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)

Retro Gaming and Craft Beer…Perfect Together

Whenever I want to figure out if something is trendy or not, I look no further than Brooklyn. That NYC borough is a constant barometer of what is cool and decidedly uncool. Using this logic, it’s easy to see that both craft beer and retro video games are trending – and in a big way.

Barcade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn fuses craft beer and retro arcade games into a one-of-a-kind throwback experience. They’ve got all the favorites – Centipede, Pac Man, Galaga and even Paperboy. Craft beer has been on the upswing for a couple of decades now – the only segment of the beer industry that is continually growing year after year. But how do you explain the unlikely pairing with retro arcade games?

People are taking a step back and getting back to basics, so amidst the hype of stellar graphics and 3D, people are reverting to games like Zelda and Asteroids and dusting off their old Atari or Super Nintendo and it seems drinking beers made locally and in smaller batches. Which hopefully helps to keep the quarters rolling. It is not just the traditional gamers who are seeking out these experiences anymore.

I can tell you that retro enthusiasts aren’t the only ones sporting classic Atari tees anymore or having a beer while playing their favorite childhood game. In fact, retro t-shirts have hit the main stream. If you want to add to your retro gear, Crazy Dog T Shirts has a variety of video game and retro t-shirts. They’ve even got a deal running until the end of this month for $5 off any regularly priced item. Just use the code ICEPOP.

Retro vs Remake: Legion of Galaga

"Let's blow these things and go home!"

Today’s Retro vs Remake games: Galaga vs Galaga Legions/DX

While technically not the first fixed space shooter, Galaga was probably one of the most successful ones. The sequel to space shooter Galaxian, Galaga shares many things in common with its predecessor but also features some neat new innovations.

Gameplay is pretty simple: you move along the bottom of the screen, firing your ship’s gun at the alien formations that move around at the top of the screen. No, this is not Space Invaders, the aliens will actually try to actively attack you by dive-bombing your ship and firing shots of their own. There are even “boss” enemies at the top that swoop down to try and capture your ship. (If you let them, then you have a chance to recapture it and get a dual-ship;) There are also challenge levels every four levels where enemies fly across the screen in predefined formations and you get bonus points for each enemy you hit and an even larger bonus if you destroy every enemy in each “wave” and/or stage.

After its initial success in the arcades, Galaga spawned a couple sequels and in more recent years, several remakes.

The most recent and notable remake is Galaga Legions. This XBLA/3DS game takes the core concept of Galaga (shooting aliens) and completely turns it on its head.

The first noticeable change in Legions is your ship. Not only can you move your ship anywhere on the screen, but in addition to your standard fighter, you now have two small, indestructible satellite ships attached to each side that fire smaller shots along with your main guns (which now fire a continuous barrage rather than individual shots). These satellite ships can also be positioned independently around the screen and will fire a continuously in the direction they’re facing. This adds a unique layer of strategy to the game that is otherwise lacking.

Enemy formations have also gotten a complete overhaul. It is very rare that you will see the standard five row pyramid from the original. Instead, massive swarms of enemies swoop in from all over the screen. To balance the seemingly impossible odds, nearly every enemy swarm has a “core hive” somewhere in the formation. If you destroy the core, every enemy attached to it is automatically destroyed. Another helpful feature are the “trace lines” that briefly appear before each wave showing you the path of each enemy formation.

Another new gameplay feature is the “black hole” object. This object occasionally appears and begins to suck everything on the screen into it. If you manage to destroy the hole, any enemies that were caught in its vortex will become your allies and swarm all around you, destroying any enemy in their path (destroying themselves in the process). This feature seems to replace the “boss galaga capture/dual ship” trick from the original game.

The visuals in Legions are stunning, especially when you have masses of enemies on the screen, your ship is firing at full power and you have turned enemies swarming all around you. While impressive, it can also be distracting and difficult to tell what is going on around you when the screen is full or laser blasts and explosions.

Legions is an excellent game with a definite old-school feel, but the massive shoot-fest also seems to take away any strategy found in the original and turns it into a game of pure reflexes and pattern memorization. Then again, that’s how many arcade games played as well. All in all, I’d have to say I liked the original Galaga best; its elegant simplicity beats the sensory overload of Legions.

What’s your pick? Galaga or Galaga Legions? Vote for your favorite in the comments.

The Uzebox Project

Are you a retro gaming enthusiast who is looking to take your hobby to the next level? Why not check out the Open Source software and hardware project over at Uzebox. According to their site, Usebox is a retro-minimalist 8-bit open source game console. It is based on an AVR 8-bit general purpose microcontroller made by Atmel. The particularity of the system is that it uses an interrupt driven kernel and has no frame buffer. Functions such as video sync generation, tile rendering and music mixing is done realtime by a background task so games can easily be developed in C. The design goal was to be as simple as possible yet have good enough sound and graphics while leaving enough resources to implement interesting games. Emphasis was put on making it easy and fun to assemble and program for any hobbyists. The final design contains only two chips: an ATmega644 and an AD725 RGB-to-NTSC converter.

uzebox board details