Special iOS 4 edition: Treasures of Montezuma looks plain, plays fun

This should have been posted a week ago Friday, and originally it was, but for some reason a dating entry pulled it. So I’m reposting it today with a special iOS 4 introduction:

Should you upgrade to iOS 4.2?

Apple reps insist that the new OS runs like a dream on your iPad. Posts we’ve read on support sites aren’t so positive. I was reluctant to upgrade until the platform had been more fully addressed and then a miracle happened.

I was in the Apple Store replacing my old iPhone because my old ATT contract expired. Finally. Because iOS 4 on an iPhone 3G is a dog. It reduced my iPhone to my phone. Even worse, all of the upgrades the Apple genii insisted would fix the problem only made it worse.

This is the main reason I was so reluctant to upgrade on the iPad. So I took it in with me to find out if upgrading would irreversibly rewrite my iPad firmware. The Apple rep finally admitted that it would. Once you upgrade their is no going back.

That’s when they discovered the gasket was shot on my iPad and, since I have Apple Care, they had to replace it entirely. But not until after I returned home to back up my system and settings. Once I had done so I realized this was the perfect opportunity to test iOS 4.2. If it did to my iPad what it did to my iPhone, no problem. I would be getting a new iPad anyway.

So here’s the skinny. iOS 4 will not cripple your iPad. I didn’t really think it was because it wasn’t like upgrading an iPhone 3G with a system designed for a totally new device. But it was a concern. And it turned out iOS 4 runs without degrading system performance.

But apps will need time to catch up. Several of my apps have lost important functions, although a couple have already been replaced with updates to fix the problems. Others, like the app scheduled to be reviewed Thursday, shut down completely under the new system.

And don’t believe the air printing stuff. Unless you already own one of the four Hewlett-Packard iPad compatible printers, your printing situation hasn’t changed. I asked the Apple Store sales reps about Canon and Epson printers and they wouldn’t even speculate. But they wouldn’t speculate whether or not the OS 10.6 family pack they sold us would finally print to the Canon printer they sold us and it’s been almost two years since we made those purchases.

But you can multi-task. Kind of. Not like the multitasking we know from our real computers, but kind of like it. Once you open an app in iOS4 it doesn’t shut down even after a hard reboot of the system. It runs in the background until your iPad runs out of memory and shuts the app down itself.

What this means is that apps will reopen to the exact point where you left them, at least most apps will. Online games run from the same account will shut down as soon as you open a different game with that account (unless they’re managed by Game Center). Nor, so far as I can tell, will they actually process data in the background. They simply remain open.

You can access your open apps by double clicking the launch button. Scrub through the list to find the app you want.

Click image to see full size

The limited multitasking still makes it easy when you have to copy and paste different scraps of data from one or more apps to a document you’re writing. Or if you get a push notice taking you away from one app, you won’t lose your place when you return. You can access all open apps by double clicking on the launch button at the bottom of your iPad screen.

You can also organize apps into folders. This useful feature allows you to streamline your pages by collecting related apps into folders, or to carry even more useless apps on your iPad without deleting them.

You can add up to twelve apps in a folder which can be opened to rename and rearrange the apps inside.

Click image to see full size

The thing I like best is the ability to move folders to the dock. Since I routinely use more than five apps, this makes it much quicker for me to access the apps I need without navigating through the different pages.

You can also dock folders, allowing you to access up to 60 apps from every page.

Click image to see full size

Spoiler alert! Treasures of Montezuma is surprisingly fun, given that there’s only one screen and layout. It looks so basic you may be fooled into thinking there isn’t much there. But once you buy the full version, it becomes increasingly challenging and demands more and more of your reflexes.

It’s game day Friday and I’m writing about a game I really thought I would hate. Fortunately, it got me through that horrible week when every team I was rooting for lost. The Cowboys lost too, but that was kind of good news.

I may not root for the Cowboys but they sure are entertaining. You know those bad girls who attract all the bad guys but it never dawns on them that the problem might not be the guys but the girl who’s attracting them? That’s who Jerry Jones reminded me of.

Think of the people he’s attracted since Jimmy Johnson (the stable partner) was fired. Coke users, gun toters, butterfingers and quarterbacks who date singers with marginal talent but still more talent than the rest of the team. Jerry Jones has a nose for losers, and the few good ones he lands get away before they can become permanently scarred.

