Ripley's Believe It or Not!: The Riddle of Master Lu
Ripley's Believe It or Not!: The Riddle of Master Lu

* Part 1: The Story of The Riddle of Master Lu

* Part 2: Interview with the co-designer/graphic artists: Richard Hescox

* Part 3: Background of Master Lu

* Part 4: Some comments

Some comments

After the introduction of the game the player has a pretty good idea what kind of man Ripley is: an adventurer, looking for bizarre objects all over the world, often risking his life and telling fascinating stories about his experiences (though that doesn't mean they are always exactly true).

The historical setting, the upcoming World War, doesn't have much impact on the story and game15 but it helps to establish atmosphere. The Chinese elements in the story and game world - Mei and Feng Li, the thugs in the game, Peiping and Mount Li - are probably inspired by the preferences of the real Ripley (he was fascinated by Chinese culture and when he entertained, he often greeted his guests in traditional Asian costume).

The overall story is told in a few key episodes. In his book "Character Development and Storytelling for Games" Sheldon says that there were "a couple of excruciatingly long exposition scenes" in Master Lu, and adds that he should have known better.16
He gives as example the scene between Ripley and the baron in Danzig where they sit still almost the entire time.

Meeting with the baron in the Ace of Space castle
There are indeed three other exposition scenes, two of which are quite long as well, but none of the scenes are too disturbing (though it would have been better to offer the player an option to skip scenes or dialogues, so he or she can make the decision).
The cobra scene is the first one, the dialogue with the priest in the Hall of Classics the second one and the reading of a letter in the baron's laboratory the third one. The scenes with the baron and with the priest are interactive (dialogue menus), the two others aren't.17

The overall story is elaborated in many memorable, enervating and sometimes hilarious scenes. An example of such a scene is the one where Ripley meets the archaeologist Twelvetrees at a dig site on Easter Island for the first time and manages to tear the sleeve of her shirt. To be followed by another one in the same area, where Ripley succeeds in making the "Watching God" see again, as the god is temporarily unable to perform his task well, for he misses one of his eyes.

Ripley as human ladder
When Ripley has found a "new eye" for the watching god and hands it over to an old woman who is waiting for the resurrection of the god, she says to him "Place your hands on the watching god ... Spread you legs", and Ripley starts to lecture "Ah, some sort of arcane ritual (...)," to find out that she only intends to use him as a human ladder to put the eye in its place.18

The dialogues are often witty or humorous, as for instance the one during the opening scene in the Odditorium. Ripley manages to catch (or kill) the cobra that threatens Feng Li, the person who takes care of the Odditorium. Feng Li is bound to a chair and wears a candle pan with a burning candle on his head, apparently intended to hypnotize the cobra. (The burning candle remains on his head the whole game, without getting smaller.)

Mei comments on Ripley's bravery: "Oh, well done, you saved Feng Li AND the snake". Oddly enough, Feng Li doesn't express his gratitude towards Ripley. This may be seen as an omission, or as typical for Feng Li's character, but it may be also explained as his reaction to Ripley's remark that followed Mei's comment: "We need the money that cobra brings in" (with as possible implication that Feng Li isn't needed and only costs money). The escape of the cobra may be interpreted by the way as a symbol for the upcoming outbreak of the war or the dangers that Ripley has to face soon.19

Remarkable is the way and degree in which some of the characters express their emotions, which is unlike most adventures from this period (That is to say by other means than monologue, dialogue or voice acting). In the beginning of the game, when Ripley asks Mei about her grandmother in Peiping, she caresses his face. They also hold hands during the flight in the Zeppelin in the introduction and end sequence of the game. In Peiping, when Ripley kneels in front of an old lady to exchange a war photograph for the soldier's helmet she is holding, windowed video close-ups are shown of the moved woman and a smiling, understanding Ripley.20

During the dialogues the player receives quite some clues, but this compensates the fact that some of the puzzles in Master Lu are hard ones. So the Sikkim guard at the Temple of The Hidden Way explains the prayer wheel puzzle Ripley has to solve afterwards.

The scene is also an example of some visual clues that the player gets during the game: the ring that the guard wears glints in the sunlight (and a sound effect accompanies the effect). The ring is a hint how to solve the puzzle to enter the temple.21

In a few cases the design of the game shows minor inconsistencies between story and scenes (but that is nitpicking about a well-made game). When Ripley arrives at the Ace of Spades castle, he addresses the gardener as "Wolf", though they haven't met before. Wolf is also capable to speak English fluently, though the player is informed that he has grown up in a small village (and really believes that the dead baron has risen from the grave). Another example: when Ripley enters the crossbow room in the emperor's tomb, he finds Kuang's dead body, though the tomb has never opened before (Ripley has to create a hole in a root cellar to get access to the tomb).

See for notes here.

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(c) All artwork copyright Sanctuary Woods
(c) Text 2020