Alawar’s Curse of Montezuma offers a fresh spin on the 3-in-a-row
gem-swapping formula by introducing rewards, mini-games, a fun story
and memorable characters.

While many will be watching archeologist Indiana Jones on the big screen this week, you can play as (the unrelated) Cathie Jones, also a world famous archeologist and granddaughter of Emily Jones from the game Treasures of Montezuma. The attractive adventurer continues where grandma left off by embarking on a journey to south in order to find the legendary fountain of youth and stop the spread of a deadly virus. Along the way she’ll encounter colorful characters and bizarre situations that challenge her beliefs and resolve.

It’s a shame to click through the many hundreds of lines of humorous dialogue and journal entries, but if you’re keen on learning about the gameplay itself, here’s the skinny: Similar to games like Bejeweled, you’re tasked to matching at least three identical gems in row, which causes them to disappear and makes room for other colored jewels to appear on the grid.

But unlike the square-shaped Bejeweled, where you must swap adjacent items vertically or horizontally, Curse Of Montezuma also offers unique shapes that builds upon the curvy webs found in Sugar Games’ Rainbow Web II. But you won’t advance to the next stage unless you destroy all the gems with special centers (made up of different-colored gems) and before the timer expires.

Gold coins earned by completing levels can be used to purchase totems and spell power-ups – such as one that swaps two gems of your choice and another that blows up unwanted gems. Because different power-ups come with different costs it gives you extra incentive to keep playing; these in-game spells can only be used after enough mana has been collected, though, by swapping gems and chaining combos (13 is a personal best). “There’s a store in the jungle?!” Cathie asks a native, José, almost poking fun at this silly notion.

Six different mini-games appear at the end of each main story “episode,” including a sliding tile-like puzzle to build a map and a “Dam Lock” exercise (that resembles the classic “Car Jam” game), where you must drag stones in a certain order so that you can clear a path for a gold-colored stone to leave the level.

Play well and you’ll earn many awards that go on display from the main menu including activating a 10 chain combo and finishing a level fast, and so on. In total, the game features 60 increasingly tough levels spread out over six locations (gems start getting smaller and with more difficult layouts to solve). The game’s graphics are detailed and colorful, as are the comic-like story sequences, and the moody music soundtrack and sound effects are excellent, too.

Only two shortcomings can be found with Curse Of Montezuma: One is that there is only one game mode. A match-3 game like this begs for a secondary non-story mode with new levels to solve. Also, the game gives players hints if you take too long to swap gems by showing you which ones to swap next – but you can’t turn this “feature” off if you want to figure it out for yourself.

Otherwise, fans of this genre will find Curse Of Montezuma an engrossing adventure that is quite easy to pick up but very difficult to put down.