Originally programmed by Robert Jaeger for Utopia Software, Montezuma's Revenge is a fast paced action/adventure game that would later serve as the inspiration for modern 3D action/adventure games like Tomb Raider. The original version of Montezuma's Revenge was licensed by Parker Brothers before it was completed (there was no ending in the Utopia version either). Since the Utopia version was 48K, it had to be slimmed down to 16K for PB to put it out on a cartridge. This meant losing some of the extra fluff such as the animated title screen, character introduction (where Joe is introduced as Pedro), and sadly the final showdown with King Montezuma himself.
While most people are familiar with the term Montezuma's Revenge, many don't know where it comes from. Montezuma the first was a famous Aztec emperor who was known to have ruled his people with great cruelty. Montezuma is best known for bringing the downfall of the Aztecs when he mistook the conquistador Hernan Cortes for the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl (these guys had never seen a white man before!). Cortes then proceeded to plunder and destroy the Aztecs and wipe them off the face of the earth. Thus whenever a pasty faced white tourist gets sick from drinking or eating the local Mexican food it's referred to as Montezuma getting his revenge.
You are Panama Joe (not to be confused with the copyrighted character Indiana Jones), famous daredevil and treasure hunter. You are after the fabled treasure of Montezuma, which is hidden somewhere within his ancient fortress. However the fortress is a maze of death-dealing chambers, full the vilest traps imaginable. You must help Joe navigate the maze and find the hidden treasure room before he's turned into a permanent resident of this ancient tomb.
To get to the treasure room your going to have to do a little exploring first. Montezuma's fortress is really a large maze of rooms full of deadly snakes, spiders, and skulls. Joe must avoid these hazards unless he carries the sword, which can be found in certain rooms. The sword will allow Joe to kill one spider, snake, or skull, but won't save him from lava, force fields, or falling. Also found in the fortress are torches, the torch will light up all the darkened rooms making your journey much easier. Without a torch you'll end up wandering blindly through the dark, and will most likely fall to your death (not recommended). Rarely Joe will come across the magic scepter, with the scepter Joe will be invincible to enemies for a short time.
Of course roaming monsters aren't the only things Joe has to worry about. Many rooms also have deadly lava pits, conveyer belts which can throw you to your death, vanishing platforms which always seem to disappear at just the wrong moment, and force fields which need to be timed exactly (who knew the Aztecs were so advanced?). Also making your life miserable are locked doors which need a certain color key to open them (red, blue, or white). At this point you may be saying "No treasure is worth this!" Well you may change your mind the first time you find one of those large rubies that happen to be scattered around the rooms. Just think, the treasure room is full of them!
If you're lucky enough to make it to the treasure room, you're in for a little surprise. Montezuma has cursed his treasure room! Joe only has a few seconds to grab as many jewels as he can before he falls through the floor and into the next level! Looks like Montezuma got his revenge after all! Either that or the programmer ran out of space for an ending...
It's a mystery as to why the cartridge version of Montezuma's Revenge was never released, but it may have been due to the collapsing 8-bit market and the relative expensive of a cartridge release. Parker Brothers did put Montezuma's Revenge out on disk, as a disk release was much cheaper (Mr. Do's Castle was released in the same fashion).