IF Comp 2013: Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life (Truthcraze)

Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life is a parser-based adventure with an Indiana Jones theme you can presumably already see coming just from the title. Expect ludicrous archaeology. (One day, ONE DAY, someone will write an archaeology game with commands like LABEL POTSHERD and CLEAN BONES WITH SOFT TOOTHBRUSH and METICULOUSLY DESCRIBE SOIL TEXTURE IN NOTEBOOK. Jacqueline Lott, I’m looking at you.)

This is one of those games where what you get is exactly what the label on the package makes you think you’re going to get. It’s a fairly old-fashioned adventure: there’s a pseudo-maze, there are death traps, there are puzzles where you need something from another room you may not have visited, there’s an obligatory XYZZY response, there are loads of references to classic IF from Zork to Hitchhiker’s. There’s maybe a touch of an acknowledgement to Inhumane as well.

I am usually skeptical of games whose main purpose is to nostalge as much as possible for Infocom-that-was; it’s been done so much for so long that it’s easy for such pieces to feel stale. But I found Tex Bonaventure good-natured, and its parser rejoinders genuinely entertaining, so I came away liking it pretty well.

Other reviewers called out some issues and bugs with their playing; mine was not especially buggy, which leads me to think that the author did some good work with the partway-through-comp update. (Thank you!) Even so, there were once or twice things where guess-the-verb still bit me.

The puzzles are variably fair, with some timed traps and some learn-by-dying. This could have gotten somewhat frustrating, but Tex is nonetheless generally a lot more reasonable than the truly vicious old-school games. It’s small enough that you can’t get that far without discovering you’ve made a fatal error; one place where you can do something that makes the game unwinnable, there are pretty heavy hints that that is what you’ve just done, so you can back out and save and rethink your approach.

Possibly I would still have found it a bit much even so, but I gave myself permission to use hints. The hints were generally helpful enough that I didn’t have to read all the way through to the solution in most cases, which left me with a little of my adventuring pride intact. In a couple of places I am not sure how I would have worked out the puzzle at all sans hints, but it may be that there was more cluing that I missed. I would have tried to get through more of it on my own, but comp play means not dallying over things.

Other puzzles were fun and silly, though, and the text did an excellent job of communicating that you were running out of time on various timed puzzles, and otherwise nudging the player along. If you’ve been following IF for a while, you probably already know whether you’re the kind of player who would enjoy this kind of thing.

A couple of nitpicky specifics follow the spoiler space.









Particularly irksome verb-guessing: FLIP SWITCH worked in a certain situation. HIT SWITCH, PUSH SWITCH, and everything else I spent two pages trying, did not, and in some cases gave default answers that left me with a misleading idea of what was going on in the puzzle. For a while I thought the switch was further away than it apparently is (?), so was trying to throw objects, including the bone, through the slot, to no avail either.

Also, I really liked the concept of using the water of life to fix the gun, but sadly I only got that from the hints, in part because I’d gotten very used to counting the gun out of the equation at this point, and in part because it’s the water of life, not the water of Restoring Nonfunctional Machinery. It’s conceivable that there was an object description or something in here that would have offered a clue, but if so, I didn’t see it. (And I just replayed that bit to check, and, nope, still not seeing it.)

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