Tex Bonaventure's Final Puzzle

I suppose that I could spoiler tag this, but it should probably be taken as granted that if you are entering a discussion thread about the final puzzle of a game, it will be a resident of spoiler-town. It may even be mayor of spoiler-town. Spoilerton?

Consider this a focused post-mortem on Tex Bonaventure. I could go into the process of creating Tex, the idea behind it all, but, much like the game, it’s a bit of a shallow story. I wanted to create a puzzle-focused Inform game, and I deeply love Indiana Jones, especially the first bit of Raiders. This, I trust, is relatively obvious.

What turned out to be non-obvious was the final puzzle of Tex B. To recap: You’re trapped in the apex of the Temple of the Water of Life, armed with a whip and gun (without any bullets), facing down a giant carnivorous bat. You can whip the bat to drive it off, but as long as the bat is there, you cannot get to the fount of the Water of Life, without which you’ll die of snakebite. (Sidenote: I believe Tex B benefited from being a “light” story in a year where there weren’t that many light options. Captain Verdeterre, Robin and Orchid, Machine of Death, Bell Park, Sam and Leo and Paper Bag Princess I would also classify as “light” - that’s 7/35.)

In any case, you need to get rid of the bat. Many reviewers said this approached “read the author’s mind” territory… so here’s an opportunity to do so.

Throughout the game, whenever you “undo” anything, you get a message about an unearthly blue glow surrounding you. When you achieve the apex of the temple, the same blue glow emanates from the Water of Life (indeed, if you undo in the apex, you get a message about the light pouring out from the pool of Water and surrounding you). What I imagined this cluing was the idea that the pool of Water acted as an “undo” pool, and by (spoiler incoming: final puzzle’s solution!) dunking the gun into the water, you would “undo” shooting it, restoring the bullet, and allowing you to shoot the bat.

There are several problems with this. First of all, the clue for the undo verb relies on actually using the “undo” command, which traditionally is thought of as an outside-the-game command, and isn’t fair to make integral to the game experience. Secondly, players are used to ignoring what the game responds with after you type “undo”, so any clues put into the command will probably be missed. Third, the gun hasn’t been used since the first room of the game, and most likely the player has forgotten all about it by now, and certainly wouldn’t think that it was useful.

The major place I tripped myself up with this was that in the original planning phase of Tex B, I wanted to make the gun into an “undo gun” very early on in the puzzles, and then have most of the subsequent puzzles able to be solved by shooting something with the Undo Gun. (ie, a broken vase, shot with the gun, would become whole.) So from an early state, I thought that dunking the gun into the pool of water would be completely logical. Basically, I failed to see my game with new eyes.

I’m thinking about cluing the final puzzle a bit more heavily, and maybe including this post as an author’s note into a post-comp release of Tex B. But I’m also thinking of writing a new game… and maybe one day I’ll write the “Undo Gun” game. That would probably be titled “Son of Tex Bonaventure”.

In conclusion, thanks to everyone who played and judged the Comp games. I’m thrilled with fifth for Tex B, and loved seeing the reviews and discussion generated by this year’s comp!

Some meaning in the UNDO handling is already spoilered in the version info and I like games with odd use of player’s expectations. This game was my favorite because of that, the puzzle-driven arrangement, the Terry Pratchett sound and the funny references to Twine, Zork, some movies and even Umberto Eco. Indeed, the “undo gun” wasn’t easy but I ROFL’d when I finally tried it and I considered it as completely logical. It’s a brilliant puzzle and I didn’t have to read your mind for that. You may coach the player by throwing some stuff into the water and looking what happens, but I wouldn’t use more clues for that. But what a pity not to have had a real undo gun…

I really appreciated the tying of “Undo” blue swirlies to the fountain of youth spell, but even when I made that connection, I still would have never solved the puzzle. I might have been more open to restoring a biological weapon … like, say, a (damaged/decayed) leather whip? … with the fountain of youth water. I’d especially appreciate this considering that I felt like the hat and whip were just inventory dead weight and could have used a pay-off. I would have really felt like the whip had been worth it if I could have used it as the solution in the final puzzle.

As it is, I don’t feel that better cluing the gun would be satisfying to me as a player: I might find out that the water would restore my gun, but it still wouldn’t feel like it fits the logic of how I expect “fountain of youth water” to work. Plus, if it acts like a backwards time-travel device on ANYTHING, even non-biological things, what is happening to the fountain that’s holding it?

I’m reminded of the universal solvent paradox all of a sudden.

But if the fountain were made out of radioactive isotopes, this would be a possibility.

However, the radiation involved in all this might kill anyone around who got near. Or perhaps the water would soak up and even feed off the radiation.