Review: The Treasures of Montezuma
First there was Bejeweled, the match-3 game that became the benchmark for gamers and developers around the world, on multiple platforms. Now, with just a little bit of searching in any App Store, you'll find a number of match-3 games. If you've decided to skip over Bejeweled Live (one of the many Xbox Live apps for Windows Phone) and look for something a little different, why not consider Alawar's 'The Treasures of Montezuma?'
Version Reviewed: 126.96.36.199
Let's back up a little - the match-3 game is played on a grid with various coloured icons / stones / balls / tokens... there are many names we can use so let's go with stones for Montezuma because it feels right, given the graphics and the story baked into the game. You can swap over any two adjacent stones (horizontally or vertically) if one of the moved stones will create a line of three (or more) stones with the same colour. When you do, they'll vanish, gravity will cause other stones to fall down, and fresh stones will fall into the gaps at the top.
Take that basic gameplay, add in something unique, and you have your match-3 game. So, what have Alawar done to the game? They've added gems.
On top of some stones are placed gems, and if these stones are part of a colour match, they will be collected, and that's the key part of the ongoing game. To clear a level in The Treasures of Montezuma, you need to collect a certain number of gems before the time runs out. This is pretty easy on the first few, but as the game goes on, and you are asked to collect upwards of 100 gems in under five minutes, you start to realise the other twist that Alawar have added - the totems.
As you progress through the game, you earn stars, and between levels they can be used to boost the power of special items (such as dynamite) which appear on stones and are triggered much as picking up a gem. Or they can boost the totems. These coloured gods have a special power which is activated when you make two consecutive matches of a single colour. For example if you do two match-3's with green stones, then every gem on the board is released and added to your stash.
Couple that with an item that allows you to have extra gems on the board, and the game becomes less about making as many match-3's as possible, but making the correct matches to set up the board. That's what makes Montezuma more than your basic match-3 game. The addition of the special items and the totems leads to far more tactical play. Couple that with the short time required to play each level and you have a game that's perfectly suited to playing on the move.
Controls are based on the touch screen, simply swipe one gem in the direction you want to move it, and it's done. The rest of the interaction is through classically big buttons on the various screens, and it all stays remarkably clear and understandable outside the game.
Playing the game is very smooth and the controls are very responsive. There's one moment it does seem to catch itself out - normally when you make a move that would not result in a match-3 it is rejected and the stones are reset, but if the game is in the middle of a match-3 animation, you can make another move before the gravity effects are applied that would make a match-3, but after gravity it's not a match-3. I would expect that to be rejected, but it's not. A tiny thing that doesn't adversely affect the game play, but it is noticeable.
Once you make it through all the levels of the game, two more game modes open up for you - the endless game and the arcade game. It's an interesting decision to restrict access, even when you have paid for the game. But it does increase the length of the game, which is probably in the best long-term interest of the users.
The Treasures of Montezuma is a really good match-3 game, that starts with the regular format and adds a twist that works and creates a different style of game. Congrats, Alawar, I'm really enjoying this one.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at