"You'll likely spend most of your time in said Adventure mode, both because you're initially compelled to do so and because the developers were wise enough to include rewards for working your way through its individual stages. Each success in that mode results in some in-game currency that you can use to purchase upgrades as you progress through the subsequent stages, ensuring that you have reason to keep playing at least for the first 10 hours or so. Once purchased, the upgrades activate if you manage to clear certain icons from the board, or if you eliminate pieces from the same color twice in a row."
It's difficult to produce a particularly enthusiastic review of The Treasures of Montezuma 2 because there's not really a lot to say other than that it's a competent Bejeweled clone. If that description made you think "Hmm, maybe I should buy it," then you probably should do precisely that. If it made you think "Well, I've played that game enough already," you're probably right. This review then--and for the most part, this game--is aimed more at people who either have never played Bejeweled or who have played it but are looking for an excuse to play it some more.
Treasures of Montezuma 2 begins by prompting the player to create a profile. This is a simple process: you pick a male or female avatar from a total list of two characters. You give him or her a name (but not a very long one; even a common name like Brunhilda leaves only a space or two unused). Then you can begin playing. When you do, your avatar will stare at you and sometimes he or she will blink his or her eyes. It's riveting.
Gameplay is divided into three general modes. Two of those modes--Endless and Puzzle--are grayed out when you arrive at the title screen. You gain access to them by clearing groups of eight stages (and one bonus area apiece) in the Adventure mode.
You'll likely spend most of your time in said Adventure mode, both because you're initially compelled to do so and because the developers were wise enough to include rewards for working your way through its individual stages. Each success in that mode results in some in-game currency that you can use to purchase upgrades as you progress through the subsequent stages, ensuring that you have reason to keep playing at least for the first 10 hours or so. Once purchased, the upgrades activate if you manage to clear certain icons from the board, or if you eliminate pieces from the same color twice in a row. As you continue playing, you'll eventually find yourself receiving bonus points or triggering special actions with almost every move you make.
As in Bejeweled, play is simple once you strip away the power-ups, flashes of light and the triumphant flourishes that your computer speakers will occasionally emit if you haven't muted them (muting them is recommended if you plan to play for long, unless you want to give yourself or nearby family members a headache). Gameplay amounts to nothing more than color matching: you're presented with a grid of colored tiles and you need to place three of them in a horizontal or vertical row. Your only method for doing so is to slide any movable piece one space up, down, left or right. If your move causes three or more of the same color to connect, they'll flash and disappear. Then more pieces will shuffle down from the top of the screen, perhaps forming a chain combo (if you're lucky) or perhaps leaving you with no moves at all (in which case the board will repopulate with a new assortment of pieces and you can keep going).
Stages in The Treasures of Montezuma 2 conclude when you gather a set number of gems. The precise number required is indicated along the screen's left side. You can collect gems by forming color sets that include pieces with special markings on them, or by activating special effects that clear some or all of them from the board on your behalf. If you keep making matches but don't ever clear the panels that hold the gems, you could find yourself playing a single stage for a half-hour or an hour, racking up points but never really getting anywhere. Sometimes you can wind up doing that anyway, even when you're trying to prevent such an outcome, because the number of gems that you are required to collect in later stages is absurd. Random bad luck also comes into play. Sometimes the board must repopulate itself several times within a single given stage as you repeatedly run out of possible moves. You can cheat and ask the game to show you a legal play every few seconds, but that can quickly grow tiresome. It's also possible to shuffle the pieces a few times a stage, a measure that provides only a temporary respite.
When you clear eight of the standard stages, you'll have a shot at a bonus stage. These areas play out like a rudimentary hidden object game and seem to exist for the sole purpose of adding some welcome variety to the proceedings. In a bonus stage, you'll see several outlines at the bottom of the screen and you must piece them together by picking up fragments from a jungle-themed background image. You'll be scored based on how quickly you find each piece and how accurately you do so. As with the rest of the game, there doesn't seem to be any additional reward for an especially great performance and there's no penalty for general failure.
Once you tire of the main mode, which may not happen for awhile unless you're playing in marathon stretches, you will probably have completed enough stages that Endless mode is an option. However, this mode turns out to be nothing more than the Adventure mode without the distraction of maps and bonuses between stages. You can keep playing through one stage after another as the number of gems that you must gather rises. Now no one will stop you from playing until you're sick of the game.
Puzzle mode feels like a more worthwhile addition because it changes how you need to approach the whole experience. Veterans of casual games can perhaps already guess the setup: you're presented with a field of pieces and you must collect all available gems. No additional pieces will fall from the heavens, so this mode has the distinction of being the only one where you run the risk of actually failing a stage. Some of the puzzles can be devious in that even when you win, you could find yourself at a loss as the game informs you that you took 8 moves but the puzzle can actually be cleared in 5. Armed with that knowledge, you can try again... or you can choose a different puzzle.
The Treasures of Montezuma 2 isn't a total disaster or even a bad game. It's actually quite enjoyable, particularly in shorter sessions, and it should easily satisfy those who haven't already tired of the gameplay while wasting hours with Bejeweled or one of its clones. There are 120 levels available in Adventure mode, plus another 40 in the Puzzle mode, which should be more than enough to keep you busy for a long while if you like what you find. Titles such as Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords add value that you won't find here in the form of engaging story campaigns and the like, but some of the distractions that those other games provide aren't everyone's cup of tea. In other words, you could do a lot worse than to seek out Montezuma's treasures. Whether you could also do better or not is of course a matter of personal preference.
Staff review by Jason Venter (January 21, 2010)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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