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Let's reanimate ourselves, head upstairs and enter Murder House Zone, Act 2!

Something the walkthrough has just mentioned - and that I can verify, writing this paragraph as my game is sitting at the start of Act 3 - is that the separation between Acts in this game is virtually non-existent. Rather than breaking the game up into distinct parts of a story like you would expect given the theatre motif (or even without it), it seems that once in a while, an arbitrary action will advance time by fifteen minutes and a new Act is declared each time an hour rolls around. Here, the start of a new act is caused by Laura wandering into a bedroom and finding Gertie asleep.

Without going by a walkthrough, playing this game would surely be incredibly tedious - each fifteen-minute stage of it would consist of walking around the entire house to see if anything's changed, finding the one or two actions across the many, many screens that are available to you at the time, and worrying if you'd missed something each time you found the random thing that advanced the clock.

That's another picture we were looking out of before.

What happens next makes the barrier between act 1 and 2 even stranger.

We have to exit the room...

...and go straight back in. Suddenly, Gertie has gone, there's a toppled table and the curtains are flapping in the breeze let in by the wide open window! It would have made so much more sense for this to have been the end of act 1 and for the game to enter act 2 with this mysterious disappearance.

As for how something happened so quickly in this room when we were right outside the door the whole time and we only turned our back for a couple of nanoseconds, that's another problem. I suppose we already know there's a secret panel that leads to this room - Gertie or an assailant could have disappeared into one of those, then sneaked out of the secret passage behind the wardrobe.

And there's a lingering smell of cigar smoke! Thus implicating the lawyer (and sparrow) Clarence - there's no way that the Colonel could have got in and out with her that fast unless he had a bulldozer-like scoop on the front of his wheelchair.

Hands up who doesn't like where this is going.

When you exit the room, Laura turns to face the south and sees this!

What little of the figure we can make out doesn't give much away as they've taken the precaution of wearing a hat, not to mention painting themselves entirely black.

There's also a new item here. But I'm not sure what use it'll have yet.

We head downstairs again, but are suddenly interrupted by a hallucination of Laura Bow's father.

This is very much an in-game tutorial introducing an evolved game mechanic! Was that even a concept in 1989? It's hard to remember just how old this game is, because Sierra was well ahead of many other game companies at the time.

So we now need to think about which items would be valuabe to SHOW people as well as just ASKing them about other characters. I'll only do this when it's necessary instead of adding it to my normal interrogation routine because otherwise we'd be here for years.

Now that we're downstairs, perhaps we'd better see if we can investigate that vague shape that we saw on the ground from the second floor (in the middle of a Gertie-shaped crater). Are you ready? Let's cover our eyes, walk out the door to the west, and prepare ourselves for the sight of...

...Dr. Feels' paunch. And the clock advancing another fifteen minutes. No sign of Gertie, though.

Suspecting that Laura Bow is listening in on their conversation (and being entirely correct about it), Clarence and the doctor move back into the house. We, however, can follow behind them.

THERE! I just grabbed this in time - that shadowy figure we saw before is passing by the windows, you can just see them disappearing off to the side of the right-hand one in this screenshot. I'm certain they weren't there before - this was, to the game's credit, an actual surprise moment, and I'm pretty sure it would be to other people who unlike me don't have to be on tons of anti-anxiety drugs.

Once these two highly-paid creeps reach the dining room, we can go into the secret chamber next to them and listen in.

A hundred thousand dollars! In today's money, that's about $1.4 million. So that's why Clarence is in desperate need of Ethel's property with a vaguely exploitable resource hiding underneath.

I thought the "racehorse scam" that Gertie mentioned before was an idiomatic expression for an obvious get-rich-quick scheme, but it looks like she was being more literal than I thought. To give it further context, the most expensive horse in the world was called Fusaichi Pegasus and sold for $70 million, but according to Google, thoroughbreds are typically a few tens of thousands of dollars. I don't understand racehorse economics, but this one was either an infallible investment or it could fly and breathe fire or something.

So Gertie was threatening to expose this scheme... and now the doctor is too. I wonder how long it'll be before he disappears.

They both left after the conversation, so this time I entered the dining room by opening the panel to the north of the secret passage.

Our next stop is the kitchen, where time advances to 8:30. Time flies when people are in mortal danger.

Lillian is here now, and she and Celie chat back and forth while you move around in this room. We have the chance to talk to her about all the non-present characters, too.

Her mother Ethel:

The Colonel:

The doctor and the lawyer:

Her cousins:

Her possibly ex-aunt Gertie:


And finally Fifi:

Lillian Prune
Trusts: Nobody!

She has nothing positive to say - but seems surprised that the Colonel is behaving brusquely.

