Version tested: GameBoy Advance
When Pitfall was released back in the mid '90s on the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive (that's the Genesis for our American readers), it was considered a triumph of classic gameplay over new-fangled graphical monstrosities and cartoon platformers alike. A relatively serious adventure game based on an Atari original more than ten years old, journalists and the public alike went mad over it, caught up in a whirlwind of publicity and nostalgia. In the process certain... inadequacies were overlooked, such as the dodgy collision detection, imprecise control system and over-ambitious level design. Majesco's THQ-published GameBoy Advance conversion is a reasonable game, but it loses a lot of its impact due to the above problems, which have apparently been flat-out ignored once again by the developer. Pitfall : The Mayan Adventure, to give the game its full name, is set across ten worlds of multiple stages and focuses on the plight of Pitfall Harry, who has been taken captive. The venerable adventurer has a son though, Harry Jr., and fortunately for him the Indiana Jones-inspired offspring is carrying on the family tradition and braving crocodiles, venomous snakes and other hazards of the jungle to rescue his old man. During the course of the game young Harry has to overcome the unwelcome attentions of the creatures of the Amazon jungle, the occupants of Mayan ruins, and of course the obligatory abandoned mines. Sadly, the past five years haven't been kind on the Pitfall look though, which was perhaps a little dated even back then. Nowadays it looks like a poor Castlevania clone, and thanks to the colourful scenery picking out your enemies is often more difficult than it should be, particularly when the lighting is against you.
Of course, all of the original problems are back too. The collision detection is still ludicrous, and coupled with the imprecise control system it will lead to all too many unlikely deaths for young Harry. This is a straight conversion of the Super Nintendo / Mega Drive game, and that's as much of a curse as a blessing. Even more disappointingly the original Pitfall, which was hidden in the darkest recesses of the 16-bit version, is missing from the GameBoy port. . Licensing issues are apparently to blame for its absence, but nostalgic children of the gaming revolution all those years ago have every right to wince. Perhaps the stupidest thing about Pitfall though is a new GameBoy-specific problem - the lack of a save game or password feature. For some reason Majesco expect you to play through the entire game in one sitting. While this is possible, it flies in the face of the unspoken GameBoy Advance ethic; that you should be able to dip into the games every so often. Perhaps the developer got too caught up in the official GameBoy Advance ethic; Gaming 24:7. Either way though, it smacks of extreme laziness and it's another reason why Pitfall : The Mayan Adventure should probably be left well alone.
I'm beginning to find these passive 16-bit conversions somewhat trying, so Pitfall has come at a bad time. Games like Mario Kart : Super Circuit have shown how these things can be done while retaining much of the original game's charm, so why doesn't Pitfall deserve a more adventurous update? The capacity is there in terms both of physical memory and processing power to overhaul the game and include the 16-bit sibling. But no, the only conclusion has to be that the game has been thrown together for money rather than love, and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. If you were a fan of the 16-bit game, this is for you, but don't kid yourself otherwise, there are better games available now, let alone on the horizon.
5 / 10