But I’ve recovered, the world is a little brighter and some of that is thanks to Treasures of Montezuma, a little game I thought would be an also-ran. I originally intended to review this several weeks ago, but I stumbled into fish week and bumped Treasures of Montezuma for Tap Fish. Then it was time for all the Thanksgiving apps so I had to wait until today.

Token blow

Treasures of Montezuma is one of the many match-three token (or tile) games floating around the iPhone/iPad universe. Match three and you get closer to finishing the level. Match four or five and you get a bonus. At the end of each level you get pieces of a reward—a puzzle, a picture, perhaps a map.

In many you also get special powers to go with multiple matches. Connect the right tokens and you get an explosion or a lightning bolt. The higher levels try to make it harder to complete by locking the tokens or requiring certain tokens to be broken several different times. In some games, you have to match tiles with a computer opponent in some form of digital combat.

After a while they all begin to look the same, at least to me.

The difference lies in the developer Alawar’s approach to the game. The most common have a single layout and the tokens appear in different combinations. Initially Treasures of Montezuma will come off as one of those games. The screen never changes—the same number of tokens in the boring layout. The only difference is how the tokens are arranged.

In fact, Treasures of Montezuma features one of the most unappealing layouts of any of the match-three games I’ve played.

Screen design can’t get more basic than this.

You can download a free (and limited version of the game) or you can pay five dollars for more than fifty levels. All of which look alike. The game doesn’t get interesting until you reach the paid levels.

In Treasures of Montezuma it isn’t enough to match multiple tiles. You have to unlock tiles with gems, and the game is very sparing with gems. You may find only one gem on any screen, requiring you to make several matches before another appears. Initially you have four minutes to collect five gems. By the final level you have to collect 200 gems in the same amount of time (unless you earn additional minutes).

Treasures of Montezuma’s strength lies in the level awards. Each level unlocks a new result for matching same colored tokens. The more successful you are, the more tiles you knock out or more time you earn by matching three. Red combinations explode tiles with jewels, but only if you can make two or more red matches in a row. One match of three does you no good.

Orange matches add time to the clock, green matches eliminate any jewels on screen, silver matches randomly change tile colors, and purple matches convert tiles to gimmick tiles that shoot lighting, add time or explode rows. As you move through levels the power of different combinations amplifies. Even more challenging is the fact that you begin to start looking two or three combinations ahead only to have the game blow the combinations you were planning off the board.

Success unlocks powers to accompany color matches

Treasures of Montezuma also adds three recurring puzzles to help players earn additional upgrades. The puzzles challenge eye-hand coordination, memory and eye-speed.

Treasures of Montezuma provides additional puzzles to earn upgrades.

The game is also very liberal with trophies and awards. You earn a whole wall of virtual trophies for unlocking upgrades, scoring tile combinations and racking up points. I was given a trophy for not using hints to find combinations, which is odd because I used hints to get through levels quicker so I could review the game.

You can add trophies to your virtual wall, even trophies you probably didn’t earn.
I certainly didn’t earn this one, but I got it.

No real downside

I have no problems with the game. It doesn’t offer a version that runs without a clock, which irked some of the players who posted at the app store. Usually I would agree with them, but the point of the upgrades is to allow players to extend or play around the clock.

Having played through several times now, it seems that stopping the clock would almost defeat the purpose of the game. Why earn upgrades to extend the clock or find all the gems at once when you can take an hour to finish a level?

Once you complete the game, you can also unlock a difficult mode. Or at least Treasures of Montezuma calls it a difficult mode. The only difference that I noticed was that at the higher levels I finished with two minutes left instead of six minutes left.

The game isn’t as pretty or the explosions as spectacular as 10 Talismans which I reviewed a while back. In fact, in comparison it seems rather drab. Actually, it seems drab even without another game with better graphics to compare it to. But once you start blowing twenty or thirty tiles off the screen at once and know you have five seconds to make another match, drab doesn’t seem all that important.

Nor does the game crash. If you’ve experienced the frustration of not only having to relaunch a game but reboot your iPad before the game will relaunch, or if you’ve experienced the frustration of reinstalling a game because the crash permanently damaged the app, you will really appreciate Treasures of Montezuma’s stability.

Jenny Manytoes rates Treasures of Montezuma

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Treasures of Montezuma. The flash, razzle and dazzle make the game one of the most paw worthy apps she’s every played. I’m tempted to rate it best buy, but the screen design still leaves me underwhelmed enough that I will pass.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 5 Stars - Biscuits, Arcade Games, Entertainment, Games and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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