Montezuma's Revenge
Nothing personal, you just got on his bad side today.

Montezuma's Revenge is the best Apple II game named after a euphemism for diarrhea that I've ever played. And I mean that.

It was a common staple of many Apple libraries, and for good reason, because it did what no one else could until that point: it let you see what you were doing. Usually a game where you explored a dungeon or lost civilization would be in text form, and though it's good to use your imagination, I appreciated being able to jump around.

Your intrepid hero, Panama Joe (there's some subtle copyright dodging), is out to explore the ancient Aztec ruins of Montezuma with his arms perpetually outstretched and every step he takes curiously sounding like Fred Flinstone when he runs. And YOU control the action!

You start your tomb raiding in this room. The upper left corner shows the items you've collected. The key is one of many, and different colors will unlock their respective barriers. Following video game physics, they'll disappear once you use them. Below the items you'll notice a row of hats that represent your number of lives, and to the right of that is the number of the level you're currently on.

The game is offered in three levels, but not in terms of difficulty. In fact, I'd say level one is harder than the other two, because they block off a major continuing point with four barriers. (Note: someone successfully mapped out the Commodore 64 version of this game, and it turns out there are NINE levels--but only the first three can be selected from the title screen.)

To get the inventory required to break through this, you'll have to raid every available area up to that point.
Here's what's involved in this task:

Odds are good this will be the third room you explore, and it's got one big flaw: a newbie to the game is not going to clear this short jump without harsh practice. I,J,L,M is your "control pad" and the K in the middle lets you jump...but only up. To leap up there, you'll have to make a running this case, J and then K as fast as you can move your fingers. Good luck with that one.

The sword is a good item to have; it'll eliminate one enemy from the room upon touch. Here's a bounty of them, but with a rather mean catch: a rolling skull in an extremely small area. Chances are good you're going to touch it and waste one of the swords as soon as you collect them. Or you might end up clearing the skull from the field in a more painful way....

Here's another problematic room: in order to complete it, you're going to have to lose a life. Those white poles are one-way; there's no way back up. Yet you need the key in here to successfully unlock that barrier. Once you perish, you reappear at the place where you entered the room. If that was the programmers' intended solution, it's a pretty crappy one.

You've gotta give 'em credit for ingenuity--there's enough in this one room to occupy your time for a while. You could just take the ladders and split, or you could go the distance and try for things. They might be large gold coins, but I always thought of them as backpacks. Of course that would make no sense, but it's what they most resembled to me.

And then sometimes, you'll pass through an area with NOTHING in it.

You might want to pause whenever you head down a ladder into the room below--the bouncing skull just barely grazes your leg as soon as you enter. Yeek!

Those hatched things are supposed to be ropes. You have two directions to choose from now, and many more after that. There are 100 rooms in the game, and each one varies depending on which level you're in.

Compared to Indiana Jones, Panama Joe got the better deal when it came to snakes. All the snakes in Montezuma's Revenge just sit there hissing, and the only way you'll die from one is if you run right into it.

Hey, who turned out the lights? Eventually, no matter what level you're on, you'll run into a portion of the temple that's completely in the dark. To make the game fair again, you have to find the torch, which could be anywhere.

Just don't fall off a platform, because for all his intrepid spirit, Panama Joe cannot survive a fall greater than his own height. He's as bad as Mario in his Donkey Kong years in this respect.

Waaaaait a minute, does this room look familiar to you?
Space-saving tricks are no stranger to this game. I don't mind it much--don't forget, nearly every single dungeon room in the original "Legend of Zelda" looked the same. What matters is what's done with it.

They could have spared us a second really hard jump, though.

Say it ain't so, Joe! I always come to this hideous part of the game when I have zero lives left. That shimmering bridge appears and disappears on its own (yet the snake has no problem sitting there in midair). To clear this bridge, you have to jump over the snake when it disappears, run for the edge, then jump again before you reach the end.

No such luck. Despite my years of experience, I've never finished a level of Montezuma's Revenge. The C64 map provided the spoilers: the end of each level is a pit with an arrow made out of "backpacks" commanding you to jump down. Once you do, you see the same opening cinema again and land in Level 2. True to the rules of 80's gaming, the quest never ends.



"Montezuma's Return" came out for the PC in 1998. The gameplay was mostly the same, with one radical difference: the thing was in first-person. First-person??

I know "first-person" is a PC adventure cliche, but I can't imagine it working for the leap-and-dodge game mechanics of Montezuma's temple. How am I supposed to avoid that bouncing skull in the right photo when I can't even see where I'm standing?

Find out these answers for yourself. This one's freeware now too: see?

A Game Boy Color version was released at the same time, and fortunately, it stayed true to the original game's concepts. The hero looks like Panama Joe yet isn't; in both versions you instead played Max Montezuma, the rightful heir to the ancient king's treasure....which doesn't make any sense because I'm sure Cortez slaughtered any relatives Montezuma had. (And Montezuma was his FIRST name, not his last). But none of those laser platforms were historically correct either.