Saturday, February 26, 2022


Developer:Paul Stephenson
Time:1 hour

Aztec seems like another generic action game from a no-name publisher and an unfocused developer at first. You have all the usual American platforms, screenshots for it look absolutely dreadful. Oh, it has an Indiana Jones theme to it, but that's not too unusual. This game somehow managed to get released on Japanese home computers. I'm curious if that means its actually good or if some Japanese company bought titles while Datamost was going bankrupt. Judging by their history it could go either way. Nevertheless, after briefly playing the X1 version, I decided on the C64 version.
It took a while before I was able to take a screenshot of the first part of this crawl on C64, curiously the X1 version has less spelling errors

A point I should make is that this isn't exactly like Indiana Jones. Its the more general kind of theme. There are no explicit Nazis and instead the player is going through a tomb looking for a jade idol, while dodging the inhabitants of that tomb, which include dinosaurs. Find important items in chests, and hopefully make it out in one piece.

In other versions there's a background, but this is honestly leagues better looking

The game starts up after the title screen with a wall of text explaining what's going on. In the C64 version it goes by too fast. Then there's new and resume game. The manual doesn't describe how to save so I'm not entirely certain what the purpose of this is. This game isn't complex enough to require it. Then you select difficulty, and the game has you press a key to start it.

The X1 version, note my guy, in the upper right corner, glitched out

After all that, I hope you've read the manual. The unnamed protagonist starts off walking down a set of stairs, as he has just entered the tomb. Because of the control scheme, he will, rather quickly, walk into a wall or some other object. At which point he will fall down. Be prepared to see this a lot, because its going to happen a lot. I can't think off hand of a regular-looking side-scroller where the controls were one of those overly complex wannabe simulation jobs. Walk, run, stand, crawl, turn left, turn right, jump, climb (as in stairs) and we haven't gotten to any fighting or interacting with things yet.

This place one hell of a bodycount
With the past few arcade titles I've been lucky. Sure, they weren't really classics, but at least they controlled well. Here it starts off bad and ends deceptively bad. Walk, run, crawl, jump and climb are all movement modes. Outside of jump, any of these buttons are how you're going to move until you press another button. Which means the player and the player character are working against each other. Climbing is especially bad, because you go up anything and I do mean anything. Stairs, chests, piles of stuff. And since the game is randomly generated you could end up climbing a set of stairs directly into another set of stairs, heading the opposite direction. Meaning that the PC will try to ascend to a stair that doesn't exist and instead fall down.
I don't know how I got here

To compound all this, the game is randomly generated. This is not well generated. You may not be able to explore an entire screen, and paths may only lead one way. This isn't just me whining either, enemies get hung up on these issues. Sometimes they spawn in the walls because of this. It makes the whole thing feel unfinished.

Fighting nothing
So, how about that combat? Well, I didn't get to do much of it thanks to the game not giving you anything at the start. There's a machete and a pistol you have to find inside the maze. Oh, you need to find the bullets separately. There's also dynamite, but that functions more for destroying walls, and I could never use it. I guess I needed to find a lighter somewhere. It doesn't seem that useful for the most part, since its better to just avoid any enemies to begin with rather than actually fighting anybody. Even seemingly unavoidable encounters can be avoided.
Apparently I died so hard I disappeared
The majority of my deaths in this game were due to various death traps. Pits that either crush me or drown me. I could never escape from one, since I couldn't blow up anything. There was a water trap I could "climb" up, but I could never get out of the water. I also had one of the traps fail to activate on me, leaving me trapped in the pit without any way of escaping.

Unfortunately, this combination of awful controls and randomized level design makes the whole game insurmountable to play. I'm never quite sure if the game is broken or if I screwed up, which is not a good thing for a video game to do.

A very simple machete and pistol. 1/10

Interchangable wildlife. The end result is the same, they walk back and forth, and if you enter their space, you get hit. Some follow you from room to room, but this doesn't change things too much. 1/10


Randomly generated garbage. 0/10

Player Agency:
I'm starting to really loathe these games where humans act like vehicles rather than humans. 1/10

Confusing environmental items the player has to open. 1/10


There is a distinct readability issue going on. Its not obvious at first which piles of bones are searchable and everything is flat grayscale colors...until it isn't. Other versions are not much better. 1/10

I found who first entered this tomb. Multiple times. 0/10

There's a song on the title screen, and then its just generic blips and bloops. 2/10

That's 7.

Period reviews were glowing. I can't help but feel like if I played this while it was new I would only care for non-action games today. Even for the time it feels broken and confusing.

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