Meanwhile, back at the adventure portion of the game, there's another item we can get in here.

It's always very important to debone your soup if you catch it wild. The use for this item is just a screen away...

Here we are just outside the kitchen - the dog's here in his little house, but we have an obvious way to distract him.

Laura automatically tosses the bone some distance away when you tell her to just give the bone to the dog - by Sierra's standards this is a merciful touch. The alternative would have been to let you just give the bone instead of specifically throwing it, make the dog remain in the kennel and dead-end you.

Bloody Americans

That's a nice necklace! Once again, we don't have to go far to complete the puzzle chain.

I'm not sure how we were meant to know that the necklace belonged to Celie, apart from that the dog hangs around in the kitchen. Its gaudy appearance would have made me think it was more a Gloria or Gertie thing.

This action has no effects just now, but the walkthrough tells me this scores us internal points with Celie and will be important to allowing us to do something else later.

We're back upstairs now and about to witness a conversation in the billiard room between Clarence and Gertie, who together are billowing more smoke than the Industrial Revolution.

So Clarence's troubles have just multiplied - on top of the characters I mentioned earlier, he's now at odds with Gloria.

But when we enter the billiards room for real, they're playing as if nothing had happened and seem quite confident they're going to get somewhere considering the table doesn't have any pockets. (It's probably Carom billiards.) The animations for them knocking the balls around are honestly pretty extensive - and though I mocked the careless two-red-balls-one-white arrangement in my last update, it is explained here with a bit of chatter from Clarence saying that he wishes they could find the other cue ball. They're using the second red as a substitute, because the house and its contents haven't been properly tidied up for ages - what I thought was an oversight is instead a very nice bit of attention to detail!

Stepping outside...

Oh, there she is. That's the worst attempt at getting narration to sound mysterious I've ever seen. At least Laura has a sense of decorum.

Never mind. Well, given the broken neck and the position lying bent on the ground below an open window, I'm going to guess a fall was involved.

Someone's got to do it!

The gravity of this scene was somewhat diminished for me when Gloria's picture appeared, looking like He-Man in drag after a stag party gone wrong.

Clarence carries on billiarding, unmoved.

Sure enough. So where did the body go, and who moved it? If you tell Clarence instead, he'll just dismiss you as saying anything to get your attention, so there's not much else we can do here.

There's one more bedroom we haven't explored yet...

...and it looks like we can catch Rudy alone!

Oh! Never mind. He's trying to make a move on Fifi, but she struggles with him and walks away.


Clarence and Wilbur:



Oh - about that, yes.

He dashes out of the room, the screen fades out and back in again...

And then he forgets all about it.

Ethel and Lillian:

And finally, Celie and Jeeves:

Another very rare line from our protagonist.

Rudy Dijon
Trusts: Gloria, Gertie
Distrusts: Everybody else

I'm beginning to realize I'm not sure how useful this format is for recording people's relationships. At least a couple of connections are being revealed, but everyone seems very wary of each other in general.

We're kind of flitting about in this game with no logical order in which we're doing things, but I get the impression that that's exactly what the experience would be like without a walkthrough as well. (Incidentally, the ones I'm using disagree quite a lot on which actions to take in what order, even across Acts, so it seems a lot of these can be done at multiple different opportunities.)

Anyway, the Colonel is now gone (except in cases when he isn't, in which case you have to go out of the room and back in again) and we have the opportunity to search the room a bit more.

Another "look"/"look in" difference reveals the key to the elevator. I'm kind of rethinking my positive comment about having the actions in a pull-down menu, because if you stick to the given ones for looking around, you would never find this. Still, at this point in the evolution of adventure games, the menu of verbs would have been regarded as a nicety rather than something you'd seriously use for a whole game.

Speaking of verbs. I'm not totally sure what you would do with a key, if not use it - the action is really done to the door/gate.

Don't distract me with technicalities.

With nothing much to do here, though, we're going to go all the way across the house again to a place we ignored earlier.

The bulkhead door to the cellar is a real git to open - you can be standing right in front of it and it'll tell you you aren't close enough. You have to stand off on this corner to the right, visually further away from the door, to actually do it.

Stellar accommodation for the servants. Though Laura does say that the space looks surprisingly comfortable for a cellar when you first enter. Jeeves has a little room with an ensuite down here and is taking a nap.

Steal a man's crackers while he's delirious!

I know who'll want those...

The parrot repeats a part of the conversation that we heard between Clarence and Wilbur, but otherwise this doesn't seem to do anything for the moment. I'll definitely remember that the parrot knows that line, though, for future cross-examination.

Maybe we'll have more luck seeing what goes on in this room without us present?

Not really. But we know that Ethel knows the others think she's a drunken old biddy, and does little to disprove that.

Act III next time!
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