Paganitzu (Apogee, 1991)

Paganitzu, while a more obscure title these days than many others of the DOS-era, is nonetheless among the great games from this period. It sees protagonist adventurer-hero Alabama Smith journey deep into the halls of the titular ancient Aztec pyramid Paganitzu in search of treasure and knowledge. But he is unexpectedly faced with an array of cryptic messages, devilish traps, and dark magical entites. 

Each of the twenty-or-so levels in each of this bundled trilogy’s three episodes presents the player with a grid-layout scene filled with a devious arrangement of hostile enemies, puzzle-trigger elements like levers and switches, and all sorts of little items which can be used to interact with the level. 

This ain't Sokoban, that's for sure.

The basic gameplay loop of navigating each level with the sole goal of reaching the exit door in spire of the large number of monsters more likely than not also sharing the room with you works well in every stage. Each levels feel fresh and distinct, sporting a new puzzle to be solved that remarkably remains well-designed and balanced everytime - without relying on artificial difficulty or a need for frame-perfect movement like other, inferior, DOS-era puzzlers. (The original boxed-copy cover art going so far as to boast “Challenge your mind, not just your reaction speed!”).

Each chapter sports a new and highly distinct look and theme, and everything, - from the menus, to the gameplay areas, to the inter-level transition dialogue sections is beautifully drawn in with an artistry that despite being bound by the technical limitations of PCs circa 1991 still looks absolutely fantastic.

This is a game that, if, like me, you’ve got a ample amount of nostalgia for, you’re surely going to be thrilled to see reappear on Steam all these years later. And if, like most people, you’ve never heard of it at all before, it’s still worth checking out as a shining pinnacle of retro PC puzzle design.

This is the epitome of a good vintage game port for modern audiences. Recommended with extreme prejudice.  

 Review by SevenSixTwoZeroSeven