Montezuma’s Revenge Featuring Panama Joe is a platforming game created in 1984 and released on numerous systems around that time. It showed up on nearly every console and PC platform of the time, including (but not limited to) Atari computers and consoles, C64, ColecoVision and ZX Spectrum. The game was developed by Robert Jaeger and published by Parker Brothers. It was later ported to the Sega Master System in 1988 and is the version that this review (and Let’s Play video) are focusing on.
In this game, you play as the fearless explorer Panama Joe, who is tasked with trying to find Montezuma’s treasure from a 16th century Aztec pyramid. This is no easy task as the pyramid is filled with enemies, traps and plenty of edges to fall off of. Joe must use his skills in combination with a few helper items, such as swords, amulets and torches (to light dark rooms) to navigate the 99 rooms that will eventually lead you to a treasure chamber. Joe can carry up to 5 items, which are displayed in the top left of the screen. Once all 5 slots are full, Joe can not pickup anymore special items until there is space available.
Graphically, Montezuma’s Revenge for the Sega Master System is decent. When compared to the original 1984 versions, this port looks pretty stunning. A wider range of colors, sprite detail and overall resolution makes the 1988 version stand out. That said, when compared to other Sega Master System games of the time, it seems pretty simple and lackluster. The graphics are functional and you can nearly always tell what is going on, but the sprites are pretty basic and there isn’t much happening in the levels.
The controls in this version are relatively good, though movement left and right can feel a bit stiff at times. Additionally, jumping can be difficult to master since you can only jump vertically (while not pressing a direction) or a set distance when pressing left or right. You can’t opt for a shorter leap horizontally by letting go of the direction, so there can be a few times where you over-shoot your intended landing. There isn’t much else to control other than going up and down ladders and ropes. When you want to use the amulet, you press the 2 button on the gamepad.
The sound and music is pretty basic. It is very reminiscent of what you may hear on an older console, such as an Atari or an Intellivision. For me, I sort of appreciated that – it brings up a bit of nostalgia of playing adventure games like Pitfall or Dragonfire. The sound effects are basic beeps and boops that were common place on older systems, and the periodic music bursts are much the same quality. If you aren’t into the nostalgia factor here, like I am, you will likely be a bit disappointed by the music and sound effects.
The place where this game does do well is the overall gameplay. It is definitely basic, but that isn’t always a bad thing. Montezuma’s Revenge is just plain old fun platforming. The game is big enough to require some serious time exploring and you can’t help but feel sort of like Indiana Jones in the process. The game has some minor frustrating points, such as fall damage (see my video), but once you get that out of the way, you know how you must traverse the spaces.
Overall, I recommend checking out Montezuma’s Revenge if you are a fan of platforming/exploration/adventure games AND you can get past some of the shortcomings in the graphics and audio department. But, I suspect if you are reading this and considering playing a Sega Master System game at all, you likely won’t mind those issues. The game is fun and has a fair bit of depth to keep you playing for some time.