21 May 2015


Publisher/Developer:  Sega/Parker Brothers(Robert Jaeger)
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 128K
Rarity:  6
Game Type: Side Scrolling Action Adventure Game
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play:  Apple II, Atari 2600, 5200, and 8 bit Micros, Colecovision, Commodore 64, PC Booter, Windows 9x (original version as an unlockable in Montezuma's Return), PC Remakes, Game Boy/Color (partial remake), Mac/Windows 7 (Spiritual Remake with level editor:  http://www.actionsoft.com/games/midnightmansionhd/ )
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 button controller NOT COMPATIBLE.

Price I Paid: 15 Dollars maybe?
Price I Would Pay: 15 Dollars.
Condition: Game, Case, Manual
Game Rating: Good*
Game Completion/Desire to: Sorta?/ Kind of? 
My History:  Wanted to play since early 80s ads in comic books plus programmer interview in the only issue of Electronic Games I had the chance to read.  Played it on the Apple IIs at school in the late 80s.  Bought the SMS port in the early 00s some time.

  Made by a high schooler in the early 80's, Montezuma's Revenge is one of those classic flick screen side scrolling platform action adventures that were all over the computer and console systems of that timeframe.  And while not perfect it might be one of the best of the genre!

Colecovision version on BlueMSX emulator.  I have this version on the Colecovision Flashback.  Generally most MZ ports look a lot like this.

  In this game you play PANAMA JACK (as opposed to the poncho wearing Pedro from the original unreleased 48k version on the Atari 8 bit computer family) who explores the 11 pyramid tombs (in this SMS version) in Mexico and surrounding locales searching for loot.

  You know the drill.  You have 5 lives to complete the tomb you are on before going to the next one with a single continue on the first tomb only.   The basic layout stays the same through all of them though new rooms and elements show up in later pyramids.  Like many games of this era your character can only jump a certain height with no mid air control before going splat.  (About a single Joe height.)  Some things like one way sliding poles and ropes will let you go for further distance.  Conveyor belts, burning ropes, disappearing chain walls and platforms all show up to help and hinder you.  Oh, and darkness which requires one of your 5 precious inventory slots to hold a torch that you eventually find as you explore each pyramid layout.  (And later levels add more and more darkness.  Its why my DID COMPLETE bit doesn't say YES.  It just gets too damned tough later on with the darkness.)

  See to get through the tombs you need keys of three colors, one use upon touch of a monster swords, or activate on button press monster harmlessness items.  You also are trying to collect treasures for your score and precious extra lives.  If you have a full inventory you can't pick up anything else including treasures.  So sometimes you will either intentionally have to waste a sword or monster avoider thingie just to get more treasure since that is the whole point!  Otherwise you sometimes have to backtrack just to grab more stuff.  Or risk precious lives to get the score higher.  Risk and Reward.

  While most obstacles just don't go away, losing a life to one of the monsters helpfully removes that monster from the tomb as a tiny mercy.  And here in the SMS port there is a glorious cheat which mostly is useful to an emulator player:  PAUSING THE GAME MAKES THE PLATFORMS AND WALLS THAT PHASE IN AND OUT KEEP DOING SO.  This can help you make it through those really tough spots where your timing needs to be perfect.  And given that the later levels add in bats who show up if you dawdle on a screen and will grab you and take a life away you need every bit of help you can get.  Oh, and if you die on a screen your replacement life pops up by whichever way you entered that screen last.  Which can be good or bad depending on the layout of said screen.

  Control and graphics are pretty good, this SMS port being probably the best version of the game and generally larger and more forgiving compared to the original 83 Crash era releases.  Its just hard as hell unless you do the odd save states or the pause trick.  See you can only start on the first 6 tomb pyramids and even if you map the levels out it will take you quite some time to get through the later levels that can have around ONE HUNDRED screens to navigate to reach the treasure room endpoint.  Though at least the general layouts stay mostly the same.  Mostly.  This is also probably why a mere 128k port of an originally 16k (smooshed from the Pedro 48k original) game has such a massive level of content.

Next twelve screenshots are from Kega Fusion emulator.
 The title screen

 In the original releases this is the title screen.  Here you can select one of the first six levels and where you get a little bit of text telling you about the tomb.  

 The legendary opening room.

