Pitfall! – Review
Platform | Release Date
iOS | August 9, 2012
Developed by Activision Publishing, Inc.
Published by Activision Publishing, Inc.
Escape the wrath of an angry volcano while collecting ancient treasures in PITFALL!, an adrenaline-fueled, free-running adventure set in a deadly jungle with twists and turns that will always keep you on your toes. As the iconic Pitfall Harry, test your skills by racing through jungles, caves and native villages while avoiding death-defying obstacles such as fiery volcanic flames, tumbling ancient artifacts, and narrow cliff side pathways. Challenge your reflexes by jumping, sliding, and using your deadly whip to take out classic PITFALL! foes like rattlesnakes and scorpions while avoiding the death grip of a crocodile’s jaw as you swing across ravines. Make sure to always keep a watchful eye as danger lurks around every corner!
Pitfall is a series that has seen more incarnations than most. From its earliest days, through to Mayan Adventures in the Genesis era, then onto the PlayStation with Beyond the Jungle. Even more recently with my personal favourite, the underrated Lost Expedition, Pitfall Harry has endured where so many of his compatriots from the early years of gaming have failed. Sometimes Activision’s return to the property seems surprising, but not this time. No, this time bringing Pitfall back makes perfect sense.
The endless runner has become a stable of iOS and mobile gaming as a whole. While Canabalt set off an arms race of imitation, it has been Temple Run that has been the latest victim of me-too mobile game development. Agent Dash. The End. Aby Escape. They all take the same gameplay formula, make a few tweaks, and spread over a new coat of paint. Pitfall does the same, but it arguably has a far greater claim to do so legitimately.
Dropping you into a side-on view initially, Pitfall plays like you expect from the sub-genre. Flicks up and down will allow you to jump or slide respectively, while tilting your screen adjusts your path. The new model Harry sprints along at a good pace, pushing deeper and deeper into the jungle. So far, so very Temple Run.
The developers have made some more significant changes than most. Most importantly, Pitfall has clear level progression, while still being randomly generated. As you run further, you’ll encounter mines, underground caves, and even motorcycle riding sections, but a checkpoint structure marks out what level sections you’ll be permitted to see. Rather than being score focused, this makes the game far more concerned with progression. When I play, I’m running to get further and see what comes next, not to beat my high score.
In-app purchases rely on this, with the player earning a slow trickle of checkpoint-use tokens and currency to allow the purchase of cosmetic enhancements and various buffs. Deeper into the jungle and it becomes all the more tempting to drop some real world coin on these items, but it is definitely possible to go on without them.
With or without in-app purchases, it’s the variety of the activities on offer that will keep you going. From riding a rhino to tilting a speeding mine cart, Pitfall deviates away from the endless runner template more frequently than expected. It’s welcome variety in an increasingly stale genre. The pleasing graphical style helps too, being unique not just within the sub-genre, but in the broader games industry. Stark colouring, flat detail, and cel-shading combine together to give Pitfall an art house feel.
I said that Pitfall may have had a greater claim to aping Temple Run legitimately in comparison to many of its other copycats. This thought was birthed from the real success of this new Pitfall: it makes you remember a great franchise, and consider the impact its long-lasting heritage has had on gaming. There would be no Temple Run without Pitfall Harry, and this fun, creatively styled game makes me pleased that his legacy lives on.