a fault, as some shit is just better left in the past. There has to be new and interesting stories for us to consume rather than just a repackaging of stuff we loved as kids, right? But we all feed this machine by sticking to the characters we know and love rather than taking a chance on something new because what if it sucks? What if you waste a few hours on something that isn’t as good as Star Wars or Mega Man? Now if you excuse me, I’m going to go watch 3 hours of Saved by the Bell on YouTube.
But yes, it’s certainly not an exclusive millennial trait to yearn for the past but I personally enjoyed the 90’s a lot. Even though I was just a dorky kid in rural Saskatchewan, I have very fond memories of discovering punk rock music, watching Jim Carrey movies, and playing the shit out of video games. We weren’t a wealthy family but luckily my grandmother hooked us up with an NES at some point. I remember feeling extreme jealousy towards my friends who could afford a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis or my lucky dink cousin who had a Sega CD. But luckily for me, the NES was a top-notch system and I logged hour after hour into it until my mother would unplug it and kick my brother and I outside where we’d cause mayhem to our unsuspecting neighbours. Classic us.
But this article isn’t specifically about nostalgia, nor the NES, nor how much I loved 2 Unlimited in this era. That might be another tale for another time but remember when I mentioned we weren’t swimming in cash back then and couldn’t afford the luxuries of the cutting-edge gaming systems? Well, one area we were actually ahead of the curve was the personal computer world. Since my father was a journalist, we just always had a desktop at the house. Keep in mind, kids, that back then, computers weren’t just tools your parents used to share borderline racist memes; the people who used them were legit dweebs in society. Being computer savvy wasn’t cool until mp3’s came along and I could burn CDs for the popular kids. And then MSN Messenger entered the scene and changed it all! But again, not the basis of this essay! Stay on task, Josh! What the fuck!
We weren’t an Apple family, so I vividly remember playing on an Intel 286, then a 386, and then the old man spent my inheritance money on the mighty 486. But the latter is way too powerful for the type of gaming I’m speaking of in this little blog post. There are many games that defined my youth and there was one company that was pivotal to my development into the weirdo you see before you today! Yes, I am talking about Sierra Online. An adventure game company founded by the husband and wife combo of Roberta and Ken Williams. Ken was the technical one and Roberta was the visionary. If you are unfamiliar with the company, they were a powerhouse in the 80’s and 90’s and were responsible for a few dozen games with the word Quest in the titles: King’s Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory, Police Quest, and of course, the subject of this rambling mess – Colonel’s Bequest.
Much like Disney, Sierra was famous for taking well-known public domain fables and using the lore to create compelling new worlds. Sierra used a coding language called SCI (Sierra's Creative Interpreter) and therefore all the games from this era had the same vibe and game mechanics. You would wander around and then type in your command for the protagonist. This could create extreme frustration as you struggled to articulate the action in the way the game would understand. In some of the earlier games, you could give away an item and continue playing the game and then realize you can’t actually complete the game without that item. Sadistic shit, I’m telling you. Thanks, Leisure Suit Larry 1! I’m still angry 25 years later!
As I was researching for this article, I obviously replayed the game (I’ll get into how I did that at the end) and watched some YouTube videos to enlighten myself. Pushing up Roses is a great resource for games like this and all 90’s nostalgia actually. Fuck, I fell for it again! Damn this millennial brain! But upon viewing this video, I learned that LucasArts (another Josh favourite) was producing games with significantly better graphics than Sierra during this same time period. As Sierra was working on upgrading their coding, they had to get creative with what they had at their disposal. While most of their games operated with a point system, where completing tasks would score you the points necessary to beat the game, Colonel’s Bequest does not go down that road. Inspired by the likes of Agatha Christie and Sierra’s very own, Mystery House, this game is a whodunnit where you collect intel on the greasy inhabitants of the Clue-like mansion in which the game takes place. Set up like a play, there is different acts and the story advances as time does, although not really, as the time only changes when you are in a specific location. Some real smoke and mirrors tricks there, Roberta. Fair play!
The cool thing about this game is that it isn’t just a linear game. There are multiple endings possible, all depending on how good your sleuthing skills are. In fact, the end of the game ranks you accordingly. I was labelled an Amateur Gumshoe when all was said and done and definitely messed up key moments in the game. The good news? I only played for a few hours so to replay it to try to up my Sleuth-O-Meter rank is not that daunting of a proposal. The bad news? Replaying it does not really bring that much new stuff to the table, so I am doubting that I actually will. I hadn’t played this game sine the 90’s so maybe I’ll revisit it again in another 25 years.
Set in the 1920’s, in Louisiana, you control Laura Bow, a friend of Lillian Prunes who has been invited to spend the weekend at this mansion in the bayou. Lillian’s family mansion is full of weirdos like her drunk mother, greasy uncle, creepy doctor, and sexy French maid to name a few. They all seem to have disdain for each other and as you explore the house, you’ll see them start to be knocked off one by one. As I previously mentioned, the game requires you to do some detective work in the way of eavesdropping on conversations and asking the NPC’s about each other. “That woman is a crazy old biddy” is some of the fantastic dialogue you can expect in this game. These people hate each other and they aren’t too fond of you snooping around either and will be sure to let you know that.
This game has a lot of stuff to keep you entertained. From the interesting characters to the spooky ambience, I found myself at the edge of my seat for most of the game. Well actually, I was laying in bed but the point still stands! From homages to Clue and Alfred Hitchcock, lovers of the Whodunnit genre will get a kick out of this game. You’ll learn to save your game frequently, as like most Sierra games, dying in bizarre ways should be expected. You can be stabbed to death in the shower by some Psycho, split in half by an errant battle-axe, or squashed by a giant bell or chandelier, so keep your head on a swivel! Danger is around every corner!
To quickly transport you back to the late 80’s/early 90’s, these games could be insanely frustrating. For Nintendo games, we had to use Nintendo Power for codes and hints, and for adventure games like this, you would have to actually purchase Hint Books. In 2020, I can just call on my old friend Mr. Google but that wasn’t an option back then. Additionally, to even play this game, you have to identify a fingerprint from the manual first. Well, if your mom happened to throw away that piece of literature, you were in trouble. It was an anti-piracy thing but could be the ultimate annoyance if you couldn’t find that piece of paper. Where’d you put it, Mom!?? How dare you do me like this!!?
To conclude, this game is still really fun and although younger generations might not be able to get past the graphics, it still holds up pretty well for me. I purchased it for $5 on GOG.com and it was money well spent. There was a sequel released in 1992 that I have yet to play so maybe I’ll have to give it a whirl since I’m now a licensed gumshoe. Regardless, as much as we need to support new ideas in the art world, I sure had a blast revisiting this one. Now go play it, ya dirty old bitties!
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