Aztec Challenge

1983, Cosmi

This is one of those classics that I also have fond memories of. Created by Paul Norman, the same person who made the classic Forbidden Forest. Aztec Challenge had that exciting theme of ancient aztec civilisation that Paul made into a challenging game (no pun intended). The game is quite difficult even at the first level so I can imagine how frustrated I was back then when I played it without the luxury of Vice emulators with snapshots. :)

The box cover shows a picture of a black haired woman running with a man wielding a sword chasing her. In the game however you seem to control a blond character without any clues to his/her sex. I guess the cover was a better seller than what could actually be done with C64 sprites. Still, Paul Norman has created a total of 7 different levels all with a nicely animated character and lots of full screen animation. Although some levels have similar things happening, its still challenging.

The first level you have to run towards a temple with rows of warriors throwing spears at you from either side, which you have to duck or jump over. You better have some nice reflexes here to make it though. The second level you are running up the temple stairs with stones rolling down which you have to avoid by moving your hero left or right. Not as hard as the first level in my opinion. Third level and you are in the temple, running from the left to right through many rooms. Each one has a set of traps and you have to jump or stop your hero to avoid getting squashed, impaled or fall into a pit. Fourth you are in the dungeons with critters falling down on you from above, and similarly to the last one you have to jump to avoid them. Level five is a rather nasty "crocodile in the bathtub" case (see below for explanation), as you have to hop from square to square to get the hero out of the room, only that they are booby trapped and you dont know which ones are! Yes there is no indication to which one is safe, so you have to try over and over again to get it. Its even possible that the square in front of the exit is booby trapped! I dont think Paul had his best design moment on this one. Anyway, on to level 6 you are swimming a river and has to avoid getting eaten by Piranhas, by moving your hero in all directions, and always forward which will show him coming from below again. You can also dive, although I dont know if that works to avoid the fish. The last level 7 is a fun challenge though, where you are running on a bridge and have to jump over the holes, short, medium or long jumps.

All in all its a fun game, but there is no reward for actually completing the challenge. If you complete all 7 levels you move on to Phase 2, which is the same set of levels only a bit harder. 4 phases in total. The last phase is insanely difficult. After completing all 4 phases you are rewarded with... well nothing actually. Not even a text to congratulate you! Apart from that its probably fun to play with a buddy since your score is constantly added up even after both have lost all lives. If a player completes a level he will start on that next time also, but if he dies during a level he always begins at the start again, which is a bit bad since the first level is quite a lengthy one. Anyway, try this game with Vice and take frequent snapshots so you can enjoy it in all its glory. :)

"Crocodile in the bathtub"
This term is something I started using after playing a homemade text adventure game a friend of mine wrote. It had all these sudden death incidents where by just moving into a room you could die, one of them was going into the bath and you got eaten by a crocodile which just happened to be in the bathtub. :)

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