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Lost in Cyberspace

After Dark Games addictive, Montezuma incomplete

This article was originally published on December 1, 1998 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

The most addictive games often turn out to be the simplest as well. Anyone remember Pac-Man? Tetris was another. And plenty of man hours have been wasted in countless offices on "just one more" hand of computer solitaire behind the boss' back.

After Dark Games
After Dark Games
Berkeley Systems (Sierra): 1998

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Montezumas Return
Montezuma's Return
Wizard Works: 1998

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The new "After Dark Games" brings you 11 of these simple little games, and just about everyone is likely to find themselves hooked on at least a couple.

At this household, Roof Rats is the one that spends most of the time on-screen. You have to get various characters off the roof by clicking on adjacent rooms of the same color to eliminate them and lower the roof. Harder than it sounds, and tough to walk away from after another close defeat.

There are also word games (Bad Dog 911, Fish Sticks), trivia, arcade (Hula Girl, Toaster Run, Mowin' Maniac) and cards (a friendly version of Canfield).

The games are all solid, well-designed little gems. Each has its own distinctive theme song, and several feature characters from classic After Dark screen savers (Hula Girl, Mowin' Maniac, Flying Toasters, Bad Dog).

After Dark Games also serves as a screen saver – you might want to turn down the sound when leaving your computer, though; the screen saver is just as loud as the games.

Montezuma's Return is riding two coattails at once – the popularity of redoing classic arcade games (Centipede, Donkey Kong, Frogger) and the boom of first-person shooters (Quake, Unreal).

Using (it appears) the Quake II game engine, Montezuma's Return is loosely based on Montezuma's Revenge, circa 1985 (and they include a copy of the original game on the CD-ROM): You are a descendent of Montezuma, and you have returned to the Aztec ruins in Mexico to regain your treasure.

The look and feel of Montezuma's Return are outstanding – much like those of Tomb Raider. And, as with Lara Croft of Tomb Raider, you view Max Montezuma from the outside, not within like in Quake or Doom. The monsters are tough but beatable, the puzzles challenging yet not impossible (better work on your jumping skills, though, if you want to solve these mazes).

It is, in short, a fun game with great sound and graphics.

Yet Montezuma's Return has the feel of a game rushed to market. For instance, you can't save a game within a level – to get to the end, you better have a full day of uninterrupted computing ahead of you. And you have to re-set the controls each time you play if you don't want to use the default. Small details, but the difference between a great game and an OK one.