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Montezuma’s Revenge Featuring Panama Joe Review

Developer: Parker Brothers Publisher: Parker Brothers
Release Date: 1989 Also On: Apple II, Atari 800XL, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, PC Booter

This is probably the only good game Parker Brothers released for the Master System, and if any it was a good pick. Montezuma’s Revenge is a pretty legendary title that was originally programmed for a variety of systems including the Apple II, Commodore 64 and plenty of others. It isn’t known for anything groundbreaking, but manages to be a clever, new-play-on-old-ideas platformer that’s definitely worth a look for SMS fans.

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Graphically, they updated this for the Master System fairly well. I say fairly because overall there’s a lot more detail and color, but not much more than that. Keep in mind this is a port of an older game, so all they really did was update the graphics just a tad. Considering that, I think they could have done a lot more. The opening credits are excellent, but after this it’s nothing new, just a little better looking. Your character Panama Joe, in fact, looks a bit jumbled; doesn’t seem they pieced him together very well. Other than that, no big problems.

The one thing I really wished they did with Montezuma’s Revenge was add a stinking soundtrack. The game opens with a basic, stereotypical version of the Mexican hat dance (how original), and that’s pretty much it. You get a really, really short burst from this same song when you pick up jewels and such, but nothing more. The sound effects are equally dreadful and make little usage of the Master System’s sound chip. I happen to have just started working with it not too long ago, and let me tell you, I could write better stuff than this the first day I tried. The one thing I should say is the silence is kind of part of the atmosphere of the game, but still, considering how much of an opportunity they had here, they blew it.

As for the gameplay, Montezuma’s Revenge is essentially a platformer quite similar to Pitfall. You control Panama Joe, who can jump, climb and move around a series of mazes based on Central American history. Each temple/tomb has a variety of traps, creatures, treasure and secrets to discover. That’s about it, very basic. You need to avoid enemies, get keys to access certain areas, swords to kill certain creatures and so forth. Where this game shines, however, is in its organization and simplicity. It’s quite easy to get into and becomes very engaging over time. The first temple isn’t a picnic, and it only gets harder after that. Plus, I really liked how each level was more of a puzzle than a straight platformer; you need to navigate around and figure out a plan instead of simply going one way or the other. Great concept. My only problem is, as before, they didn’t do any updating here. When you’re the company that created the game in the first place and know it inside and out, instead of just straight porting it with some graphical updates, why don’t you add something? That’s really the only problem with it, if you’ve played the other versions, there’s nothing new to be seen. Otherwise, you’ll enjoy it.

You can pretty much guess how I’m going to score the creativity for Montezuma’s Revenge, it doesn’t have much. The game itself may be a lot of fun and a great example of an early platforming title that used what was already present to create something new. However, that was about seven years prior to the release of this, and I feel Parker Brothers should have gotten a clue and updated it for Master System fans.

Montezuma’s Revenge, however, does not fail to please in the length and replay category. It’s quite a long game; each level takes about twenty minutes to beat provided you’re good enough. As for replay value, thankfully, in spite of it lacking a password or save feature, you can select the first six levels to try and come back to at any point, but later stages can only be accessed by beating the sixth. A bit annoying, but overall you’ve got a decent amount of time involved in playing the levels because of how you have to play the game, as well as the ability to come back and start wherever you want up to level six. I myself have sat down with it numerous times and have yet to beat the later levels, so I expect to come back to this quite often.

Montezuma’s Revenge is overall an entertaining experience on the Master System. Fans of the original won’t see anything new, but if you haven’t played it before you’re in for a treat, minus a few details I mentioned above. It’s not easy to take an otherwise simple title and put it on a new platform, but Parker Brothers did a good job here, they just needed to take it a few steps further to make it spectacular. Still, although it’s somewhat rare and was only released on the NTSC market, it’s definitely one to own.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 2.5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 3.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 6
Written by Stan Review Guide