(MD / Mega Drive)

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure (MD / Mega Drive)

Game Review

Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Can Harry Jr. fill his father's boots?

The two original Pitfall games for the Atari 2600 have become quite dated now – walking across a handful of endlessly repeating screens in the hope of finding treasure has lost its appeal. Activision once tried to "upgrade" the formula by allowing the Japanese developer Pony Canyon to make Super Pitfall for the NES, but that turned out so terrible it was almost unplayable.

So, with the arrival of 16-bit platforms, the developers decided to take matters back into their own hands – this time reimagining the entire game. In Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure no longer will you trawl through seemingly endless jungles whilst looking for the occasional spot treasure; players now get to visit a variety of locations in search of their father, the star of the previous games, Pitfall Harry. Best of all, players can actually defend themselves this time!

Similar to games such as Earthworm Jim, Pitfall features some very well animated characters: Harry Jr. and his enemies have very detailed motions, and almost look right out of a cartoon. Speaking of Harry Jr., his father, Harry Sr., must be proud of him – he's a far better explorer than his old man. Instead of only being able to run, jump and climb/swing on things, Harry Jr. is able to crawl, slide, roll, and much more. He's also got weapons at his disposal: a whip to thrash most of the generic enemies into submission; a slingshot, which can fire both normal stones and those of the exploding type (for taking care of bosses); and even a boomerang (for cutting spiderwebs).

As you're in the jungle you can expect a lot of different foes: snakes, crocodiles and pitfalls that will consume you if you get too close, dragonflies, monkeys, spiders, hawks, and other wildlife that will make Harry’s life truly miserable. Many will also be pleased to hear that the scorpion enemy from the original game makes a cameo – completely pixellated and looking just like he did on the Atari 2600!

The generic jungle isn't the only place you'll visit this time: Harry will be dodging traps in ancient ruins, climbing waterfalls, riding minecarts through abandoned mines, and even crossing a crocodile-infested river. Most of the "outside" stages have fairly straightforward platforming action, whereas the majority of the "inside" stages feature small puzzles (such as finding switches to open doors). There are a total of 13 levels to adventure through, so you'll certainly get your fair share of action… if you can stay alive. You see, in Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, players are only given two continues to beat the game, which is a pretty small amount, however, you can start out from any stage you've managed to reach before, so it's not as bad as it sounds.

While we have nothing to fault with the game’s graphics, the music, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. Although it’s true that the audio captures the feeling of every stage pretty well, there is a major problem… it's from the Mega Drive, so sound is very gritty! What’s most frustrating about this is that it could've been avoided if the Super Nintendo version was released instead – sadly, Activision did not think that way.

The only other thing that's a bit disappointing is the game's bosses: each one except from the last sees you facing off against one or two jaguars – a massive missed opportunity. Surely Activision could've thought up some other bosses for a game set in the jungle!? To make up for this somewhat, the jaguars do have a few new attacks in every encounter – but it still feels a bit lame.

Countering some of the effects of the lack of variety is the game's redeeming grace – it's really two games in one! If you enter a code on the title screen, you can play the original Atari 2600 game. It's pretty fun being able to see how the series has evolved from its simple roots to an Indiana Jones-style platforming game. The code's pretty hard to find out by accident – you have to press down, then the A button 26 times, and then down again.


Sure, a man fighting through the jungle with a whip might not be completely original, but Activision successfully managed to give the Pitfall series a much-needed facelift for the 16-bit era. Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure might not be the best platformer on VC, but as it stands it's a great little game nonetheless. We sincerely hope that Activision is planning to release many more games on the service!

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User Comments (37)



Sharecrow said:

Wow - well-written review and a prettygood score, too. I downloaded this already but haven't played it much yet. I'm glad to hear good things about it. I'm sure I'll like it overall as I spend some time with it.



SilentJ said:

Great review. I wasn't planning on getting this one but I think I might after all.



Gabbo said:

Wow. With that little easter egg does that make Pitfall our first Atari 2600 game on VC?



motang said:

Wow...this is going to be new old game for me as I don't remember all the stuff have been mentioned in the review. But I do remember beating the SNES game and having nice surprise at the end.



Ricardo91 said:

Wow. After reading IGNs review of this game, I definitely was NOT expecting that score. I'll still have to think about it before buying this.

Also, why is it that companies always release the inferior Genesis version of games?



