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Video Game / Montezuma's Revenge

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The first screen, from the Sega Master System port.
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Montezuma's Revenge (Featuring Panama Joe) is a 1984 2D Platform Game designed by Robert Jaeger and released by Parker Brothers for various game systems and home computers. In the game, you play Panama Joe, who must explore the tomb of Montezuma and find its fabled treasure room while avoiding spiders, skulls, snakes, laser gates, and deadly fire pits.

It is followed by the 1998 platform game Montezuma's Return.


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This game provides examples of

  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Panama Joe.
  • Antepiece: The first screen is a low risk environment meant to instruct you on the games basic mechanics and jump physics. You can't leave the room without grabbing the key, and in your path is a rolling skull that you can't attack and will kill you instantly on contact, and it requires a very precise running jump to avoid it, since you can't jump on the treadmill above it, and jumping while standing still won't let you avoid it, since it moves too slowly. You can't simply drop down ahead of the skull from the upper floor, since any fall from more than a couple feet will kill you. The game does give you the option of using the ladder in the center of the room to let you bypass the skull by just climbing down, but since you can't jump back up to it, you're going to have to jump over the skull anyway. The little stairs near the key also give a subtle indication of how your jump and movement mechanics work, even in little situations like these that will pop up later on.
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  • Blackout Basement: In the first level, the bottom floor of the pyramid is pitch black unless you find a torch. Later levels add more darkened floors until you reach level 9, when the entire pyramid is blacked out.
  • Captain Ersatz: Panama Joe is one of Indiana Jones.
  • Collision Damage: Panama Joe is toast if he touches ANY hazard. Ditto if an enemy touches Panama Joe, unless it is Level 5 or higher, where the enemies can ONLY be beaten by the sword. (Except for the snake, which, after Level 5, is invincible.)
  • Endless Game: You play until you run out of lives.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Try to get as many points as you can, as every 10,000 points (up to 100,000 or so) will give an extra life.
  • Fake Difficulty: A lot of the games challenge comes from the very stiff jumping controls and relentless physics and levels designed specifically to work against this handicap.
  • Falling Damage: Panama Joe has roughly the same jumping stamina as Mario did in the original Donkey Kong. Be careful not to fall too far, or else you lose a life.
  • Flip-Screen Scrolling: Does so when you go from room to room.
  • Hard Mode Perks: Choosing Level 2 or 3 will make the game a lot less linear — and subsequently, much easier as you can ignore one of the very hard segments in Level 1 that requires a lot of timing and dexterity to get through. On the other hand, you can't continue if you lose all your lives.
  • Jump Physics: Panama Joe has a very stiff jump that he has no mid-air control over. Strategy has to be used carefully with it, because even a relatively short fall will instantly kill him.
  • Metroidvania: Often considered an early example. The progression is fairly non-linear for an early game. The pyramid has the same basic layout in every level, but doors/ladders/items/enemies are added, removed, or changed to present new challenges.
  • Nintendo Hard: The jump physics are very stiff and you can die in one hit from either touching an enemy or from falling more than a couple feet off a platform. The higher difficulty levels rob you of continues, add more enemies and make them faster, and throw in a vampire bat that will drag you away if you take your sweet time on any one screen.
  • One-Hit Point Wonder: Panama Joe, unless he's carrying an amulet or sword. The amulet only protects him against enemies for a few seconds, and the sword is no good against snakes. Neither item will protect against long falls, fire, or laser gates.
  • Platform Game
  • Player Nudge: To give the player a hint that the game is exploration based, the opening screen gives the player a choice of two paths; taking the right path will lead the player to a dead end, but will also nab the player a key they need to open one of four specific doors later on. Taking the left path lets them access more of the game, but cuts them off at said chain of gates unless they do some backtracking.
  • Scoring Points: For collecting items/treasures, opening doors, and killing enemies.
  • Single-Use Shield: The sword acts like this against the skull and spider. If you have it, merely touching those enemies will kill them, but you lose the weapon.
  • Stalked by the Bell: Spend too much time on a screen, and a bat will swoop down and grab you.
  • Standard Snippet: When you enter the pyramid in the Sega Master System port, a snippet of "Mexican Hat Dance" plays. Whenever you grab an item, the first five notes of "La Cucaracha" will play.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: The final room of the pyramid is the treasure room, where you have a free for all to grab as many riches as you can before you head for the exit—provided you don't take too long, since there are spiked walls closing in on you.
  • When All Else Fails, Go Right: Subverted. The opening screen gives you the choice of two separate paths to take, and while its necessary to go right to get a key to unlock one of four doors midway through, the route is otherwise a dead end—thus, going left lets you access the rest of the pyramid.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Like Indy, Panama Joe has a weakness against snakes — he cannot kill them with the sword, unlike the skull or spider.

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