Montezuma’s Revenge Bits


Description: One of the first examples of a climbing game morphing into a single-screen platformer.

Conveniences: Enemies that kill the player are removed from the screen, often making a particularly difficult room easier to traverse.

Annoyances: The order in which the coloured keys are meant to be collected is very specific, creating some scenarios where it’s impossible for the player to proceed.

Standouts: An excellent sense of exploration and cohesion despite severe hardware limitations.


  • Montezuma’s Revenge is a rather nasty title, and its “Spanish Flea” main theme and “La Cucaracha” collectible fanfares are a bit crass, but they helped to create a distinct atmosphere and the game actually proved quite popular in Latin America.
  • The title screen features a controllable Panama Joe, two sliding poles, a blinking platform, a conveyor belt, and a climbable chain. This setup allows the player to test out the various interactive objects in complete safety. In addition, the poles serve as a great transition between pyramids with Joe sliding down multiple screens before settling in the “title-screen” section of a new zone.
  • The design of each zone follows the rough shape of a pyramid, with only 1 screen at the top but 12+ at the lowest level.
  • Individual rooms of the pyramid embody a few basic motifs; many are actually simple corridors that connect the more complex areas and create a varied flow to the exploration.
  • Each enemy type has a distinct behaviour, e.g., bouncing around, climbing ladders, etc.
  • The original version of the game has an interesting death sequence. Upon dying, a black screen is shown with a bunch of avatars in the center. The left-most one then proceeds to navigate the screen as if it were a real level, walking and climbing in the darkness until he reaches his destination. The map then fades into view, revealing that Panama Joe is now positioned in the room entrance that the player actually used before reaching his untimely end.
  • The bottom rooms of pyramids are mostly shrouded in darkness unless the player picks up a torch, but it’s still possible to navigate them without one.
  • Although MR isn’t as harsh with collisions as other games of the era, the player has no control over the avatar once he’s airborne. Combined with the fact that Joe can only fall a short distance without dying, this makes some areas that look rudimentary quite tricky to navigate.
  • Aside from numerous ports, different versions of the original Atari game were also released. One even features an unbeatable end-game boss — a giant, stomping Montezuma — that was present in a leaked demo.

  • The final version of the game uses the collectibles to draw an arrow pointing into a pit. When Joe dives in, he enters a strange, psychadelic realm filled with ropes and more collectibles. After descending a few screens, he eventually latches onto one of the poles and slides into a brand new pyramid.


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  1. #1 by Asaluendo on November 21, 2011 - 11:27 am

    Loved this game as a kid!

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