The Colonel’s Bequest

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1989
Platform: DOS; Amiga; Atari ST

Sadly, The Colonel’s Bequest is one of the best adventures Roberta Williams created. Returning to the roots she laid down in her first game, Mystery House, Roberta attempts to create a murder mystery that not only spooks but befuddles the player. It is befuddling, but not in the way Williams intended.

You play Laura Bow, a friend of a girl who’s family patriarch has decided to host a dinner to discuss his last will and testament. Your friend invites you to the dinner at the (of course) creepy mansion surrounded by a creepy bog. At first, everything is getting along fine.  There is no treasure hunt or tasks for the family to do. You get to meet the quirky extended family. Your friend helps settle you into your room for the night.

And then bodies start dropping.

And dropping.

And dropping.

The Colonel's Bequest DOS Oh no!

As per usual with Sierra adventures, events are triggered (rather than occurring in some semblance of real-time) and therefore Laura can’t interfere with any of the murders. But the games Achilles’ heel is that you don’t actually have to deduce the murderer! So many bodies pile up that by process of elimination you eventually find out who the killer is. And even if you’re not paying attention, you’ll accidentally find out, anyhow.

Most everything leading up to that point is done fairly well.  The parser responds adequately. The cast of characters is interesting, if not cliché. And the puzzles are usually fair and appropriate, with the imminent threat of death always around the next corner. The atmosphere is definitely creepy.

But when you reach the game’s end and discover that the game as a whole is conceptually misguided, that’s the true horrifying moment.

The Colonel's Bequest DOS Spying on Henri and Fifi...

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