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Friday, October 4, 2013

Review - Tex Bonaventure and the Temple

Well, just going on the title alone, I'm going to guess this is pretty clearly about Mr. Bonaventure going to his local synagogue, which is nice because I'd like a game to explore some some religious culture. I grew up Lutheran and all we have is Garrison Keillor and Lutefisk, a sort of lose/lose situation however you look at it. I'm curious what happens at this temple? Do you have to wear a yarmulke? Is there a secret cabinet with the Torah scrolls? Are there going to be people rocking back and forth incanting Hebrew sacred texts? I'm pretty sure whatever it is it's gotta be better than hanging out in the Lutheran church basement drinking coffee with a bunch of bearded men in turtlenecks. Ah... religion. Glad I don't subscribe to that tripe anymore! 

Anyhow, let's get on with this game, shall we? Perhaps we'll get to drink some kosher wine!

Quick Take Review: Awesome game. Old school adventure with a large degree of whimsy. 
Now we're back on familiar turf! What fun. What blessed awesome fun.

Okay, first things first. I screwed up the title: It's Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life. In other words it's not about Jews. Sad trombone. (well, actually Tex could be Jewish. He does wind up spending his retirement in Florida...) But it is about an Indiana Jones type of adventurer, except with more pluck, wit, and school-boy bravado than one usually expects from their Temple adventurers. I really started to think of him as being played by Matt Smith. He's prone to all sorts of silliness and there were many times where the character kept wanting to do terribly silly and dangerous things just because they were there. Of course I indulged him.

And this game was a blast to play. Small self contained rooms and puzzles and a handy hint section to assist you if you get stuck (which I may have used on more than one occasion). The writing was pretty uniformly well written and often hilarious, as were the room descriptions and frequently the puzzles, many of which involved the grim spectre of death. Yes you can (and probably will) die in this game. A lot. And in ways both equal parts amusing and morbid. You are often punished for perilous mistakes and not always immediately. If you venture too far into the maze of twisty passages (don't worry, no mapping required. The solution will be evident by anyone who's read The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco) you may not know you are done for until a few turns in. You will probably be typing UNDO on a somewhat regular basis. But the deaths are often so humorous and of such little consequence that you don't even feel the annoyance.

The story is slight and the Temple whose first room is so breathtakingly written quickly shifts into magical parody with a room turning into a living stomach, a riddle-loving gargoyle (my favorite puzzle by far), and a bathroom of evil. It feels cut from the same cloth as the great late Douglas Adams. However, like his works, it's hard to feel anything beyond amusement, which at the same time is a pretty great reaction to have to any work. But I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed by the jokiness of the game after absorbing the magnificence of the entrance statue. I felt something akin to actual awe, a feeling which was quickly replaced.

But that's judging this game based on what it's not, which isn't fair, especially when a game is so well written and crafted as this one. There were very few parser errors (though I had a devil of a time getting out of the Bottomless Pit room) and there was so much humor packed into every description and word. A very well and thoroughly constructed game.

The only nit pick is that a few of the puzzles seemed to require mind-reading tendencies or a particularly exact phrasing. But nothing I would cite as terribly unfair. (I smacked myself when I figured out how to distract the bats. Of course!) All and all a very pleasant diversion. Good job IFComp2013! Things are looking up!

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