Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure

Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9

 |||   Jaguar Review:  Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
 |||   By: Mark "Stingray" Santora
/ | \  GEnie: AEO.4   AOL: MrSantora

Since the Jaguar's release, a little over two years ago, the most
popular games for the system have been the updates of "classic" games.
I am of course referring to Tempest 2000 and the upcoming Breakout 2000
and Defender 2000. These games seem to generate considerable more
interest than Super Duper Mortal Street Combat Fighter XXIIV games -
and with good reason. The original versions of these games are what
spawned todays programmers. They look to the classics with reverence -
even GameBoy has some "classics" out.

The term "classic" games refers to those games in the early to mid
1980's when playability was more important than following in the
latest fad. Most of the games did not have endings, and given your
skill could be played for hours on end while the difficulty just
continued to get harder.

//// Pitfall Classic

If you are a first generation gameplayer, than you must have heard of
the original Pitfall! It was written by David Crane for the Atari
2600.  When it came out, it was the game to beat, and on the Atari
2600, I would be hard pressed to say that no other game captured my
attention as much as it did. The original Pitfall was simple - take
the role of Pitfall Harry (the original Atari Explorer) and run around
on two platforms, grabbing as many jewels and goodies as you can in
under twenty minutes, while trying not to fall in the pits or the
lakes with alligators, get stung by scorpions, or run over by logs.
You could run, jump, swing from a vine, and climb ladders. I'm sure
I'm forgetting a few objects, but you get the idea.

//// Pitfall: The Next Generation

Now Activision has pulled out all the stops to update their classic,
and I gotta tell you, they've done one hell of a job. The plot is
simple, after years of gallivanting around the world, Pitfall Harry
decided to settle down and have some kids. Well, he had a son, Harry,
Jr., who's a lot like his dad - fearless and full of adventure. Seeing
this in his son, this awoke the feelings in Harry Sr, that he hadn't
felt since he settled down. So, he decided to set out on an expedition
with his son to the Mayan Pyramids in Central America. Once there,
Harry Sr. was captured by the evil Warrior Spirit Zakelua. Armed with
his father's notes, a slingshot, and some attitude, Harry Jr. is going
after the biggest treasure of all time, his father.

//// Playing the Game

As is standard with all platformers, as Harry Jr. you can run left and
right, jump up, crouch, and even crawl. That constitutes the main
moves of Harry Jr. However, like his father, Harry Jr can swing from
vines, and even the unconscious carcasses of snakes (more on that
subject later). Unlike his father, Harry Jr. is armed with weapons.
He has a slingshot that slings rocks. (which are plentiful throughout
the game.) He can also use the slingshot as a whip so he does not have
to waste the rocks, this is a good weapon for mice and spiders -
basically those things that are small and close to the ground. Using
your slingshot, you can charge your throws so that they do more

Throughout the levels you might be fortunate enough to find boomerangs
and exploding stones. The boomerangs whip around until they've hit and
killed everything on the screen. The exploding stones are very useful
when things get a little crazy in front of you.  One of these puppies
will clear a nice path for you. You can also ride ziplines, jump on
items (like spider webs or tongues of statues) to bounce you into the
air, bungee jumps, riding runaway mine cars, climbing ropes, and
swinging on vine. As you can tell, the gameplay is varied and never
gets boring.

The screen is laid out rather well with information easily accessible
without being obtrusive. In the upper left hand corner of the screen
in the score. In the upper right hand of the screen is the number of
lives you have left and and image of Harry Jr being chased by a
crocodile. As you loose health, the croc gets closer. You don't want
to let him get too close or else you lose a life. In the lower right
hand corner is is a numeric representation of the amount of the
treasure you have collected so far. Every 50 pieces you collect, you
get another continue. And in the lower left hand corner is the weapon
that you are using and the number of them you have to use (you can not
run out of the whip and you select the weapon by pressing the option

There are a lot of bad guys, and they are very different. First, there
are your basic skeletons. These baddies bounce around the ground as
heads and then when you get close, rise up and start swiping away at
you with their very large swords. Once you hit them, they go down, but
their heads continue to bounce around and eventually reform the entire
body! So, after you knock them down, it's a good idea to take another
swing against the bouncing heads.

