As if you needed additional proof between recent releases like Luxor 2 and Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst, along comes The Treasures of Montezuma to reinforce the old maxim: Not all casual games are created equal.
One of the most catchy and engaging puzzlers we’ve played in quite some time, the title’s production values are matched only by its ingenuity, addictiveness and general flair for captivating an audience. Our only complaint: Unnecessarily lengthy objectives that, while designed to understandably inflate the outing’s overall play length (it’s only 41 stages long), typically wind up frustrating as an unexpected side-effect.
But hey – let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After all, a little background is in order; doubly so, given how much tender loving care has been invested in the title’s overarching story and general setup. See: A plot which casts you as a young graduate student – first observed with her hair gently blowing in the breeze on the beautifully animated title screen – in Cancun, Mexico circa 1935. And, of course, an epic adventure set atop gorgeous backdrops like misty mountains and dusty museums where beams of light spring from magical stones that quickly sends you in search of legendary, life-preserving Aztec artifact Montezuma’s Calendar.
Frankly, you know you’re in for a treat the second you hit the first level, laid out in the shape of a grid inhabited by shining tokens of varying color, including brilliant blues and fiery reds. All of which, of course, shatter magnificently when three or more of the same hue are placed adjacent to one another, dissolving into dust and debris which quickly scatters. The trick here is to swap one stone at a time by choosing a pair, which trade places with a click, slowly eliminating all those of which contain glistening gems. Do so before a shrinking timer – cleverly disguised as a ticking pocket watch – runs down, and you’re off to the next level.
What makes the experience so special, though, is the presence of eye-popping power-ups (generated by matching four or more stones simultaneously) and between-mission opportunities to buy wondrous upgrades and enhancements.
After all, TNT which destroys whole sections of the playing field and lightning which sizzles around the screen, annihilating all tokens of the same color are cool enough concepts on their own. Versions rendered even more powerful as the result of your direct achievements? Let’s just say there’s nothing quite like watching the swath of destruction that follows an especially slick move that incorporates multiple bonuses and combos you’ve spent precious time and resources augmenting.
Extras which earn you bigger point multipliers, larger score rewards and options to increase the number of gems present on-screen… They’re all yours to buy during downtime with stars earned by beating stages and smashing dozens of stones in rapid sequence. Still, our favorite collectible of all has to be native totems, which – when activated by making two matches using the same color of stones in sequence – ignite effects like fireballs which obliterate entire portions of the screen or award additional seconds to complete any given challenge.
Mind you, we haven’t even touched on further sales points like goal-based trophies you can nab, bonus round mini-games that see you frantically clicking stars and newspaper headlines which spin onto the screen as your journey progresses. Or, for that matter, the limited number of board-shuffling options you can activate or availability of hints that can be requested in exchange for hard-earned points. In short, if there’s one thing this puppy’s not short on, it’s stimuli.
The trouble is that each session can take a long time to complete, with even earlier levels requesting you collect a whopping 35 stones. Aggravation mounts when you consider running out of time requires that you start the board from scratch. But assuming you don’t mind pushing through the occasional sticky spot, plenty of glorious eye candy and temple-scrunching action waits.
Play now, worry about such downsides later – after all, those fancy special effects and snappy play innovations do help dull the pain. Long story short: If you’ve got time to kill then relax, kick back and enjoy yourself. There are fewer better outings to spend it with than this jewel of a brainteaser.