Adamant said:

It has been theorized that since Mega Drive games can be played with the Wiimote, and SNES games can't, releasing the Mega Drive versions of multiplatform games will make more people consider a purchase.



Link79 said:

I really didn't expect such a high score for this one but now I'm actually considering getting it. Does anyone know if this is pretty much the same as the Snes version? Besides the obviously weaker sound capabilities of the Genesis is anything else worse than the Snes game?



brooks83 said:

I only just recently found out that Sega made an arcade version of Pitfall 2: Lost Caverns. Hopefully that will make it to VC Arcade.



Chunky_Droid said:

@Adamant: That's a fair point, and one I never considered befoe.

It's a pity though, I wish they'd at least release both versions, but that costs extra money. I'd definitely prefer the SNES version.

Or even if they released the SNES version of Earthworm Jim and Pitfall after the sales of the Genesis versions drop, that'd be nice.

Oh and suck it IGN, this review turds all over yours



greyelephant said:

I haven't played this game in ages. I remember liking it, but never beating it. I remember opening the code for the 2600 version and thinking it was the bomb. Good review, from what I remember, I think it's pretty much right on.



Gizmo said:

@ nintendolife.com:

When again will users be able to give Virtual Console games an own score? And what is with WiiWare games?



darthmix said:

Yay, a positive review. I always felt this game got sort of a bum rap from reviewers, particularly as time went on.



J_K said:

I never had this on consoles but I did have it for Win95 back in the day and it was damn slick on a gamepad. I can't remember but I don't think I finished it, but I sure as hell loved to fire it up and see how far I could get on a set of lives. Some of the stages can get confusing on where to go, but mostly it was such a damn Indiana Jones ripoff mixed in with pitfall Harry type just that it was just a hoot. I'm kind of tweaked off we got the weaker looking/sounding game but at least it's there and I am considering it here or getting a cheapo local SNES copy.



Aenaida said:

While I do love the original Pitfall, I don't feel like buying this or dragging out my old Atari 2600 to play it again. I may purchase it in the future, but it's definitely low on my "Games to Buy" list.



Adamant said:

I never really "got" the original Pitfall. Sure, it was ridiculously huge compared to other games at the time, with 256 screens to explore, but when there's only 5 or so different elements that can be in any one stage, you end up seeing every notable combination very quickly. There not much appeal in exploring a massive world when there's nothing new to see anywhere, and the few stage elements there are aren't really anything amazing.

Games like Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Popeye, Jumpman and Miner 2039er may have been more condensed, but they were a hell of a lot more fun too (and yes, I know Pitfall came out a short while before most of these, and a good portion of these didn't get very good 2600 ports, but still).



jpfan1989 said:

Are genesis version of games always weaker? I remember the SNES Pitfall looking graphically better than this



Sharecrow said:

Pitfall, I think, was as much (or more) about hoarding gold as it was exploration. I liked it but like 2 much, much more...



Chunky_Droid said:

Wow, someone put a link in my post, thanks!

And sound-wise the SNES was far better than the Genesis, but as discussed in the Earthworm Jim threads, it was to each their own.



opeter said:

The best version of this games was released for Windows 95. Very sharp graphics at 640x480 resolution! I liked it.



pikmin95 said:

I remember playing this game on the SNES at my cousin's house, so I don't know how this game looks on the Megadrive.



astarisborn94 said:

Sounds intresting, got a good score, Activision first VC game, in my "Games to Download from the Virtual Console" list. Let's hope we see more out of these guys.



Gizmo said:

Wow, that is the highest score I've seen so far, maybe a little bit too high?



Adamant said:

I agree, the score seems unnaturally high. I just finished my own review for N-club, and ended up at a 5/10, using a scoring system very similiar to the one Nintendolife uses.



FinalFantisiac said:

Oh my gosh! I just realized I played this on a PC (yes, a PC) at least 9 years ago! I haven't laid eyes on this game since ever!



BearClaus said:

We sincerely hope that Activision is planning to release many more games on the service!

Instead, they went and removed this game at the end of last year. Hmph. I had to buy this game in its original cartridge form instead.

I must say, the graphics and especially sound are some of the best on the Genesis! The gameplay is not too shabby either, and the game is a good, long challenge… Seriously, how much money was Activision losing in keeping this game on the Wii Shop?

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