Montezuma's Revenge - The Atari Times
Before there was Tomb Raider, there was Montezuma
by Rob AdairSeptember 24, 2007
Ask someone about a video game involving archeology, and odds are they'll refer you to Lara Croft, the now-famous Tomb Raider of all time. A beautiful woman who does amazing stunts without a double, explores various ancient ruins in hopes of finding treasures, and proves that women are as capable of exploring these types of places as men are. But flash back to the 1980s, and if you were to ask someone about that, you'd probably be told about Montezuma's Revenge. And thankfully, this has nothing to do with the infamous stomach bug that travelers get a lot!
Instead, Montezuma's Revenge puts you in the boots of Panama Joe (an obvious parody of Indiana Jones,) an archaeologist who gets himself into hot water easily, yet manages to get out of it even easier. That's why he's got you here to help guide him through an Aztec temple that's full of traps and creepy crawlies. Unlike most games, though, Panama Joe doesn't exactly rely on weapons to get him through situations like this. Rather, it's skill and puzzle solving that gets one through a temple like this.
Montezuma's Revenge is one of the games that manages to take what limited graphic resources are available and put them to the max. Sure, they may not be perfect, like the floors are always checkered tile (well at least that's what they look like,) and the force fields look like something out of a space station rather than a tomb. But the sprites really shine for the game. Panama Joe may look a little chubby, but his movements are smooth and not choppy at all. The enemies are well drawn so you know what each one is instead of having to guess that they're some weird object. Not to mention the ability to have dark rooms is also another way the programmers push the limits of the 2600.
While the graphics department was well done, the sound department didn't exactly fare so well. The only thing you really hear is when something happens like you lose a life, pick up a treasure, or defeat an enemy. Usually it's just a thud or something like that, but for certain things like getting a treasure or opening a door, you hear the first few notes of 'La Cucaracha.' Unfortunately, there's really little else to say in terms of sounds. Whether the programmers had to sacrifice sound for graphics or they just didn't think to put any in, the sound department could've used some more work.
This may seem a bit high, but for the time that it was released, Montezuma's Revenge was truly an adventure in it's own. Instead of following a preset path, you had the ability to explore the temple as you saw fit, although locked doors and traps sometimes forced you to go back and try another route. In addition to that, the fact that you weren't exactly running around killing everything that moved (well you were able to get a few daggers, but they were sparse and only worked on a few enemies,) but rather using your wits and thinking carefully about your next move was also a unique touch to the game. In a sense it could easily be considered a precursor to Tomb Raider.
The one-button control works well here, despite what you might think. The daggers you find are pretty much like a one-hit shield for you, since they disappear when you use them, while taking out the enemy you touch. It's mostly about running and jumping here, and the controls usually get the job done; However there are a few times where making jumps from ropes is a bit tricky, as well as judging whether a fall will kill you or not. Other than that, making it through the temple is as easy as running and jumping. Just like Mario, except Joe came before Mario, but Mario is more popular! Oh well.
Despite a few minor flaws here and there, Montezuma's Revenge is truly a unique game that one wouldn't usually expect on the Atari 2600. One of the unfortunate things is how rare it is, being released right around the time of the Great Video Game Crash. It's sad, too, because it set a standard for how adventure games should be. Now if people would stop associating the name with that infamous traveler's stomach bug!
I never played this on the 2600, but did have it on cassette for the 8-bit Atari and absolutely adored it - very addictive, colourful, great graphics and music as I remember - and a game could last a long time. One of the best platforms I remember on the Atari 8-bit along with 'Bounty Bob Strikes Back'.
check Iphone or touch new game jack or 100 ways to barbecue - 1st level almost fully reminds the montezumas screens!
This is really an amazing game for the 2600!