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Montezuma's Revenge


1984 Parker Bros.



Wait...could it be.. A Colecovision game that I actually enjoy? May God have mercy on us all ...Apparently this game was a big deal back in the day. It's easy to see why as it's actually, like, fun for a change.

You assume the role of Panama Joe (who is this Indiana Jones type character) and you go hunting for jewels and crap in a trap filled Aztec temple. The game plays like a mix of Pitfall and Super Mario Bros, go from room to room, avoid traps, jump over monsters, get keys, etc.

What makes the game so good? Well, first off the temples are pretty large, with multiple rooms and levels. Each room has it's own "gimmick" that you have to figure out, whether it's shifty conveyor belts, blinking lazer walls, etc. Sure they look pretty simple to the seasoned gamers of today, but you can't just breeze through these rooms as one misstep means instant death (more on that later.) Second this was one of the first platform games to allow the character to have an inventory of some kind. Most of the items you pick up just count for bonus points (gems and rubies and such.) However you can collect keys to open doors, torches to light darkened rooms, and swords to kill monsters. Third is while the game looks simple it's actually extremely hard, but not for any unfair reason. The minute you walk into a room it's obvious what you need to do, it's just actually doing it where the challenge comes in.

Thing is the game is only hard because Panama Joe is incapable of sustaining a fall of more than a few body lengths to the floor. Yup, this game came out at the time when a game character could still die from falling too far, a convention that I'm happy disappeared over time. So not only do you have to avoid traps and pits and monsters and crap you also have to watch where you jump because if you blow it then Joe is meat, game over, end of story, the terrorists win, etc. The tricky jumps are compounded by the fact that Joe hauls ass across the screen, if he ran a little slower the jumps would be more manageable. As expected the Coleco chimpanzee controller doesn't help, although this is one of the few games where I actually "put up with it."

The game has just the right amount of challenge and variety to keep me interested, and Joe's tendency to bite the dust every time the wind blows the wrong way is offset by the intuitive gameplay. True it's somewhat simple compared to games of today, and it could use some improvements (weapons or items that can be used more than once for instance.) As it is the game gives an enjoyable experience.

Graphics: Probably about the best you'll see on this system, lots of good animation on the enemies and background elements like fire and such. Panama Joe's walk cycle could use a few more frames, plus he looks like he has little deformed chicken-wing arms and legs. But at least the sprite is made up of more than one color.

Sound: Bleeps and bloops, not much to speak of.

Gameplay: Highly frustrating, yet highly addictive gameplay. Each room is laid out so that you know exactly what to do and where to go, so when you screw up you've got nobody but yourself to blame. For a tomb raider Joe is pretty fragile, you die more often from a missed jump or fall than from an actual trap or enemy. But the game gives you like seven lives to start, and each room is passable with a little forethought.

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