Larua Bow in
Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra is a sequel to 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: Do not rush through the game. Take the time to carefully explore the surroundings and pick up everything that isn't nailed down.
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 almost two decades 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 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.
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 quite a long time since the game's release.