Aztec Challenge / Cosmi 1984
Screenshots: play/stop

Aztec Challenge has the player in the role of a young Aztec, who has to get through seven challenges to prove his courage. The levels are as follows:

1) The Gauntlet: the Aztec is running towards the temple, while other Aztecs throw spears. Duck and jump to avoid the spears and get to the temple.

2) The Stairs: run up the temple's stairs while avoiding the stone blocks falling towards you.

3) The Temple: Run into the heart of the temple and avoid the spears and traps.

4) The Vermin: Run through the heart of the temple while avoid spiders, snakes, scorpions, and... er.. iguanas, I think they're suppose to be!

5) Hopaztec: Find a way through the maze of stones. Step on a wrong stone and you'll set off a booby trap.

6) Piranha: Swim through the river while avoiding the flesh-eating fish.

7) The Bridge: hop, step and jump over the gaps in the bridge to get to your freedom.

Let there be no doubt: the graphics of Aztec Challenge are awful. Blocky sprites, jerky scrolling and terrible color clashes makes this game a bit of an eyesore. The gameplay itself is also a little quirky in some places; an example being level 4 (The Vermin) where the sprite collision routine has little logic to it. But if you can see past the garish graphics then you've got a game that challenges your reflexes and dexterity.

Added to this is a soundtrack by Paul Norman, that builds up as you progress in the current level, so you have an indication of how far you have to go. The waveforms that Norman uses are simple, but for some reason, the music works and gives the game an extremely helpful boost in atmosphere.

The other downside to this game, apart from the graphics, is level 5 (Hopaztec). Dexterity and reflexes are completely thrown out the window, and you have to leave it to chance that you find your way from one end of the room to the other without losing too many lives. This unfortunately tends to leave a bad taste in your mouth, especially when you've gotten through the first four levels using some of the best reflexes you can muster.

Having said that, Aztec Challenge is a strange game in that it forces you to keep going, just so that you can get to the next level, or in some cases, just to hear the music building up to it's climax.

If you like games that challenge your sense of timing, then you'll like Aztec Challenge despite the graphics. It will make you shout in frustration sometimes, especially on level 5, but it will certainly give your Joystick Hand a good excercise. If reflex-style games aren't your cup of tea, however, you'd be best to stay away. The quirky gameplay alone is not enough to keep you amused.

Reviewed by Boz.

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