In Montezuma's Revenge, players control Panama Joe in this exploration platformer.
The player has a five-slot inventory shown at the upper left of the screen. Throughout the game, players can collect several items; color-coded keys, swords that defeat skulls, scepters that grant temporary invincibility, and torches that light up dark levels.
Levels are sometimes variations on previous levels. For instance, Level 3 is very similar to Level 1, except with a couple of minor changes that make the level more challenging.
On dark levels, none of the platforms ladders or chains are visible until the player finds a torch. This requires blind exploration, based on the general layout of previous levels, before locating the torch and revealing the platforms for the rest of the level. However, the last level of the game is entirely dark and no torches are available.
Between levels, the player falls through areas populated only by gold bars and chains. The player needs to grab the chain before the end of the bonus area to land safely at the beginning of the next level.