Pitfall – Review

Pitfall 3D

(Activision for the PlayStation)
by Eric Johnson

The original Pitfall came out at a time when I, at the tender age of seven, coveted the Atari 2600 in much the same way soldiers in old USO film reels would gawk at Marilyn Monroe. The adventures of Pitfall Harry (our dear protagonist) made the mind and heart race. Now this was a truly adventurous stick figure, a man of action who swung on vines, jumped over the heads of crocodiles, and braved scorpion-infested mineshafts for chunks of gold.

Twenty years later, the third coming of Pitfall looks one hell of a lot better, and is a damn good time. Armed with a geological hammer and enough smart-ass remarks to make Indiana Jones look complacent, our dear protagonist has come quite a long way. Voiced by Bruce (Evil Dead, Brisco County Jr.) Campbell, Harry still swings on vines, gets beaten on by gargantuan stone gorillas, jumps over bottomless pits, and collects bars of gold, but he manages to do so in a varied and very attractive world of wonder. A fun game that is, in essence, little more than an attractive platform game where you can move in all four directions. Jump, swing, and run, but don’t fall, because you’ll splatter on the rocks like a bug on a windshield.

Good things: The game manages to get better as you progress, instead of just becoming harder, it becomes genuinely interesting; and there is a nice balance between challenge and fun. Jungle drums are always a good thing, and if you like the lost city theme, it has some really impressive environments to explore. Bad things: There really isn’t anything bad about this game, but I can only think of two reasons for buying it:

a) You were a big fan of the original game and your nostalgia is powerful enough to draw you to it. For those interested in reliving the original experience, entering CRANESBABY in the password screen drops you right into the heart of the original Atari game; ironically, this one time “cutting edge” game probably takes up around 1% of the total information on the CD (but it sure was nice of them to sneak it in there somewhere).

b) You are a platform game fiend and just can’t get enough of swinging on vines, running, jumping, and rolling your way through hostile jungle environments.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, does the world really need another “collect coins and jump over shit” game? The designers of Pitfall 3D were in no rush to reinvent the wheel, and it shows. Despite the title, it is not a truly three-dimensional adventure, there is no camera control and although you can move in all directions, you are by no means allowed to explore a fully-rendered landscape. To sum up, this title is a prime example of “exceptional mediocrity” and if you come across it for $19.95, go for it; there is enough going on to make it worth that price. Otherwise, this game is about five years too late to be significantly impressive.