Aztec Tomb
for C64

Company: Endurion
Year: 2023
Genre: Puzzle
Theme: Myths and Mythology
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 891
Review by LostInSpace (2023-11-25)

The good old hardware from the golden age of home computing is collected, repaired, pimped with various gadgets and kept like a piece of jewellery. Unfortunately, with all the efforts at preservation, there is often not enough time to actually use the old machines as they were used back then. Of course, we are no longer children with the persistent urge to play, and to make matters worse: the schedule is far too busy!

The Retro Platform Jam only accepts games that can actually run on real hardware. With the large number of entries, everyone should be able to discover a pearl for their preferred system. In this case, I present a mini-game for the C64 that took 6th place at the 6th edition of the Retro Jam.

Aztec Tomb is strongly inspired by the DOS game Paganitzu and offers amusing entertainment of about 15 minutes with only 8 levels. It does not challenge reflexes, but rather the desire for exploring things and it addresses the fun to solve little puzzles.

In each of the full-screen levels, you move boulders in Sokoban style, avoiding nasty traps that impale the player, use these boulders to make your way through the water, open doors with switching floor panels, collect as many valuable diamonds as possible along the way and finish the level by passing the exit.

In direct comparison with Paganitzu, all the opponents that were a challenge in the old DOS predecessor are missing. Whether these will be added in a future version – there is often time pressure for the competition – remains uncertain.

In Paganitzu, the player impersonated an Indiana Jones character while exploring an Aztec temple. This idea is reflected in the title of the game: Aztec Tomb. And the hat-bearing guy holding a whip in his hand also seems to be very similar to his famous counterpart. Graphically speaking, however, this kind of Indiana Jones left rather a parodying impression to me.

There are no bonus levels and no secrets. Aztec Tomb is straightforward through and through, designed only for short casual gameplay in between. Consequently, there is no lush SID music: acoustics are limited to the sound of the shifted boulders and an encouraging sound at the end of a level. The graphics are functional, but not overflowing with effects.

The easily reached final screen shows the number of diamonds collected and might even encourage some people to really collect every diamond in every level. The last level is also not without a certain humour: the traps, whose existence can only be verified by actual contact, driving them out of the wall, must be blocked by a boulder in order to pass them unharmed. You think you are close to the goal when you have blocked the supposedly last symmetrically laid trap, only to run with a triumphant step into another trap lying directly behind it.

The final hurdle has been cleared!

Since there is not much at stake – no loss of life, you have an infinite number of attempts – this seems like a nice gag by the programmer who wants to test the patience of the oh-so-troubled player again shortly before the end.

Such mini-games are, of course, not forever. After all, they are several decades behind the golden era and the wheel doesn't have to be reinvented. But they pick up exactly the kind of fun we had back then and offer easy access in a fresh new way. We should be grateful to the geeks and nerds who share their enthusiasm for the old home computers with today's audience, not to forget these little gems are complete for free.

Comments (1) [Post comment]

Retro computers are particularly well suited to lightweight puzzle games such as Aztec Tomb on the C64, which do not drown the player at graphical fireworks and super-realistic ray tracing effects. Here you can still sit and relax with a cup of coffee in front of the computer and solve some puzzles, instead of being directly absorbed into it by the maelstrom of a psychologically sophisticated story and the accompanying moments of shock.