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volume 1, issue 32

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Off the Shelf:
Montezuma's Return

By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

Title: Montezuma's Return
Publisher: Wizard Works
Developer: Utopia Technology

Average Price: $20


all it Unreal for kids if you will, but there’s something very odd about Montezuma’s Return. For starters, you have to admit it has quite a few engine features. Take a look at some of these:

  • Colored lighting.
  • Hardware accelerated bump-mapping.
  • Phong - shaded, perspective texture mapped polygons.
  • Textures of any resolution.
  • Skeletal animation system.
  • Multiple instancing of objects and hierarchies

Whether you actually understand half that stuff or not…you’ll note that it’s a bit more than you’d expect from a straight-to-the-bargain-bin title. Hell, compare this to the engine "features" of Deer Hunter, and it really looks impressive. Let’s be totally honest here…it’s no Unreal or Quake engine, but it is pretty formidable.

The game itself is the real kicker here…because it’s very unique. While the game is played from a first person perspective, the game focuses on platform style puzzles…lots of jumping and punching. Not really the sort of thing you’d expect from a first person game…if anything, Montezuma’s Return can best be described as Tomb Raider in first person. It’s a strange concept, and when it works, it works pretty well. When it doesn’t…well…there’s the problem.

The game was obviously designed for non-Quake players…the mouselook feature is truly horrendous, and I found it more distracting than useful. You’re better off just using set "look up" and "look down" keys…a full mouselook is bound to make you dizzy. I was disappointed in this, because the game really would benefit from a good mouselook. Since you’re looking up all the time to see where you have to jump to…well, it’s kinda necessary, don’t you think? Oh well. I managed to adjust, nonetheless.

As far as weapons go, well, there aren’t any. You have two fighting controls, one for punching, and the other for kicking. You have no weapons at all. This would totally suck something fierce in any normal first person game, but Montezuma’s Return doesn’t suffer from it in the slightest. If anything, it actually helps make the game feel unique. Since you only have two real attacks, in order to defeat later enemies, you’ll need to figure out the right combination of punches and kicks to beat them. It’s strange, and I found myself wondering if the game had turned into Street Fighter all of a sudden, but it is an interesting addition.

So why do I call it Unreal for kids? Well, here’s the thing. You don’t actually kill anyone. There’s no blood, and when you hit an enemy, little stars circle their head (think cartoon effect here). It’s all very innocent and cute…and probably the last thing I expected to see in a game. Also, the game has a very strange sense of humor…the enemies are all very cutesy, and it’s all done in a lighthearted and innocent way. Since the main focus of the game is on platform style puzzles, the enemies aren’t the main focus, but they do set the tone for much of the game.

The game runs into some major problems when it comes to supported hardware, however. While the engine does feature all the things listed above, you’ll need a 3DFX card to use any of them. There is only GLIDE support in Montezuma’s Return, and while the support is excellent, it’s very disappointing for anyone out there with a TNT card. There’s a software version for those non-3DFX users out there…but I wouldn’t want to play the game with it. The difference is really night and day…there’s no colored lighting, the world is horribly pixilated even at high-resolutions and jeez…just…eeeeew. Don’t bother if you don’t have a 3DFX card. Fortunately, if you do, you’ll find the game very pretty, no doubt about it. SLI users will be disappointed in the fact that it won’t let you go up to 1024x768 for some reason, though.

Ultimately, the first person perspective is more of a crutch than anything else…I like that the game is trying to do something different with a first person POV, but well…the game only proved to me that Tomb Raider is best done in third person (and not just because I like looking at Lara’s behind). The game’s puzzles aren’t too challenging, and the perspective makes them harder than perhaps they need to be. Oh, and the game’s cut scenes are horrendous.

With all these faults, you’d think I’d tell you to avoid Montezuma’s Return like the plague…but in fact, I’ll say the exact opposite. While the game has some glaring flaws, it’s definitely one of a kind. And for less than $20…well, it’s not a bad bargain. Especially if you’ve got a young one who’s not quite ready to frag with the big boys yet.


- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames.


Credits: Bargain Bin logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Bargain Bin is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and like, in poor taste, dude.