(Version reviewed: Original)
Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life (or TBATTOTWOL… or maybe just TBAT) is a likeable and rather difficult to solve off your own back Indiana Jones-styled adventure. Tex is less competent and cool than Indy but he's no klutz, and the game doesn't play up his goofiness at the expense of dangerous puzzles or basic seriousness of adventuring. TBAT is chock full of traps, fast deaths and adventure movie quotes, the latter often appearing in the form of achievement-like score boosts. TBAT is a little short of the programming or prose polish that would really get it glowing, but it does have a good sense of danger and suspense.
The basic adventuring schtick of examining one thing, then examining something revealed by the first thing, then examining something revealed by the second thing, etc., is well executed on many occasions in TBAT, and this is complementary to the suspense of time-limit traps, like when a spiked ceiling is descending towards your head. Some wisecracks which happen to hit the mark and a plethora of wacky/gory deaths round out a tone which is recognisable from plenty of adventure films and games.
Since the game is named for its hero, I would have liked to see his personality shine through more clearly in the prose. The nature of some of the humour used is such that it can feel like the narrator is trying to be funny in general, rather than that I've got a window to Tex's thoughts and that they are funny, or illuminating of him. The game is a good romp through a dangerous temple in any case. Just keep those hints and that walkthrough handy. I estimate it took me 30-45 minutes to play through.
(I'm glad I liked the game, as it's also the first public outing of my Menus extension for Inform 7, a new take on Emily Short's long-serving one.)
I elaborate a little more on TBAT's hint/walkthrough situation below, where there are a few explicit spoilers:
I had to visit the hint menus and walkthrough file with increasing frequency throughout TBAT. In one case (putting the gun in the water) the solution seemed so unlikely on paper that I convinced myself that there was probably a mistake in the walkthrough; I knew that my gun had no bullets left and I couldn't imagine how I was going to be able to kill the last bat without a loaded weapon. The lesson for myself is: Still try typing in what the walkthrough says anyway! Games which lead me to cleave to the walkthrough have been known to aggravate me on multiple fronts, but this one held my attention to the end. Part of that is because even though I can't imagine coming up with some of the solutions myself, they were generally quick to execute and fairly self-contained. This is not a game where you'll get stuck, check the help file and discover you need to retreat 50 moves to fix your situation.