The Colonel's Bequest logo

SIERRA £34.95 * Joystick and spacebar

Oh Sierra, you say, an adventure. Well hold it right there Mr (or Ms) Cocky Know-all. This is not an adventure, it is an interactive story. It is a play in eight acts. It is an animated version of Cluedo cunningly disguised as a remake of The Cat and the Canary, but this time without Bob Hope.

You play Laura Bow, a sweet southern belle with a penchant for snooping around places and saying things like "Tell the Colonel about Polly" or "Ask Ethel Prune about Fifi". Wadda gat.

As a change from studying journalism at University you decide to take a trip with your bosom buddy Lilian Prune to visit lil's darling uncle Colonel Henri Dijon. (Get it? Dijon... Mustard!). The old duffer read his will and upsets everybody in sight. Once the will has been read, boredom sets in and you decide to explore the house and grounds.

There is a mess of exploration to be done, so off you set around the mansion. To stroll around you could try using your mouse to move the animated character. Personally, I found that using the cursor keys to more Laura was far more effective than boshing her into walls and tripping down stairs by the way of the mouse.

Along the way you overhear dodgy conversations, attempt to communicate with Polly the parrot and pat Beauregard the dog on the head. You also get to change five disks and tear your hair out as, yet again, nothing happens. This is what it must be like for a real-life 20-year-old journalism student in a spooky mansion out on the bayou.

In order to gain information you use the right-hand mouse button, click on objects or people and read the description. This can throw up some interesting snippets or merely tell you that "There are many interesting artefacts in the room". The parsing here is not what you would normally expect from a Sierra game; it slips up irritatingly on occasions with only a very few standby phrases when you wander outside the game's vocabulary.

Without doubt there is plenty to be seen and loads of notes to take. You really do need to keep your stubbyu old reporter's crayon to hand at all times as you never know when you are going to walk into a room and find yourself ear-wigging a juicy conversation. In fact, walking into rooms uninvited produces more of interest than searching or looking. Keep your eyes on the good-looking fella with the bad attitude.


Pure bloody mindedness after the first few fruitless plays should keep the avid adventurer coming back to crack the game and find something of interest. Names such as Dr Wilbur C Feels, Gloria Swansong and Jeeves the butler do give the whole thing a rather tacky feel but forget it and keep plugging away. Probably the most useful piece of kit to have with you while playing the game is a younger sibling who can be bribed with a Cadbury's Cream Egg to change disks while you nip off to the loo.


Sound? Well, yes, there is some. A nice ticking clock and a pleasant 'Bong, Bong, Bong' of the timing clock which appears every so often. A few doors creak, when you go outside there is birdsong. Generally, it is run of the mill. Graphically, it is no treat either. Obviously a PC port over, the colours make the word garish seem pallid and the word pallid seem insipid. All those moans noted, the backgrounds are atmospheric, the details are well worked and the parrot swings with great elan.


If you enjoy Cluedo and do not mind a few hours in which three things (zip, nada and zero) happen, The Colonel's Bequest could be for you.

An immense amount of thought has obviously gone into the game and it does have a kind of frustrating charm about it. Unfortunately this cannot save it from being plain dull. Laura Bow refuses to look into bags, shelves, closets or people because they do not belong to her or contain nothing of interest. How can a game tell you what is of interest to you? Generally, it is "Oh what a nice present, auntie Mick" rather than a "Look what I just bought, cousin Neil" kind of game.

The Colonel's Bequest logo

PRICE: £34.99

Much has been said about the cinematic quality of Sierra adventures. The animation coupled with high quality stereo music and sound effects, combine to make playing one of these games rather like taking part in a movie. And Sierra have done all they can to foster that image, expecially with their title sequences. Until now.

The Colonel's Bequest is put over in the guise of a whodunit play and, before the performance, the cast all walk on stage and take a bow. If you type PAUSE, a window pops up displaying INTERMISSION. And the rooms are arranged rather like theatrical scenery. However, the analogy fails when Laura Bow, ace sleuth, starts wandering from room to room, all in the same act!

However, the atmosphere engendered by this approach is just right for the storyline. Aged colonel in country mansion holds house party for relations. Relations bitch about each other in private, especially about the old boy's carryings on with young and shapely maid, Fifi. Worried sick that most of the old goat's fortune will go to here when he snuffs it, more likely. And snuff it he surely will, for why elese should you be staying here with his niece, your friend Lillian, except to solve the mystery?

Trouble is, the mystery seems a long time coming, for there is nary a sign of a fatality until well into the game. You are thus left with little else to do but observe people and search for clues about something that has not just happened. This is one of those games in whch the characters go about their pre-determined business, and you have to hope you are in the right place at the right time to follow what is going on. Every so often a clock appears on the screen, and chimes the next quarter-hour. It seems that this is triggered by events, but whether by what you do, or by what others are doing, possibly unseen, is not clear.