 A room showing lots of elements.  Roaming skulls!  Snakes!  Blinking walls and floors!  Fire!  Doors!  Ropes!  Treasure!  Conveyor Belts!  An open blue door!  My collection of keys!  A sword!

 The higher tombs have more and more of the rooms in pitch black darkness if you don't have a torch.  
 Spiders are annoying little SOBs who will randomly climb ladders.  Sometimes you can go in and out of a room and they won't climb the ladder this time.

 This is why you pause cheat.  Your timing has to be perfect.  And stuff like those snakes can make it even harder to deal with.

 I found the torch!  Getting it is a "Miner 2049er" level of challenge.  Almost.  Jumps and platforms are a tad more forgiving in this port than the originals.  This just makes it very hard...

 Vampire bats will give you a fright, eating your Panama Joes both day and night.

 Yep this room seems fair....

 Flaming ropes (that reset if you go out the room and re enter) with skulls and spiders and this game aint got no love for you.

A treasure room!  The tomb is complete!  On to a bigger and harder one!  

Three Power Base Convertor shots through composite cable/monitor.

 There are a number of room layouts repeated throughout the game.  A couple tweaks and its almost a new room.  Almost.  Sorta.

Game contents.  Mine was well loved before I got it.  Or was shoved in a moldy basement.  

Master System Play:  Works fine.  Again, slight graphical bleed but the level of detail on the graphics means the Power Base Convertor versus SMS versions are not too different.  While I haven't tested the 3 button Genesis controllers, the SIX BUTTON DOES NOT WORK ON THIS GAME.  Keep it in mind if you go for this one.  The SMS pad works fine as does the Control Stick and the Epyx though the Stick has a tiny bit of issue climbing ladders but it might just be me.  Again though given the way the pausing works on the original hardware and how damned hard and long a complete playthrough of this game would require playing it on emulation or a flash cart with save state options is probably a better bet.

The next three shots are from an actual Master System through a composite cable through a monitor.

 Grab the diamonds and fall to the treasure room!

A little fluff text before the stage level.

Rating:  Hmm.  With an emulator and that funny trick I mentioned?  GOOD.  It will be a tough challenge but one anyone with half an ability at videogames can eventually triumph over.  Without it is merely OK because your lives are limited and the levels just get too massive and difficult.  Technically you can start at each of the pyramids with five lives but it is just a little TOO brutal in the later ones when those damned bloody bats show up!  So play it in an emulator and use the odd save state and the little pause trick when things get too hairy and it is a heck of a great game.  Without not quite as much but still worth a good look.

Next Time: As June is my birth month and I am lazy, this month is RPGs I Already Completed Month!  Thrill to me talking about games I have already finished so I just need to spend a couple hours taking screenshots and writing about them.  Though if my first customer Ys The Vanished Omens is anything to go by it will still take me the same time as a normal review!

08 May 2015


Publisher/Developer:  Sega
Format: Cartridge
Game Size: 128K
Rarity:  4
Game Type: Top Down Action Adventure Game
Region: USA
Other Ways to Play:  None known.
Power Base Convertor Playable?: Yes, 6 button controller compatible.

Price I Paid: 7 Dollars
Price I Would Pay: 6 Dollars
Condition: Game, Case, Manual
Game Rating: OK
Game Completion/Desire to: No / Not Really 
My History:  Bought for the collection.

  Ah dearie me.  This game has taken a while to review mainly because it is just so.. BLAND.  A game that is completely unexceptional in every way.  It just bores me.  Not bad.  Not good.  Not interesting enough to make me want to keep playing, but not bad so I feel a bit upset I don't want to play more and get further along the game for at least the purposes of this review.

  You see you play this kid adventurer called El Nino and you are after stuff I guess.  Your goal is to make it through a long ass series of semi linear top down levels full of respawning enemies with but a handful of lives and no continues.  Each level has two identical boss critters you must defeat in order to complete the stage.  (If you die on a level you go back to either the start or the point where you killed the first boss.)

  You have a list of items on the top of the screen to help you that one of your two action buttons switches between when you don't semi awkwardly just try to stab things with your weedy sword.  The last of your items is the stage specific one which can be such things as a fireball to burn down certain trees or a set of galoshes to let you cross rivers without taking damage.  The various enemies you fight provide you with up to 8 maximum for each of these items.  Sadly the main special weapons are kind of useless most of the time, and the first one is an odd trick item.  Money.

