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6  |  Not The Pits, But Not The Grandest Treasure, Either
Darryl B. , 9/1/2005 9:24:33 PM
Pitfall! was nothing short of an incredibly amazing game when it came out for the Atari 2600 back in the early 1980s. First, it had 255 screens, which nothing else out there had anywhere close to that number. It was also arguably THE game that gave birth to the genre known as the scrolling platformer (granted, the screens "scrolled" only when you reached the end of one, but pretty much every game that came out since then owe it to this original). It was pretty tough, as most gamers couldn't get anywhere close to completing all the screens before losing all three of their lives due to it's difficulty level, not finding all of the treasures and/or running out of time. (However, there were some kind of weird secrets with a bunch of underground tunnels that you could experiment with to help speed up your quest, as one underground screen equaled three above-ground screens...but go down the wrong ones, and you could end up at a dead end and have to go back or end up passing too many treasures above to make them worthwhile.) The game was a huge success and was ported around pretty much everywhere, but most of the time it only had a few minor changes (like some graphic tweaks or slightly different controls, like for the Intellivision version).

Of course, the inevitable sequel also came out, not being as tough as the original, and also broke new ground (again) by having tons of levels stacked on top of each other (taking up a good 8K for the Atari 2600 version), changing gameplay goals (swimming in some areas of the game, climbing in others, using a balloon to get higher in other places, etc.), and it was one of the few games for the 2600 that had constant in-game music running (remember the days when console games hardly had any music?). Also, a few versions (the Atari 5200 and Atari computer ports in particular) even had a much bigger second game upon beating the first one (reminds me: it was also one of only a handful of games for the 2600 that actually had an ending, although it was just a brief cute one though).

It took a little over a decade before Pitfall made a big impact again (note: I say "big impact", due to a few other Pitfall games coming out here and there that didn't garner a lot of attention, like the cartoonish Pitfall arcade game that Sega pissed on), with Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure for several of the 16 bit consoles this time around. I rented the Genesis version a few times, which, of course, this version bore (boar? Nah, there's no boars in this jungle here, sorry) little resemblance to the original. Sure, there was a nod to the original in that one lagoon-type level with the crocodiles in it, but this version borrowed from other games of a similar genre, as it seemed to me to be just Cool Spot (which was just a slower Sonic the Hedgehog) set in the Mayan jungle, with elements of the arcade Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Montezuma's Revenge tossed in; get my drift? Yeah, not real original.

I was also disappointed with it at first, but then I got into it (or you could say "it grew on me", making a bad jungle underbrush pun) after a while. It had pretty killer graphics and animation at the time (although I didn't like the kind of "cutesy" look Harry had, along with him shifting nervously, looking like he's going to pounce at times, as he waited for you to make up your mind with what you were going to do next). Here you had to find your lost father -- Pitfall Harry from the original, having a pretty funny ending if you beat it, having another nod to the original with the old 2600 graphics -- as you romped through ten long stages, dodging, swatting and disposing of various jungle creatures along your way. Rather than just jumping, climbing or falling (in case you screw up on one of the previous two moves) your way through the jungle, Pitfall Harry Jr. here could also pick up and employ rocks to throw and dispose of jungle pests that way, along with exploding stones that did a lot more damage (but were less in abundance than the regular rocks) and killed more bugs dead that way, plus there were power-ups scattered here and there as it was as well, such as a time freeze or a hot pepper that would make you jump real high (screw that, where's a cold beer to make you pipe down instead?).

More updates to the game also included level bosses and bonus Simon-like games as well, along with the original game tossed in (hidden somewhere; dig it up!) as well. Harry Jr. also went through all kinds of different stages, from those that were underground (of course, being a nod to the original again) to ones taking place in the dark of night to mine shafts and the like. It also had some pretty good, moody music, although the controller response was a bit annoying at times, and unfair, since one slip could send you tumbling into a bad predicament, or even worse, to the bottom of a screen (which is why, with no password or level skip feature, made it even more unfortunate, but you could earn several continues though, through the Simon-like mini-games).

However, if you were pretty good in general at the Sonic- and Cool Spot-type games, this game was only good for renting (unless you were a serious collector) before considering if it was worth the money, as you could probably beat it in less than a week (which I felt sorry for those who beat it after paying the original issue price of $70, which it's high cost was due to all the time that was spent creating the animation and killer graphics), although it was pretty difficult to try to obtain all the Pitfall letters that were scattered throughout the jungle for a surprise, but then that only took me a second rental before I made it to the end, and with all the letters, too. Oh well.

Ok, so that's the Genesis version, in a nutshell. So what's the cd version like, after all that? Well, it's got all the aforementioned elements, as it's the exact same as the Genesis version, except for a better intro, having a brief movie-like clip (WAY better than a pixelated Harry running across the screen on the Genesis version) of Harry tromping around and then us getting a first person look of falling into a crocodile's mouth; oh no! The game also had different music...and three new levels...that are a SEVERE pain in the butt.

And that's IT. If you've got the Genesis or SNES version (which I think those two are identical), I don't think this game is worth the purchase just for three additional levels that are murder with the controls being pretty unforgiving at times...hell, I'm not even sure if the game is worth it if you haven't played either the Genny or SNES version beforehand, although maybe I'm being a bit too harsh on those levels; all I know is that I bought and beat the game the same afternoon (due to my experience with the Genny version first), and got rid of the game later. Oh well, at least it didn't cost me much, I got something else in exchange for it (hopefully something I enjoyed better), and it's probably still fairly common (and hopefully cheap) today.

Even with three new levels, they don't really help out this version that much, hence why I'd give the Genesis version a 7, and this one a 6, since those levels suck and nothing else was really done to the game here. Not bad, as I've played much, much worse games than this, but it's not that great, either.

Oh, and what would I rate those two original 2600 games? A 9 or a 10 each, of course.

But not this one, as it greased my grapevine a bit too much. (I'd have to dig around elsewhere for a higher-rated game.) 6/10

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