Montezuma’s Revenge

A game by Robert Jaeger for a variety of home computer systems, originally released in 1984.
Montezuma’s Revenge stars a treasure hunter called Panama Joe on an adventure through the ancient Aztec tomb of Montezuma II. Of course, the only reason he is exploring Montezuma’s tomb as opposed to anything else is so the developers could use the name “Montezuma’s Revenge”… a euphemism for the terrible and potentially life-threatening diarrhea that comes from drinking the water in Mexico. This puts the game on a very short list of quality titles named for bodily functions. (ed note: All Montezuma's Revenge screens were taken from the C64 version of the game.)
Montezuma’s Revenge is a game of fast-paced exploration across a series of single-screen rooms littered with enemies, obstacles, and items. Among the enemies are snakes that sit stationary and must be jumped over, spiders that move back and forth and sometimes climb ladders, and skulls that roll along the floor or bounce high into the air.

Fortunately, Panama Joe has some tools at his disposal to help him deal with these enemies. First, Joe can pick up swords, which fill his limited inventory space. Each sword can be used to kill a single enemy – except snakes – and disappears upon use. There is also an amulet which temporarily turns all enemies gray, allowing Joe to run straight through them without being killed. If he touches an enemy without one of these items equipped, he dies instantly, but the enemy is removed from the room as well (on lower difficulty levels), allowing for safe passage on the next attempt, provided he has any lives remaining. Getting killed will respawn Joe at point where he entered the room.

Joe starts the game with six lives, earning a new life for every 10,000 points. Points are gained by collecting gems, killing enemies, and opening doors. Colored keys are spread throughout the tomb and are used to open doors of the corresponding color (also one-time use), which is the primary means of progression.

The goal of each level is to make your way deeper into the tomb until you reach the treasure room at the bottom. Here, you jump between ropes attempting to collect as many coins as possible before reaching the falling down to the exit at the bottom. Upon leaving the treasure room, Panama Joe re-enters the temple at the next higher difficulty level. Here, certain walls are moved, altering the route needed to make it to the treasure room. Also, items are moved, the number of enemies increases and some of them move faster, and more dark rooms appear. In all, there are 9 difficulty levels.

In a dark room, the player cannot see the floor or the walls; he can only see enemies, obstacles, and items. This can make the going very tough, although the repeat playthroughs of similar areas help the player determine where he needs to go. Having a torch in your inventory removes the darkness from all rooms.

In addition to dealing with enemies and darkness, the player must also contend with pits of fire, disappearing and reappearing platforms, deadly laser gates, and conveyor belts, all of which press the player to make careful jumps and well-timed runs… and the margin for error is quite slim. Joe has a 1x nonvariable jump, which is slightly lower than that of a typical platformer, although his head goes up through the ceiling when he jumps, allowing for a full range of movement even in tight quarters. However, Joe is disadvantaged in that he cannot fall very far. Falling much further than his jump height will see him squashed against the ground, much like the hero of Spelunker.

When navigating the environment, Joe must climb up and down ladders and chains, and slide down poles. Ladders can be accessed from their highest or lowest rungs only, while chains and poles may be grabbed in midair. Once Joe has grabbed a chain, he is free to climb up or down, or jump away, but he cannot jump from ladders. Grabbing a pole causes Joe to slide down, with no direct way to climb back up. Poles are also used to line the edges of the treasure rooms at the end of each level, forcing Joe down into the next set of levels if he misses a jump between chains.

Punctuating the adventure are a number of lighthearted sound effects, such as the shuffling of Joe’s feet against the ground as he runs, a quick “La Cucaracha” theme (authentic Mexican tunes!) when he grabs a gem or key, “Olly Olly Oxen Free” when he gains an extra life, and a victory tune that plays as he moves from screen to screen through the treasure room.

Montezuma's Revenge was developed by Robert Jaeger under his Utopia Games label, with the game's name and theme suggested by his friend Mark Sunshine. Prior to this, Robert developed Chomper, his first commercial title and a derivation of Pac-Man, followed by Pinhead, which was a take on Kickman. A 3D sequel entitled Montezuma’s Return was developed by Utopia Technologies and released for PC in 1998. In the same year, a 2D Game Boy / Game Boy Color iteration of Montezuma’s Return was released by Tarantula Studios without the original developer's involvement.

The game was published by Paker Brothers, a company primarily known for its board games, notably Monopoly, Trival Pursuit, Clue, and Risk. In the early 1980's, the company began publishing video games, consisting mostly of licensed titles and home console/computer ports of popular arcade games, but largely moved away from this business following the video game crash of the mid-80's. The company was purchased by Hasbro in 1991.