  See there are a couple of cartoon animal dude rivals to your hero who you can bribe to help you by throwing money at them.  Enough of these bags and they turn to your side for a bit and generally get left behind on terrain but will otherwise use the same attack or item you do for a touch of extra firepower.

  The game's big problem is that there aren't any continues and most of the sprites are entirely too large for the screen!  Some of the traps just seem to be able to hit you from anywhere on the screen and it is very hard to avoid them.  While you can jump off a screen and then back to replenish monsters to grab more of the special items as I mentioned most of the weapons just don't really DO all that much and its sometimes just better to risk taking damage by getting in close with your unlimited use sword.

  The stages could be fun light puzzle solving challenges with some exploration and sequence breaking but for the most part they are merely linear with obvious paths.  The grabbing of NPC teammates through bribes doesn't really work too well because they get stuck on terrain most of the time and at best are merely a minor shield or speed bump to protect your character.

  The game doesn't really look, sound, or play bad its just.. its DULL.  Nothing really good or bad about the game.  Its not super hard but not reasonably easy either. It is just an entirely forgettable and soulless game.

  If it had continues and your sprite was maybe 25% smaller and had a little bit better reach or arc to his main weapon it could probably be good at least to check out.  As it is?  Meh.  Just.  MEH.

Next eight screenshots are from Kega Fusion Emulator
 Our hero and his rivals.  For some reason I half expect to see a mechanical gold condor in there someplace...

 Give dude money and he will help you out for a bit.

 On this stage the fifth item is FIRE which allows you to burn these glowing tree things to continue forward.

 One of the identical to the level bosses.  Just avoid his blasts and either use the fireball item or maneuver close enough to just bash it with your sword and avoid the blasts while doing so.

 The death animation is pretty comical.

 Avoid some damaging terrain and now that both bosses are dead you can go on to the next level!

 On this level the bosses are big ass vampire bats.  Stop the bats stop the bats make them go and not come back!

On this stage the special item are galoshes!  Rubber booties to help you avoid damage fording through the river.  Because timing the raft movement plus enemy/terrain attacks on you make life difficult to say the least!  On the nifty side you can sequence break the water if you can take the damage and have enough boots to keep you alive.

The next three screenshots are from a Model 1 Genesis with Power Base Convertor.  As usual its through a composite cable to a Commodore 1084 monitor I sometimes have to slap when the picture goes out for a moment when it warms up but doesn't settle in.
 Its not really Aztec apparently.  Its supposed to be where the Nazca Lines are.  Which almost makes me want to play it long enough to see if aliens show up.  Almost.

 This level gives you some tornado thingie.  

El Nino has a small sword.  I think he needs to change quests and go hunt down Dragon Balls to get a bigger one.  HURR DE HARR ITS A WIENER JOKE!  But seriously his tiny ass sword just pokes out and doesn't swing in an arc or nothing!

And a single Master System screen because I just can't figure out what else to show/talk about the damned game!
You see when you manage to get two of your rivals on the squad and use a special they use it to which can have some strategy, to like hit more stuff and all.  Except its generally easier just to toggle back and forth to wherever the critter that drops that item is till you fill it up than be ammo thrifty.  Course avoiding damage is also a thing..

Master System Play:  Check the screenshots.  Its a tiny bit of color bleed but the cartoony graphics keep things pretty clean and crisp.  All the controllers work but the SMS Control Stick continues to be terrible with diagonals and is thus not usable.  I am unsure if its my controller or what but it seems to more or less be a Pac Man type control option.  Otherwise the SMS pad, the 6 button Genesis, and the Epyx 500xj all do the job swimmingly.

Rating:  See above.  It is just.  EH.  Nothing particularly good or bad.  Nothing to inspire.  Basically its a harmless bit of forgettable fluff.  Luckily its not sought after and is cheap.  So..  OK. Maybe it is your thing but it isn't really mine.  If our hero had a bit larger sword attack with an arcing motion and continues it could possibly even be GOOD.  But there are juuuuust enough bits of annoyance for the blandness and irritation to win out even if the theme and concept are interesting.

Next Time: Mexico Month continues with Montezuma's Revenge which should be a good one!