Secondly are your snakes, mice and spiders. These are just about
everywhere on most levels. They are very quick and hug the ground.
Using your slingshot against them is usually a futile move. Use the
sling/whip. Ditto for the blood-sucking bats and the butterflies. (!)
Next, you get to play with the Spirits of Chaac. These guys will
really kick your butt if you don't watch yourself. They are fast and
fire at you without mercy. You also run into gargoyles that come to
life and throw axes at you, they're not too fun either. The manual
mentions vapor ghosts - but I haven't seen them yet. There are =many=
other baddies around: monkeys, swinging Great Balls o' Fire, spikes,
temple priests, etc. You won't get bored.

At the end of most levels you run into bosses. These little beasties
(tm. Yak) will jump all over you and rip your health away. They take
multiple hits, but there is a percentage meter above the screen to
tell you how good or bad you are doing. Sometimes, the end-of-level
boss isn't living, and you have a split second to figure out how to
deal with it.... Every time that you complete a level the game asks
you if you would like to save it. Unfortunately there is only one game
save, so only one player can play at a time. Of course the control pad
is completely configurable, so you can adjust the settings to your

//// Graphics

This conversion of Pitfall was handled by the lovely people over at
Imagitec in the UK. They were responsible for last year's Bubsy and
Zool 2 conversions. I know some people didn't like those games
because they weren't "64bit looking," whatever that means. But even
those nay sayers will be impressed by the graphics in Pitfall. They
are very sharp and colorful. The animation is also excellent falling
short only of Rayman status - and for a platformer, that's pretty
darn good. Harry Jr. is animated slightly better than an afternoon
cartoon. Everytime he moves, there is a new expression, his jacket
flares up when he jumps or swings, and he goes into a levitating
trance if you leave him unguided for too long.

The enemies are not overlooked here, either. They are animated
excellently, almost as well as Harry is. Not that it should be that
distracting, after all you have to dispatch them very quickly. Also
the lack of colors, seeing how the Jaguar has so many, they could have
easily been put to good use here by fixing it up. Aside from that,
the graphics rock.

//// Sound

The sound in Pitfall is also very good. There is different music for
each of the levels I have played so far and each movement has a
different effect. Even when Harry Jr. runs, you here his feet crunch
down on dried grass, cement, etc. The music is equally good, never
becoming obtrusive and causing you to get distracted from the game.
It is also of high quality, no distortion that I can hear. The sound
is used very well throughout this game and you can tell that the
programmers payed just as much attention to it as they did to

//// Playability

It's all here. You run, jump, shoot, crawl, swing, slide, ride, and
even find treasure. What else could you ask for in a great platformer?
The control is dead on and this game is just fun! On top of that, once
you reach the fourth level, if you find your may to a door which is
guarded by a really simple looking scorpion (it's white and real boxy
- like it was done in the "classic" days of gaming) when you go
through it, you are close to being transported to the original world
of Pitfall.

Yes the original is here - all 4K of it, or was it 8K? Anyway, you get
the three lives like the original and get to play until you lose them.
After that, you are transported back to Pitfall:The Mayan Adventure
and continue to play Jr. exactly where you left off with no loss of
time or lives.

//// Conclusion

Pitfall is beautiful to listen to, to look at, and to play.
Everything is there to keep you hooked for a while.  It actually plays
a little easier than Rayman, so if that was a little hard or too
frustrating for you, than this is definitely the place to go.  And if
Rayman was fun for you, than you will enjoy this as well.

I never thought we'd end up in a time where so many good games were
coming out for the Jag. I know I can't afford to get them all. But if
you like platformers, than I highly suggest this one. It really shines
and Imagitec have done a great job with it.

//// Final Ratings

        Title: Pitfall:The Mayan Adventure   JagNet: No
    Developer: Imagitec                     Players: 1
 Published by: Atari                      Cart Size: 4 Megabyte
       Retail: $59.95                   Availability: Now

 A Summary of Ratings:
              "*" is a whole
              "+" is a half
               5 stars Maximum

 Graphics - ****+    Really sharp. Nicely animated.
    Audio - ****     Really good. Very clear and solid.
  Control - ****     It's on. You move, Harry Jr. moves.
 Gameplay - *****    It's a good game and it'll take time to
                     finish it - but you'll enjoy it.
  Overall - ****     Above and Beyond a solid effort. Worth your
                     time and money.

Pts Stars  AEO Ratings
""" """""  """""""""""
 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.
  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.
  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.
  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.
  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.
  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.
  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.
  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.
  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.
  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.
  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.

Back to Archive