Old School Gamer Magazine chats with John Lester (Head of Marketing/Co-Owner, CollectorVision Games) about Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan and its rise from a Flash game to its current appearance on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan born?
John Lester: The Sydney Hunter character was introduced back in 2013 as a Flash game called Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death. In 2014, we wanted to create a Montezuma’s Revenge-type game for the NES – so we started a project with the working title of “Sydney Hunter and the Mayan’s Revenge.” The project would eventually evolve into Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was your role in the game?
Lester: I’m one of the project leads on Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan. I also contributed to the story and came up with some of the characters and enemies. I helped a lot with Beta testing, too!
Old School Gamer Magazine: How did you get involved in the industry?
Lester: Back in 2013, I released a new ColecoVision game called Gamester81: The Video Game. Through that process I connected with the CollectorVision team and joined them later that year as part owner of the company. The ColecoVision is one of my favorite systems – and becoming part of CollectorVision Games seemed like fate at that time.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was development like?
Lester: The development of this latest Sydney Hunter game was very interesting. We have an all-star team – and we get along great with each other. Still, we ran into an issue where we didn’t come up with the story and assets for the game prior to actually developing it. We just kept adding things and making changes. This led to a delay in the final release – but at the end of the day, we’re super proud of how the game turned out!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan special?
Lester: Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan is our love letter to the classic games we grew up playing. We’ve been told by players that the game feels familiar yet unique. It’s also heavily influenced by the Mayan culture; we did a ton of research on the Maya while working on the game.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced it the most?
Lester: Montezuma’s Revenge, the Mega Man and Castlevania series, Zelda 2, and Super Mario Bros. 2 have all been big influences. Also, Legendary Axe for the TurboGrafx-16.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Lester: We’ve added a ton of Easter eggs to Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan. For example, there’s a hard-to-get-to hidden screen that features all of the team’s initials – like a certain Atari 2600 game 🙂
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Lester: Marketing is key! Up until now, we’ve been known for developing new games for classic consoles. As a result, we’re more familiar with releasing those types of games than launching a new game on modern platforms. That’s why we decided to hire a well-known PR/marketing firm to help us with Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Lester: Absolutely! Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan plays very much like older games – and that’s definitely intentional! It’s what we consider “retro hard” – but it’s also fair.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Lester: I remember playing Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time – just after it was released. I had seen the game while watching The Wizard in theaters – and I was blown away by the graphics and gameplay. To this day, it’s my favorite game of all time!
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan to be remembered?
Lester: I want people to remember Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan as a game that helped bring both modern and retro gamers together. It’s a game that retro gamers will definitely appreciate – but also one that modern players will really enjoy!
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Lester: CollectorVision Games has a new NES point-and-click adventure game coming out soon called Dead Tomb. We’ve also released a new FPGA ColecoVision console called The Phoenix. We just recently started to ship those out!
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Lester: Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan has been receiving some great feedback. We’re thankful for the people who have decided to give it a shot because we know they won’t be disappointed!