The instructions urge you to visit every location in the game frequently, and if this really is necessary, then a frustrating time is in store, for some of the screens are quite complex and take a long time to load. Picture caching is rather limited, so it is a pity a plan of the house is not provided for movement, as in Camelot (reviewed this issue). Whilst the game is well produced, my main criticism is that it could do with both the action and the responses speeding up a bit, to avoid hours of aimless wandering on the part of the player.

On five disks, The Colonel's Bequest has very little space for saved positions on the game disks - so format a spare before you start!

The Colonel's Bequest logo

Sierra/Activision/£39.99/Out now

Amiga reviewPaul: Laura Bow is not exactly a fun person. She's the sort of person whose idea of a wild night is to read three Chekov plays in one sitting. However when the Colonel's family and servants start getting bumped off, it's Laura who has to hunt for clues, secret passages and gossip in an attempt to get the murderer before he gets her.

The Colonel's Bequest is a Christiesque (?) murder mystery that aims to create the atmosphere of a Broadway play. Interesting viewing angles, detailed scenery and 'traditional' characters all contribute to this despite the rather PCish look of the graphics. (There's also an atmospheric, if inconsistent, soundtrack).

Rather than solve a puzzle to get onto the next screen, Bequest gives you the run of the house. (Provided you can overcome a slightly fiddly control system which makes getting into or out of rooms a major operation.) Hence the game is rather more difficult than most adventures since you're not even sure of the problem let alone the solution.

Unless you like your adventures easy, this certainly adds to the challenge, while there's still plenty of danger to add to the excitement.

If you can keep your head while all around are losing theirs, then you'll be in for a taxing and intriguing time. An interesting contribution to what seems to be an increasingly popular theme.

The Colonel's Bequest logo

Sierra On-Line, Amiga £39.99

Way back in the days before ZZAP!...' (was there life before ZZAP! Grandpa?) 'Well son, not so much life as mere existence' (oh). 'Anyway, as I was saying... around 1980 this young snip of a girl wrote a computer game called Mystery House and it marked the beginning of Sierra On-Line'.

The young girl was Roberta Williams who, since those dark and dusty days, has had more success than you can waggle a mouse pointer at with games such as the very popular King's Quest series. Now Roberta has gone back to her roots a has written another murder mystery.

A real-time tale of foul deeds and set in the 1920s. Colonel's Bequest is written as a stage play and consists of eight acts. In each you must witness events vital to the plot before you can advance to the next act.

You play the part of Laura Bow on a weekend visit to your friend's uncle's (Colonel Dijon) spooky ol' mansion. That same weekend the whole family is there to hear the reading of Colonel Henri Dijon's will. The family learns that all who outlive the Colonel will get a share of the old codger's wealth.

But during the weekend, murder takes place and it's up to you to discover whodunnit, why and with what. At the end of the play you refer to your notes and take a stab (get the point?) at who you think the murderer is.

The curtain opens with you in the guest room. A quick sniff around and you discover Ethel Prune (your friend's mother) who appears to be permanently squiffy.

The bathroom is not far away and Lilian (your friend) is there carrying out her ablutions. When she leaves, you may also freshen up should you so desire, but don't take a shower unless you want you watch yourself being murdered Psycho-style.

Colonel's Bequest is one of those adventures where things happen and situations change as play progresses.

People - most of whom don't appear to particularly like your snooping activities - move around and may leave clues in places where before you could find nothing. So retracing your steps and re-examining objects is a must.

Not only do you have the mansion and all its secrets to explore but also the extensive grounds. The mansion is built on a little island in the middle of Bayou and, as the swamp is the only way out and is no place for young women, you're stuck there until you solve the murders.

It seems every time I review a Sierra game the problem of excessive disk access comes up. I did think I might be able to write about one of their 3-D adventures without mentioning it... but I can't. Every time you change location in Bequest you have to wait for the disk to access. And it takes an age. Why can't they cut the disk access down? Delphine Software (Future Wars & Stealth Project) have done so and their location graphics, animation and so on are at least as good as Sierra's. I think people may eventually lose patience with this company's games. They could - in fact, with competition such as Delphine, I think they must - do better.

But what of the game itself? Well, there are a few annoying idiosyncrasies such as being told there's a handle sticking out of the pianola and even being able to turn it but when I tried to take the handle (to use on the fountain in the garden) I was told it wasn't there. This obviously means that I'm supposed to get a handle but not this one. The response should have been better.

However, there's plenty to see and do and it should keep budding sleuths at their computers for hours, if only while they wait for locations to load. Ooooh no, don't mock!

Music and FX are good and the desire to find out what's going on in the spooky ol' mansion is very strong.