Monday, April 22, 2013

Digital Diarrhea (Taco Bell: Tasty Temple Challenge)

Updated 8/1/2017 - I've acquired a complete copy of Taco Bell Tasty Temple Challenge and scanned the "manual" that came with it. Here you go!

Original article, as posted on 4/22/2013:

Did you know that Taco Bell gave out computer games as Kids Meal prizes? They've actually done this more than once, most recently giving out Atari classics in 2010, but they also gave out some original games on floppy disks back in 2000 (I think). Information for these games is incredibly scarce, and it's likely that there are yet other Taco Bell games that I haven't found any information on at all, but so far I've found evidence of the following games:
  • Jumping Bean Jamboree
  • Taco Maker Marathon
  • Digital Extreme Sports Games
  • Atari Classics (Centipede, Lunar Landing, Asteroids, Super Breakout)
  • Tasty Temple Challenge
As a kid, I only remember playing two Taco Bell games: Tasty Temple Challenge and one other that I can't find any information about whatsoever, but I seem to recall it involving jumping on the moon.

Anyway, as Tasty Temple Challenge is the one I'm most familiar with, that's the one I'm reviewing. It also seems to be the most interesting out of all of them.

According to the game's readme file, you play as Baja Bill, an archaeologist and "hungry dude", who falls asleep while on an expedition and dreams that the temple he is exploring is filled with delicious Taco Bell foods. None of that back story really has any bearing on the actual game, but it disappoints me a little to find that all this is just a dream. The important thing is that this game plays like classic Doom, except that you shoot hot sauce at cartoon cobras and scorpions. As a kid, I was just impressed that Taco Bell had a first person shooter as a kids meal prize. Unfortunately, I was never able to beat the game... until now!
The graphics are pretty crappy, but then again, the game is pretty old. While the maze-like corridors look as dark and gritty as any other old FPS for the computer, the enemies (of which there are only two, not including the boss) look like they came right out of a cartoon from the 80s. The bad guys just come straight at you and hurt you when they touch you. If you hit them a few times, they'll turn tail and run away, which gives you the option to either leave them be or finish them off viciously. Unlike in real life, the hot sauce actually burns enemies to a pile of ash. The game consists of exploring the temple to find keys and other items so that you can backtrack and explore new areas with the ultimate goal of acquiring the Grande Meal. Apart from key items, there are also limited use hot sauce and wild sauce pickups and some sort of blow gun attachment that can kill enemies faster. For health refills, you can collect any of the many different Taco Bell food items scattered about the ruins.

As a kid, the biggest difficulty for me was getting lost, which is understandable, since most of the game looks the same and there are some unnecessary areas. Thankfully, there's an optional map that can be displayed over the screen that will fill in as you explore. This actually helped me figure out how to progress when I played it.
Of course, if you use the map, it'll be hard to see much else.
The controls are what I imagine playing a flute to be like if flutes were made out of live fish. That is to say, they aren't that great. Movement is limited to the arrow keys and mouse, with Home for jumping and End for crouching, which is necessary for swimming. You can also use PageUp and PageDown to look up and down, but the sensitivity is way too high and it never serves any purpose. Of course, these controls are not remappable unless you use an outside program.

During my play, I encountered a few glitches. The first crashed the game while I was on an elevator and played a horribly loud sound. The second was an enemy's pile of ash moving posthumously. The third occurred twice after no apparent cause and allowed me to walk through walls and go out of bounds, but also made shooting enemies impossible. Luckily, it's possible to save your game to safeguard against these bugs. Unluckily, loading a file often mutes the sound. Also, selecting New Game from the pause menu sometimes inexplicably doesn't work and requires a reset of the game.

If you're any good at all and make use of the save files, you should be able to easily finish in under an hour, but with some practice, you could even get close to my high score of 3:19. 
The Final Word
There's no reason to go through the effort of playing this game, and yet, I kind of enjoyed going back to finish it. It sucks, but not nearly as bad as it could. Now you know it exists. Wheee~
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