Montezuma's Revenge (video game)

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Montezuma's Revenge
C64 cover art of Montezuma's Revenge
Developer(s) Utopia Software
Publisher(s) Parker Brothers
Designer(s) Robert Jaeger
Platform(s) Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, Sega Master System

As Panama Joe:
ZX Spectrum
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Platform game
Mode(s) Single-player

Montezuma's Revenge is a 1984 platform game for Atari 8-bit computers, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Apple II, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, IBM PC, and ZX Spectrum (as Panama Joe). It was designed and programmed by Robert Jaeger and published by Parker Brothers. The game's title references a colloquial expression for diarrhea contracted while visiting Mexico.

The game was ported to the Sega Master System in 1988.


Montezuma's Revenge is an early example of the Metroidvania genre.[1] The player controls a character called Panama Joe (a.k.a. Pedro), moving him from room to room in the labyrinthine underground pyramid of the 16th century Aztec temple of emperor Montezuma II, filled with enemies, obstacles, traps, and dangers. The objective is to score points by gathering jewels and killing enemies along the way. Panama Joe must find keys to open doors, collect and use equipment such as torches, swords, amulets, etc., and avoid or defeat the challenges in his path. Obstacles are laser gates, conveyor belts, disappearing floors and fire pits.[2][3][4]

Movement is achieved by jumping, running, sliding down poles, and climbing chains and ladders. Enemies are skulls, snakes, and spiders. A further complication arises in the bottom-most floors of each pyramid, which must be played in total darkness unless a torch is found.

The pyramid is nine floors deep, not counting the topmost entry room that the player drops into at the start of each level, and has 99 rooms to explore. The goal is to reach the Treasure Chamber, whose entrance is in the center room of the lowest level. After jumping in here, the player has a short time to jump from one chain to another and pick up as many jewels as possible. However, jumping onto a fireman's pole will immediately take the player to the next level; when time runs out, the player is automatically thrown onto the pole.

There are nine difficulty levels in all. Though the basic layout of the pyramid remains the same from one level to the next, small changes in details force the player to rethink strategy. These changes include:

  • Blocking or opening up certain paths (by adding/removing walls or ladders)
  • Adding enemies and obstacles
  • Rearrangement of items
  • More dark rooms and fewer torches (in level 9, the entire pyramid is dark and there are no torches)
  • Enemies that do not disappear after they kill Panama Joe (starting with level 5)

The player can reach only the left half of the pyramid in level 1, and only the right half in level 2. Starting with level 3, the entire pyramid is open for exploration.


Robert Jager had previously written Chomper (a Pac-Man clone) and Pinhead (a Kick Man clone).[5] In 1983, Jaeger's friend Mark Sunshine suggested Jaeger make a game with a Meso-American theme and call it Montezuma's Revenge.[5] Jaeger, who was only 16 at the time, exhibited the still-unfinished game with his father at a consumer electronics convention. Parker Brothers officials expressed interest and quickly convinced Jaeger to sign the rights over to them.[5] On the title screen of the shipping game, Mark Sunshine is credited for the concept.[5]

The original game that Jaeger developed for the Atari 800 used the entire 48K of memory in the computer. However, Parker Brothers wanted to release the game on cartridge as this format would be easier for children to handle than magnetic media, so they trimmed the game down to fit in 16K. The original disk version contains many features omitted from the smaller cartridge versions, including an animated title and character introduction, replacement and bonus life animations, a high-score entry screen, and a bat obstacle. The played character also features a different hat and is named Pedro rather than Panama Joe. This version contains an unfinished boss screen featuring a gigantic King Montezuma who can stomp the player character to death. This screen is unfinished, and therefore the original version of the game cannot be completed.[6][7]

Parker Brothers released console versions for the Colecovision, Atari 2600, and Atari 5200, plus computer versions for the Apple II, Commodore 64, IBM PC, and Atari 8-bit family. The North American video game crash of 1983 caused Parker Brothers's video game sales to plummet, so they released the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit versions on disk instead of the intended cartridges and also put two versions of the game on one floppy.[citation needed] The computer versions of Montezuma's Revenge thus came on "flippy" disks with the Commodore and Atari ports piggybacked and likewise for the Apple and MS-DOS versions. A cassette tape version was developed separately in the UK for the Sinclair Spectrum. The Atari 2600 port is only 8K and has half the levels of the other versions.


In 1988, a port was made for the Sega Master System, which retains the basic gameplay and level structure, but with significantly improved graphics, sound, and other added features.

In 1998 a 3D game was developed by Utopia Technologies called Montezuma's Return!. A 2D version of that game for the Game Boy Color was developed by a third party.


  1. ^ Szczepaniak, John. "Backtracking: The History of Metroidvania". GamesTM (116). Imagine Publishing. pp. 148–53. 
  2. ^ Game Manual, Atari 5200, p.7
  3. ^ Game Manual, Atari 5200, p.8
  4. ^ Game Manual, Atari 5200, p.9
  5. ^ a b c d "DP Interviews... ...Robert Jaeger". Digital Press. 
  6. ^ "Atari systems Easter Eggs: MONTEZUMA'S REVENGE". Digital Press. 
  7. ^ "Atari Protos: Montezuma's Revenge". Atari 

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