Treasures of Montezuma is in the running for Best Puzzle Game of 2007 at the upcoming Zeeby Awards. We chatted with Kirill Plotnikov, producer at Alawar, about what makes Treasures of Montezuma special and why it deserves to get your vote.

Please give us some insight or a few fun facts about the development of Treasures of Montezuma.

We had a game in our catalog titled Sky Bubbles. It was popular but not a hit. Since match-three titles were the most popular offerings in those days, we decided to update the graphics and add some new features. As we started working on what would become Treasures of Montezuma, new ideas literally overcame us, so we decided to start from scratch and make an all-new game.

The team that worked on the project was highly talented. For example, the artist who worked on the project was previously the art director at a major developer of hardcore computer games. He left the company to work on Montezuma — his first in the casual gaming space. When you consider that two people developed Treasures in less than six months, its development cycle was quite short. I believe the game is a success because we truly loved making it.

What makes Treasures of Montezuma special and why should people vote for it?

Treasures doesn’t feel like a typical match-three offering because the gameplay is smooth and fast. Also, the ability to activate specific power totems by making successive matches of the same color makes for very compelling gameplay. Fans of the game also enjoy earning stars and using them to boost the power of their totems the way they choose. And once your totems are fully powered, the special effects that accompany their use are a lot of fun to watch. We put a lot work into making Treasures a great looking game.

Finally, it’s easy to become addicted to triggering the Score Frenzy mode! All in all, we think Treasures is one of those games that managed to capture lighting in a bottle on every level.

Besides your own games, what other games impressed you in 2007?

The quality and quantity of the casual games other companies released in 2007 was impressive. There are so many games out now and their quality is rising quickly. About two years ago, only one or two games a month impressed me. Today, just about every new release amazes me, although I feel compelled to single out Agatha Christie: Peril at End House and the new Mystery Case Files games as especially good.

If you win a Zeeby, how do you plan to celebrate (aside from going to Disney World, of course)?

Disney world looks like fun, but truth be told, we’d probably celebrate by telling everyone we could about our win, as the recognition of casual game players would mean more to us than any other award. We’d likely gorge ourselves on some of Seattle’s fine cuisine, too. If we don’t win, we’ll probably still eat out. We’ll need comfort food!

Any final words for your fans?

We’re thrilled beyond words that casual game players all over the world are enjoying Treasures. We just released the sequel, The Curse of Montezuma, and we hope they’ll enjoy it as much as the first game.

Click here to vote for you favorite casual games of 2007.