Montezuma's Revenge

Remembering Montezuma’s Revenge

Montezuma’s Revenge was one of the early transitional games that became what we now call platform. It combined running left and right, jumping, climbing, and some problem solving. I played Montezuma’s Revenge as a kid on my Commodore 64. I love this game. It was my Super Mario Bros.

Robert Jaeger created Montezuma’s Revenge with concept by Mark Sunshine around 1983.  Players controlled “Pedro” on an adventure on the search for Montezuma’s treasure.  The game had nice simple and tight controls much like another of my favorite games, Mega Man.

You start at the top of a loosely shaped pyramid and works their way down to the king. Then you need to collect keys in order to open the corresponding colored door. The keys had to be collected in a specific order. This lead to young me getting upset that I did not grab that 3rd blue key and now I could not go farther or back so I had to reset the game. Enemies had patterns like rolling, climbing and hopping, and could be killed by picking up daggers along the way.

The theme song to the game sounded awfully close to The Dating Game TV show “Bachelor’s Theme” Spanish Flea. When the player picked up items like gems, keys or torches, the song La Cucaracha played.

Montezuma’s Revenge has been ported to a large number of systems not just the C64 but the Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, Coleco Vision, The Saga Master System, and even the Gameboy Advance.

Why won't you die

This game had two versions; a prototype 48k version that was made for CES and the official 16k game version released by Parker Brothers. I somehow had the pirated version although I’m not sure how I got it. Some changes in game are the name change of the main character from Pedro to Panama Jack and the fact that the king is not in the 16k version. In the 48k version he was in the game but the programmers never finished developing the game so he can’t be killed. This little bit of trivia would have helped eight year old me tremendously. I tried everything I could think of to kill him. I once played this game for so long the power supply to my computer became overheated and I had to quickly turn everything off and unplug the unit.

I became a gamer because of games like Montezuma’s Revenge. They challenged me to learn patterns, planning and mapping. It was hard, but I could still learn the game and make progress. I marked progress with new screens or every thousand points, was excited with every extra man I earned and did this game make you earn them.

Gameplay footage of Montezuma’s Revenge (C64)

Montezuma’s Revenge (the Game)


Yet another reason early video game history is awesome. They named a game after a euphemism for Traveler’s diarrhea and have the nerves to ignore that fact in their advertising. I played this game, so I know what it looks like, but the name still conjures up images of an Indiana Jones type character trying to get away from an ever growing ball of loose stool. Which is completely the opposite feeling you should get from this innovative title.

You play Panama Joe and you travel from room to room, solving puzzles and finding treasure. Each level gets more difficult as you move along – a huge game design improvement for the early 80s. Once you play it you will see why it inspired such future 3D adventure games like Tomb Raider.

That’s right this
Montezumas Revenge

Inspired this:
Lara Croft

They sum it up best in the manual:

If PANAMA JOE safely navigates through all of the chambers in the fortress he’ll eventually reach his ultimate goal: the Treasure Chamber. Herein lies the fabulous treasure of the emperor, Montezuma! To enter this final chamber, daredevil PANAMA JOE must leap into the darkness! Once Inside, he’ll find several chains-and the infamous jewels-all awaiting his grasp. In just a matter of seconds. PANAMA JOE must jump from chain to chain while trying to collect as many jewels as possible. But beware! If PANAMA JOE misses a chain and jumps onto a pole, he immediately slides into the next Difficulty Level and misses his chance to collect more jewels. When time’s up, you will automatically advance to the next Difficulty Level.

I played this on the Commodore 64 and spent many a sleepless nights trying to get to the Treasure Chamber, but I never got there. I would always get cocky and make a misjump. I have the same problem on Donkey Kong, Jr – a game I want to be great at, but always FAIL. But I digress. If you want to play Montezuma’s Revenge Online check out Online Commodore 64 Games!